Voices of Experience

James B. D. Mark, MD

Are there issues specific to being a faculty member in a clinical department that affect the retirement decision?

"Deciding when to retire varies from department to department. My situation was unique. Being a surgeon is a 24/7 job.  Since I was the only full-time faculty member in my division (thoracic surgery), I was always on call.   I did my best to prepare the department in advance of my actual retirement. However, I precipitated a search by becoming emeritus in 1997.  Immediately thereafter I was recalled to 100% duty because there was no one else.   Then the percentage effort decreased rapidly as a successor was appointed.  Now I'm at 10%."

What activities are you engaged in now? Are there new opportunities or activities you have pursued since becoming emeritus?

"In 2003, when Hank Greeley was chair of the Senate of the Academic Council and Ted Harris was the academic secretary, they thought that there should be emeritus representation on the Senate.  They appointed Al Hastorf as the representative for emeriti and me as the alternate.  Al and I then appointed an emeritus council representing different segments of the university.  The emeritus council has become more active over the intervening years and now, among other things, sponsors an emeritus speaker each quarter.  Involvement with emeritus activities has been a rewarding endeavor.  I also attend conferences in the department and division.  I continued to see outpatients until last year.  In addition I interview medical school applicants.  I recommend this to other emeriti as a way to keep up with what is going on and to contribute to the School."       
"On a personal note, if you are looking for something to do in your spare time, try downsizing.  My wife and I moved from our campus home of 43 years into a condo on the campus.  Distributing all the accumulated stuff was a major chore, but now that it is done we are delighted with the move."

Lessons learned about the retirement process: what advice would you give to those considering retirement?  Is there anything you didn't know that you wish you had known?

"When the Senior Faculty Transitions Task Force survey was carried out, I was surprised at how little people knew about medical insurance coverage during retirement.  At the time I became an emeritus faculty member, I went to the Stanford Benefits office and sat down with a representative who explained which changes in benefits take place at that time.  For instance, if one is 65 or older and is employed less than 50% time, Medicare becomes your primary medical insurance and your supplemental plan secondary.  If TIAA-CREF is your retirement plan, one can go to their office on University Avenue and get a detailed analysis of your financial situation and be presented with choices for receiving your benefits."

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

"It's important to have something to do.  People ask if I miss the operating room. I say, 'look, I loved every minute of it.  I loved the pace, I loved the patients, I loved the residents, I loved what I was doing.' But that was then and this is now. And now there are different rewards and different activities."

Work space after retirement -- "I think that emeriti should take advantage of the "touch down" spaces available at what is called "Club Med" on the ground floor of the Alway building below the Dean's office. I find it's a great place to go between appointments and meetings. There are computer facilities, printers, copiers, fax machines and a staff that is very helpful.  This is a nice transition from departmental support, which diminishes over time.

Interviewed on 4/10/09 by Kristin Goldthorpe, Dean's Office

James Mark
Johnson and Johnson Professor of Surgery, Emeritus