Who can fault retired cardiologist Carl Leier for choosing ‘home’ as his favorite place to be? After sacrificing considerable personal time during 36 1/2 years of practice, today when he and Jolene, his wife of 46 years, leave home, they travel across the country visiting their three children: Rachel, Andrew and Joseph, and two grandsons Owen and Grant.
Learning from Monks
Carl was raised in rural Napoleon, North Dakota, attending a one-room country school until enrolling in Minnesota’s St. John’s Prep School (1958-1962). The monks there made an enormous impact on his life. They taught him how to prioritize activity, inculcated a work ethic that began with his ND German farm life, and instilled the philosophy that through focus and hard work all goals and things were attainable. Through their guidance, Carl excelled in academics and almost everything he did, including football and wrestling. He gives full credit to the monks for introducing him to the spirit and merits of competitive sports. He richly used these years before becoming a doctor to prepare for the years that followed.
Carl earned both his college and medical degrees at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. He chose cardiology as his specialty while serving as Medical and Chief Resident at Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus, Ohio. He credits his parents, the former Carl and Mary Leier, for delivering an enormous work ethic and offering both personal and financial support while pursuing his degree. Afterall, “unless you’re born with a ‘silver spoon in your mouth’, a work ethic is the key ingredient to success in any field. Brilliance is helpful, but it only takes you so far.”
A brief encounter with hometown physician, the former Dr. Edwin Goodman, who gave Carl a shot as a youngster to quickly cure his sore throat, also played a role in his career choice. “I was overwhelmingly impressed with him and medicine, in general, from then on. It’s simply amazing what a five-minute contact and interaction can do for one’s life.”
Preparing for an Academic Institution
Carl’s life has been saturated with bright, intelligent and kind people who have influenced his career. However, none has had greater impact than Robert Heaney, MD, an esteemed Creighton University faculty member.
Dr. Heaney allowed Carl to work in his research lab during undergraduate and medical school years. This side-by-side interaction taught Carl the excitement of doing research, publishing results and thriving in an academic arena. “Dr. Heaney also happens to be one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever worked with.”
Carl found much joy and excitement in his own work. His greatest joy came when patients improved clinically, and did well. But he also celebrated getting manuscripts published in major journals and securing research grant funding-both hallmarks of academic institutions, where independent research is required.
Leading & Thriving at Ohio State University
Since 1976, Carl has spent his professional life at Big 10 University, Ohio State, where one of his career highlights was serving for 12 years as the Director of the Division of Cardiology. As a leader, he reached back to his athletic years at St. John’s Prep and club soccer teams at Creighton University to create a culture in his cardiology department where members developed an attitude of winning, understood the importance of team work and created strategies to achieve such. He coached his “team” to success.
At OSU he tirelessly worked to uncover the pharmacology and mechanisms of Dobutamine. Today, this widely used drug enhances cardiac function when the heart fails to function as needed He is widely published in the areas of heart failure and cardiac transplantation.
Coaching Future Doctors
Carl enjoyed teaching students and trainees at all levels and loved being surrounded by, and working with, brilliant, professional people. In fact, the greatest change he’s seen in medical students through his years is “they are smarter, which is great for the profession because they’re better able and prepared to handle the enormous amount of information in all phases of medicine.” He advises anyone interested in a career in medicine to:
- Study your butt off-the field is extremely competitive. Unless your GPA is at least a 3.8, you might need to try another field.
- Take some business classes.
- Do some extracurricular activities to override the impression you’re a book nerd. Continue some of your own major interests to keep balance in your life.
- Never lose, and continue to develop, a kind personality and an indispensable character, which will serve you well throughout your career.
Reflecting on Progress of Medicine
Looking back, Carl says the greatest change he’s seen in cardiology patients is increasing age. In the 1960s-70s, it was unusual to see patients in their 80s; now 95-100 years of age is commonplace. The technological advances in cardiology over the past five decades have also been astounding.
When he was a medical student (1965-1969), electrocardiograms (EKG) and chest x-rays were used to diagnose cardiac disease. Today, cardiac catheterization, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), genetic markers and analyses, and other methods are used to approach cardiac disease; surgical and medical treatments follow closely behind. These advances and application of preventative measures explain the improved survival rate and increasing age of our population.
Preventive measures like proper diet, exercise to stay in physical and mental shape, and avoidance of substance abuse all factor in one’s longevity and heart health.
Carl is grateful for being able to pursue a rewarding and satisfying career in medicine. And, like many, he hopes he’s made a positive difference in people’s lives. Now retired, he can spend more time focusing on the personal elements of his life and participate in activities he enjoys, like reading history, visiting historical sites throughout the country, traveling, sketching and painting. And, then there’s always the kids and grandchildren to visit.
Well done Uncle Carl. Well done.
Share with anyone interested in a career in medicine, who’s extended their life through Uncle Carl’s research and practice, and those who find joy in others’ success.
©Copyright. May 2016. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved.