The Doctor Was on Guard

There's still plenty of summer left and doctors should use that time to hit the beach. A recent study found the environment can reduce stress.

“In every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.”

—Rachel Carson

The summer before my father began medical school, he was a lifeguard at a New York beach. Among his fellow guard buddies were a group who were careerists. They guarded full time—traveling the annual New York-Florida circuit for work.

The more they talked about that existence, my dad told me, the more it appealed to him. As the summer drew to a close he got it into his head that he would like to join them and considered putting off his medical studies for a while.

His mother, a determined and demanding lady, quickly knocked the idea out of his head. But Dad continued summer guarding through medical school.

He guarded at Jacob Riis Park in Queens, NY and at Jones Beach on Long Island. Both were busy bathing spots and my dad said he had more than a few “saves” during his lifeguard career. Seems like the guy was always saving lives.

Dad was a water guy. A champion diver in college, he started guarding while in college. He also loved to sail. And the first chance he got, he moved his family from the city to the shore and stayed there for 50-plus years.

Whenever he could break away from his busy medical practice, he went to the beach. And he would frequently recommend to his patients the therapeutic properties of swimming. One of his “Rules for Stress Busting” was to “take brief vacations”—a few days at the beach being a perfect example.

All of his 8 children became “beach bums.” But it was my older sister, a busy sales person, who seemed to sum up a day at the beach the best.

“You experience a kind of peace and wonder there,” she explained to me. “I just bring my beach chair, a book, or music and hit the sand. You get lost in time. It’s the only place where I don’t feel guilty relaxing.”

It looks like the doctor’s daughter was right. A recent British study found that “a seaside environment can reduce stress and encourage physical activity.”

Still got plenty of summer left, docs … hit the beaches!