Paul Muchnic MD

Paul Muchnic MD with Cambodian surgery
residents in Phnom Penh, May 2001

After Pomona, it was on to Houston, Texas, for an MD degree at Baylor, then back to the Los Angeles area for five years of orthopaedic training. President Nixon had secured a nice position in the Air Force for an orthopaedic surgeon to protect Utah ski areas from North Vietnam, so Major Muchnic learned to ski and fixed many knees. All of this was predictable--even marriage to Suzanne (Scripps ‘62), now a well-known art writer for the Los Angeles Times and biographer of Norton Simon, the industrialist, art collector and museum namesake.

By 1973, I stopped taking orders and tried private practice in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles. That was not for me. Next, a full-time teaching at a UCSF affiliated hospital in Fresno, California. That was a great experience with lots of farm and road accidents to treat, but it was Fresno. When Suzanne started with the LA Times in 1978, we returned to Los Angeles and I took a temporary position with Kaiser Permanente. In 1999, I retired from that position, having replaced many hips and knees with artificial joints. To return someone our age to an active life is one of the most gratifying areas of medicine. This type of surgery takes a lot of patient preparation, attention to detail, skill, and the ability to solve complex problems. Attending to detail, problem solving and seeing the whole picture are essential aspects of a Pomona education.

A physician needs a medical hobby as well as outside interests. Amputee patients have occupied a half-day per week of my career for over thirty years; now they constitute all of my part-time medical practice. Teaching residents at Harbor–UCLA in clinic, surgery, and with formal lectures over these many years has always been a highlight each week. Last May I spent five weeks lecturing and operating with surgery residents in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and I will return this June for three weeks. What a great way to top off a medical career.

I do remember some of my professors and I have always been embarrassed about the lousy job I did on my senior thesis for Dr. Amrein on evolution. That lousy job taught me a lot about life here on earth, however.

The future is now, with non-compensated medical practice. Volunteer teaching here and in third world countries is the way to go. I will add all my interests, travel and probably another spine surgery to the mix. Life is an upper. Happy 40th.