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For a Good Life, Do What's Right, Not What's Popular: Advice From the Late Samuel J. Hyman, MD

For a Good Life, Do What's Right, Not What's Popular: Advice From the Late Samuel J. Hyman, MD
Samuel J. Hyman, M.D. (Courtesy the Hyman family)

By Thursday, 18 March 2021 01:14 PM Current | Bio | Archive

My grandfather, Samuel J. Hyman, M.D., lived to be 98½ years old. A pious man, he took pride in his longevity, noting that the great biblical figures lived astoundingly long lives. He would tell me dryly, "I must've done something right."

He was a man of science as a path to "The Truth": he held a controversial belief that the data obtained by Nazi medical experiments during WWII should be used, if possible, for the betterment of mankind. He said, "Friend," — he called me "Friend" or "Little Tamar" — "I am on the side of science."

But for him, the ultimate truth lay in the pages of the Torah, which he read in the original ancient Hebrew. "The more I live, the more I have come to understand that everything we see, everything that's there, is a result of something higher than anything man or science could create. I believe it's from the Lord Almighty."

Dr. Hyman was born in what is now Ukraine but was then part of "All the Tsar's Russias." He and his family arrived at the Port of New York in 1913, when he was 6.

As my grandfather described, they "hightailed it" to his grandfather's home that was already set up in Saginaw, Michigan. My grandfather worked as a floor manager at Ford Motors to help pay for his degrees at the University of Michigan and the University of Michigan School of Medicine.

He credited Dean Hugh Cabot of the School of Medicine for suggesting that he join the U.S. Army as a reservist, to better cement his bona fides as an American citizen and patriot. My grandfather listened well, as Dean Cabot was one of the Cabots, known from the old Harvard toast:

And this is good old Boston,
The home of the bean and the cod,
Where the Lowells talk to the Cabots,
And the Cabots talk only to God.

My grandfather always wanted to be socially correct. I have his thick etiquette book from the 1920s, noting what to serve at children's parties (vinegar shrub), how to address ambassadors, proper treatment of guests to one's home.

I was taught to "dress up" when flying. One time when I took an all-night bus to my grandparents' home in Detroit, my grandfather was shocked at how I disembarked. Rather than taking me straight to the house, I was quickly shuttled to a beauty parlor to "get cleaned up." He then exclaimed, "Now that's my granddaughter!"

But for the important things, my grandfather didn't give "two hoots" for what everyone else was doing. When he headed a MASH unit in the South Pacific during WWII, he observed other Army officers giving the cold shoulder to a Catholic chaplain.

Nothing slipped past him. He sat with the chaplain for meals, offered to lock up his sacred items in the medical safe and set about getting him wine for sacrament. He presented the chaplain with a bottle, explaining, "Father, this is Kosher wine. It is made to the most exacting standards, according to the principles of the Torah. I think this will hopefully meet your needs."

My grandfather intervened — at the cost of potential reprimands and worse from commanding officers — to save the lives of Japanese wounded. Though he was squeamish at the thought of publicity, he agreed to be interviewed for a newspaper regarding some of his challenges in battle, simply because "It may be of help to you." I was openly his favorite in the family!

As a civilian surgeon at Michigan's Annapolis Hospital, he defied another doctor's declaration that a baby boy was dead: he administered an adrenaline shot to the heart, saving the baby's life.

He became a renowned heart transplant surgeon. I asked him one time, why he didn't do surgeries at a famous nearby hospital. "Oh, no! Why, they do abortions!"

He was proud of his financial support of the RNC, a reply letter that he received from President Nixon, as well attending both of President Reagan's inaugurations. But nobody could tell him what to believe.

In waving away the writings of a still-working columnist, someone who today is considered an "Establishment political hack," he laughed, "I don't need to read him. I already know what he's going to say."

Tamar Alexia Fleishman was the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's youngest female solo violinist. A world-traveler, Fleishman provides readers with international flavor and culture. She's debated Bill Maher, Greta Van Susteren and Dr. Phil. Fleishman practices law in Maryland with a J.D. from the University of Baltimore, a B.A. in Political Science from Goucher College. Read Tamar Alexia Fleishman's Reports — More Here.

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My grandfather, Samuel J. Hyman, MD, lived to be 98½ years old. A pious man, he took pride in his longevity, noting that the great biblical figures lived astoundingly long lives.
Thursday, 18 March 2021 01:14 PM
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