From January 2015:
Dr. Steven Gelfand died on January 18th after a brief battle with cancer. He was 66 years old. He was also amazing.
I’m going to tell you about him. And just from reading about it, you’ll be better off for having known what little I can tell you here.
I met Dr. Gelfand July of 2009. He was the attending of my very first clinical rotation as a medical student. The first two years of med school are spent in the classroom and the last two years are spent on rotation. You get to leave the classroom and spend time actually doing medicine.
I’d had PTSD for about a year at this point. My perpetrator, a fellow medical student, had been arrested in August 2008. My trauma officially ended with his arrest I suppose, and then came the PTSD.
After he was arrested, my medical school became upset with me. You see, the FBI released my name (even though they didn’t need to) and implied a lot of things about my personal life, sex life, and mental health in the affidavit they used to arrest the sociopathic child molestor I’d turned in. Some of what they wrote about me was accurate and some of it wasn’t. Two things made very clear by this affidavit were:
1. He was a dangerous sadistic pedophile
2. I had risked my life and the lives of my children to turn him in.
I’d like to think a medical school, an institution charged with shaping the physicians we place our trust in and rely on for our lives and health, would be appreciative of a future doctor risking her life and the lives of her children to stop a fellow future doctor who is a sadistic pedophile from hurting any more women or children. But that’s not how it went.
Quite the opposite.
My school chose to punish me instead. They placed me on probation for having morals below the standards of the community (in reference to the affidavit’s inference that I had engaged in consensual, kinky sex with the perpetrator before The Ordeal began). More than this, they waged psychological warfare on me. They brought in a speaker from the state board of medicine (and an alum of the school) who spoke in front of the entire student body about me, saying I really should leave med school now because I wasn’t fit to be a doctor. Warning them not to be like me. A sexually immoral person. The head of my school told me I would never be a doctor. She said no doctor would take someone like me on for clinical rotations and that even if I somehow managed to become a doctor, I would never have patients because I was so disgusting, they wouldn’t want me touching them.
Such cruel words coming from the head of your medical school, coming to you in an acute post-traumatic state, has such an impact. I didn’t even realize at the time how much I believed her.
I was able to get a lawyer and, after a legal battle, get her off my back (but not before suffering the utter humiliation of being forced to apologize for my behavior to the faculty of my school.) But she had gotten inside of my post-traumatic soul and planted herself there.
Fast forward a year to my first day of clinical rotations. The day she said would never come.
The PTSD had obliterated my self-confidence. Deep inside I was afraid she was right, that I wasn’t going to make it and I should have cut my losses when I had the chance.
I know there is a God because it cannot be chance that I wound up on Dr. Gelfand’s doorstep. By the end of my first day with him he’d shared with me that he had no respect for the head of my school. In fact, he told me, he’d once told her to go f*** herself. He was a Jewish, cursing, bold as all hell, certified angel.
He told me she had once punished a medical student he had rotating with him after he gave the student time off to spend with her mother who was dying of cancer. He responded by sharing his feelings as above.
I ended up telling him what had happened to me. The brave deed I’d done and the evil she’d paid me with. He told me I’d done a courageous thing, the right thing. And he told me not to tell any other doctors like I’d just told him. It could ruin my medical career.
Over the next two years, he became my two special needs sons’ neuropsychiatrist. He was, by far, the best doctor they’ve ever had. He became a mentor for me too. He told me I was going to be a great doctor. And part of me actually believed him somehow.
He was a tough attending. He let you know every single detail you got wrong. But he also let you know when you got something right. And when he did, it really meant something.
He went into medicine for the right reason. He cared about his patients and worked for and advocated for them fiercely. He was good and he knew it, and he earned it.
Dr. Gelfand was right that I shouldn’t tell the other doctors I would be rotating with what she’d done to me. It wasn’t the time for it. She still had the power to end my career. I wasn’t emotionally ready to speak publicly about it yet either.
But I have been healed of my PTSD after seven long years. I am getting ready to graduate from a wonderful, supportive residency. And I’ve never been one to keep quiet.
It was Martin Luther King day on Monday so we talked to our kids about the civil rights movement. We talked about the turning points like Rosa Parks and how those were just moments that sparked off a movement that ha been building for a long time. My son asked me why those particular events set things in motion and I told him no one could say for sure.
The passing of this amazing man has changed things for me. Something has been brewing within me that would inevitably, eventually come out. I didn’t know when.
The silence ends now.
Jeremy Noyes raped me, tortured me, threatened to kill me and my babies. My medical school punished me for risking all of that to do what is right as a physician and as a person. He is now serving 45 years in federal prison. What my school did was wrong and dangerous. They sent a clear message to that school full of future doctors that turning in a child predator could cost you your career. It was unethical, immoral, and unacceptable.
Your seven years is up, LECOM. Let’s talk.