Reflections: Cross-training

written by Wesley Robinson-McNeese, MD

In 1976 I was a fledgling, weekly newspaper editor also working as a reserve Aeromedical Technician, part of the crew of a C-9 Nightingale flying out of Scott Air Force Base in southern Illinois.  I never dreamed of becoming a physician. I had simply cross-trained from radio operator to something a bit more people-oriented and mobile, sure to get me off the airbase more than listening to dots and dashes through a headset. After hundreds of hours transporting patients from one military site to another, however, the ups and downs of my Air Force and newspaper routine caused me to go back to college.

Life handed me an interesting 30-year grouping. Ten years before the Scott experience, a college academic advisor suggested I leave SIUE’s East St. Louis campus and “do something else” with my life, since I was “obviously not interested in academics,” so I hurried off to Air Force basic training in San Antonio, Texas. Ten years after Scott, I was walking across the stage of Sangamon Auditorium in Springfield, MD degree in hand, being told to go do something beneficial with my life, so I scurried off to an emergency medicine residency training at Northwestern in Chicago.  
Now, slightly more than 30 years after the Sangamon graduation, having been intimately involved in the patient care of thousands and the medical education of hundreds, I find myself on the threshold of moving from full-time involvement with medicine, to the even more difficult task of trying to convince masses of people to love their God as a priority and their neighbors as much as they love themselves.

On the way to becoming a minister, I became an airman, a newspaperman and a physician.

Growing up in the south-end ghetto of East St. Louis, I never thought my existence would be so intimately involved with life and death at such a natural and spiritual level. I’m sensing that my peculiar story is still unfolding, yet to be completed, but happily holding my interest.