Eulogy by Seth Bendo
This is a transcript from OSUCOM day of remembrance July 24, 2008.
Dr. Stang formed the bookends of my time at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. In August of 2004, during my first nervous days of medical school, I was sitting in the audience of Ohio State's White Coat Ceremony for new medical students, and like often happens at these moments, the microphone cuts out in the middle of the ceremony. All of the med school administrators on stage were looking around, whispering to one another, wondering how to remedy the situation, and I remember very vividly seeing Dr. Stang tracing the cord, always the helper, with his furrowed brow he had at very earnest and serious moments, and he had his glasses perched at the end of his nose, and I remember thinking, "That's one of the nerdiest looking people I've ever seen in my life." Now I must say, I love nerdy people, so I meant this as no insult, but I had absolutely no inkling of the dynamic personality that lie behind. I found that out quickly. The next day, during a long morning of Orientation lectures, Dr. Stang gave us a presentation that is possibly the best I have seen in my life. He was at the height of his energy and charisma, coordinating a talk with 4 remote controls strategically placed around this auditorium for his various audio-visual accompaniments,,,, and don't forget the handheld cassette tape player he used to start the show. The cassette tape player played songs from the rock band KISS, the quicktime videos were of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, the CD player played Eric Clapton. On the guest book web site that The Columbus Dispatch has recently put together in remembrance of Dr. Stang, Geoff Smith recently called him "the rock star of medicine". And though he often joked at his own nerdiness -- during study group meetings, he would refer to himself as "soooo uncool" -- he truly was a rock star of medicine. It was on that day, during that hour, that I became excited, not just about med school, but about THE Ohio State University College of Medicine. This was a proud place, a place with special people and a unique identity. John Stang introduced me.
At the end of his talk, I first heard one of Dr. Stang's favorite mantras, something he would often end his talks with, something many of you have heard before.... He would look into the audience and say: "When YOU [and he would point] care enough to take the time out of your day to ask HER how SHE'S doing today, and to really care about the answer, then we ALL GET BETTER, ladies and gentlemen." This was Dr. Stang's recurrent theme -- That everything begins with caring for each other.
It is fitting to have this memorial service in this room. As Damian Green wrote on Dr. Stang's guest book on The Columbus Dispatch web site, "Son of a minister, John Stang preached medicine, its science and its art, as his gospel." This lecture hall and the one beside it were Dr. Stang's cathedral, and his dogma revolved around the beautiful complexity and powers of medicine. Dr. Stang was a man of science, but he balanced this with a deep faith --- faith, among other things, in our ability to heal each other.
The other end of the bookends, the end of my medical school career, came at my hooding, just this past June 5th. To me, as to many of the physicians in the room, selecting the person to hood you is the greatest honor you can bestow upon a physician. I asked Dr. Stang to hood me to honor his great efforts to make a personal connection with me; his extensive dedication to my education, too much to mention here; his cheerleading and moral support; his counseling that proved essential in helping me find and hook into my career; his great efforts to connect me with the Ohio State community and the medical community at large. But beyond his hard work on MY behalf, I also asked him to hood me to honor who he was as a person --- his humor, his compassion, his fire, the fact that he would take ANYONE under his wing regardless of race, age, socioeconomic status, be they paramedic, physician, nurse, fireman, alcoholic, drug addict. It is one of my great hopes that Dr. Stang, after hooding hundreds of doctors, was still able to appreciate the meaning I intended for him through that symbolic gesture. Dr. Stang hooded me on my 31st birthday. 5 days later, Dr. Stang was dead.
Said Michael Yao on Dr. Stang's guest book on the Columbus Dispatch web site "The Stang I knew had a fire that could not be contained and it caught all of us he touched ablaze. His intellect and spirit were beyond the grasp and tolerance of some, for he gave all that he had, all the time, to everyone he met. But for those of us who knew that we were in the presence of something and someone exceptional, genius, promethean, his fire continues to burn in each of us. [...] Everything after Stang shall be a shadow of what was."
I leave you with 2 last thoughts, one also from The Columbus Dispatch web site, this one from Heather Feagins: "I hope that OSU College of Medicine names a building or street in his remembrance." I know this is a tall request, and I am unsure whether this is feasible, but I agree with Dr. Feagins that this is the level of impact I believe this man had on my life and on our community here, and I know there are countless current and former students who feel the same. I hope some sort of remembrance is created to honor his life's dedication here.
And lastly, I feel that Dr. Stang would want no better remembrance than this: That I do what I can to treat every patient --- make that every person --- I encounter with the greatest amount of caring that I can summon.
For as much as he taught me about Streptococcus, muddy brown casts, and digoxin, it was always at the end, "When YOU care enough to take the time out of your day to ask HER how SHE'S doing today, and to really care about the answer, then we ALL GET BETTER, ladies and gentlemen."
Dr. Stang, physician, teacher, role model, mentor, friend, you will be missed beyond words.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you all for coming.
OSUCOM Class of 2008