I Left My Successful Career as a Doctor to Become an Art Student

Art is magical. I can honestly say it saved it my life. Right now I'm a second-year student at the Savannah College of Art and Design, pursuing a degree in painting. I'll be 66 years old in September. I worked as an OB/GYN in Dallas, Texas for 25 years, until I hit a point where I had to jump. But I'm still surprised where I landed!

My partner Kim is from Georgia, and when she was growing up her family went to the beach on Tybee Island, just east of Savannah. Eventually we bought a little cottage on Tybee. While vacationing there we saw bus after bus with SCAD on the side. A seed was planted.

At that time Kim and I were still living and working in Dallas. We were considering retiring. We went to Tybee one Thanksgiving, and as we drove through Savannah we spotted a little Tudor fixer-upper for sale. We jumped and bought it. The house had a sunroom with big windows, and we thought, "Those would look great with panels of stained glass." I decided to design images for the stained glass. I started sketching some shore birds, and Kim said, "I didn't know you could draw!"

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I had dabbled in art my entire life. It seems like people are natural artists when they are young, then get jobs and have families, eventually retire and then become like kids again. For me that meant making art again. When the increasing stress of practicing medicine made it clear that I needed to retire I thought, "Now what am I going to do?"

Kim said, "Why don't you go to SCAD?" Great idea, but I needed a portfolio to apply. I found a creative arts place for adults in Dallas and started taking classes. It turned out my art teacher had attended SCAD, and was actually in one of the first graduating classes in the late 1970s. I told him I was creating a portfolio so I could apply, and he said: "You'll love it!"

Being a student again, I was a little self-conscious. When I'm in class with 19-year-olds, I see them, not me. Then, walking down the street, I see a reflection in a store window and think, "Who is that older woman?" Oh, it's me! One day in class I said, "Getting older just happens," and everybody cracked up.

I didn't grow up with computers. I'm taking a computer arts class now, and I'm struggling. I went to my professor, Oscar Betancur, and said, "I can't do this." He told me: "You don't want to drop this class." Then he spent four hours helping me one-on-one on a Saturday. He was right. I love this class. I'm working hard. I've got an alphabet after my name but I couldn't remember point and click, copy and paste. I'll get there.

We Baby Boomers are still here. The Greatest Generation was hard on us, and that affected a lot of people my age. The truth is, we can gain a new purpose! Going back to school reawakens the process of learning and applying yourself. It has for me.

What will I do with my art degree? I'm not sure yet. A second career is tempting. In any event, attending SCAD is a process of discovery, which is what a university experience should be. In med school, I was set on surgery, but wound up in obstetrics/gynecology. I entered SCAD as a painting major but I'm keeping an open mind. Each time I take a new class I love it. I was never a history buff, but now I love art history. Northern Renaissance art is the greatest! Jan van Eyck and Albrecht Durer are fantastic.

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SCAD has a location in Lacoste, France. This autumn I'll be going there for eight weeks, taking painting classes and a "Travel Portfolio" drawing class. I wasn't going to go, but when am I ever going to have another opportunity to take art classes in a medieval village?

If I were to give a pep talk to someone, I would say: "When you get an opportunity, realize the door only opens up so much, and stays that way for so long. Don't hesitate, go for it. Just jump!"