June 16, 2018

Silver Spring, Maryland

Dateline: Silver Spring, Maryland –

Today was a trek up I-95 from rural North Carolina to Washington DC. Once I started to hit the Northeast corridor megalopolis, which now begins around Richmond, Virginia, things slowed to a crawl and convinced me that I am not taking the direct route into New York and Connecticut tomorrow, but rather bypass around through rural Pennsylvania, the Hudson Valley, and come back down through Massachusetts or some such. I’ll figure it out. I’m not due in until Monday lunch sometime so I can wander a bit.

I stopped in DC to see old colleague Ali Ahmed. He was a second year fellow when I first joined the faculty at UAB 20 years ago, and then was on the research faculty for some time before moving on to a research job at the Washington DC VA a few years back. We’ve always stayed in touch so we had a long and wide ranging conversation of some hours capped with a delicious dinner. As there was beer involved, I decided not to get back on the road, but rather found the Hampton Inn right around the corner from the restaurant for the night where I attempted to watch a movie so I could write a new column but kept falling asleep. I’ll try again tomorrow.

As I am in DC, I am, of course thinking back on various other trips to the capital over the years. Back when I was first starting my career in the early 90s, I was involved with a large national research program called the cardiovascular health study. I was part of the adjudication committee where we reviewed all the medical records as they came in on participants and decided whether they met any of the research endpoints such as heart attack, stroke or congestive heart failure. We had quarterly meetings in DC so I spent a lot of time here for a number of years.

When Tommy and I first got together, he was the chief nursing officer for Birmingham Health Care and was involved in a number of federal programs and grants and he was always flying off to DC for meetings so we spent a lot of time here together during our first few years. He was not much for the monuments or the museums, but was very fond of the restaurant scene, especially in Adams Morgan and Woodley Park where he first introduced me to Ethiopian cuisine at a restaurant called Meskarem, a place we had to eat at at least once on every trip.

My story for the evening, however, is a Steve story. When I first went to work on the Cardiovascular Health Study, I was still a fellow and we didn’t have a lot of extra money so we couldn’t spring for him to come with me on my DC jaunts. When I was promoted to faculty and started being paid a real physicians salary, our financial position started to change and he came with me to DC for the first time in November of 1992. It was his first trip there so I added a couple of days so he could see the sights. It was just a few days after Clinton won the election and the day he was scheduled to go to the White House for the first time with Hilary to see the residence. We were on the mall, coming out of the Natural History Museum, when all or a sudden a motorcade comes by and in the back seat of the limo, a grinning Bill Clinton could be plainly seen bouncing up and down with excitement waving to everyone. Steve wanted to see the rest of the story so we walked up to the White House. (Pre 9/11 so far less security) where a crowd had gathered. About half an hour later, the limo came out of the drive with Bill and Hilary and roared away. The next day, there was a photograph of the crowd waving goodbye to the Limousine on the front page of the Washington Times with Steve smack dab in the middle of it. He’s the only person I’ve ever known who could make his first trip to a strange city and end up on the front page of the local paper within 48 hours.

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