Published in the September 2009 issue of Today’s Hospitalist
IN A SPECIALTY KNOWN FOR BEING A YOUNG PHYSICIAN’S GAME, George Slater, MD, stands out for many reasons. And the most obvious isn’t necessarily his age.
Sure, at age 65, Dr. Slater is one of the senior members not only of his group, but of his specialty. He helped found the hospitalist group at the John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, Calif., about 11 years ago. But in a field where young practitioners embrace all kinds of physical activities, Dr. Slater is a standout.
If it’s late winter or early spring, you’ll find him skiing near Lake Tahoe on his days off. But instead of riding a lift up the mountain and then gliding down, Dr. Slater prefers to make things a little more difficult.
In what’s called backcountry skiing, he and his buddies hike up a mountain in special telemark skis that allow you to walk without slipping backwards. He got hooked on them about 20 years ago, and he’s climbed up “and skied down “countless mountains ever since.
“Years ago,” Dr. Slater says, “I got to the top of the lift at Squaw Valley. Instead of looking down at the perfectly groomed ski slope, I looked in the other direction. I realized that the countless snowy peaks in the distance were more appealing than skiing with hordes of people in their best outfits.”
But for Dr. Slater, backcountry skiing occupies just part of one season. In warmer weather, for example, he mountain bikes two or three times a week up Mt. Diablo (which is only 4,000 feet, he notes, but it’s close to home); sails his 32-foot sloop in windy San Francisco Bay a few times a month; and swims “a couple of thousand meters” a few times a week.
He also dabbles in high-performance driving at local racetracks in his BMW M3, and despite recent knee replacement surgery, Dr. Slater just completed a triathlon. He and his girlfriend competed in a category in which he did all the swimming, she did all the running, and they both completed the cycling on a tandem bike.
While Dr. Slater has friends, some of whom are physicians, who share his passion for the outdoors, most can’t keep up with him. That’s in part because of his schedule. “Several colleagues said that they wish they had become hospitalists,” Dr. Slater explains, “because they like the lifestyle so much.”