Physician and Author Interviewed by Matthew Totsky
— Photographed by Jerry Zolynsky
Meet Bloomfield Hills resident Dr. Augustine L. Perrotta. For more than 32 years, he worked as a hematologist and medical oncologist at Detroit Osteopathic Hospital and Henry Ford Hospital-Warren, where he served as chairman of the Department of Medicine for the last 10 years of his career.
Since his retirement, Perrotta has stayed active and recently authored a collection of 15 medically oriented short stories entitled A View From the Inside.
“It helps set the record straight about misinformation, myths, urban legends and junk science surrounding public personalities and private figures,” Perrotta says. “The sense of story and character is so much a part of the life of a caregiver. Doctors spend much more of their lives immersed in story and narrative than the average working person does. It is the stories in our work that provide meaning for our daily lives.
“Admittedly, it was my intention for the book to be a legacy to my family, a tribute to my profession and to be respectful of the characters depicted,” Perrotta continues. “Hopefully, I have achieved these goals by honoring their freedom of conscience and religion while preserving my own and advocating respect for life.”
Industry changes: The advent of genomics has changed medicine. Because of the identification of gene mutations in cancer cells, designer drugs have been developed to dramatically improve treatment for all sorts of cancer, especially lung cancer, kidney cancer and malignant melanoma. The various forms of reimbursement and changes to health care coverage are other more recent examples of things that are redefining the medical field.
Professionally speaking: For years, I’ve told medically oriented stories about various people and characters I’ve encountered to the medical students, interns, residents and fellows who have rotated through my service. To me, they’re parables and educational tools to reinforce certain principles in the practice of medicine and to help them on their career path. I was always encouraged to write about these stories, but I didn’t get around to it until after I retired. I loved the process of writing A View From the Inside. I’ve written more than 50 medical research articles, but this experience was like doing research in a whole new area.
Proudest career accomplishment: As a physician, being able to help cure patients with acute leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease and testicular cancer is what it’s all about. Many of these patients have gone on to achieve great things and give back to their communities. I still keep in touch with some of them and form a personal relationship.
Career thoughts: My key to a successful retirement has been continued intellectual stimulation. I’ve achieved this by becoming a member of the Senior Men’s Club of Birmingham. I also participate in continuing medical education — 50 hours per year — and have maintained my license so I am able to prescribe medication and function as an advocate for family and friends. It’s essential for me to keep up on the new developments in the field of medicine.
Passion for: I love to read. The Senior Men’s Club has two different reading groups that each meet once a month. It’s extraordinarily informative, even if you haven’t read the book. I read for entertainment, for information and for education. Sadly, the Millennials might be the last generation of readers.
Life in Bloomfield Hills: I feel very fortunate to have settled in this area. It offers an extremely high quality of life. I can’t think of a better place to raise children because of the great access to education, entertainment and culture. I was raised in New York and, obviously, that’s a world-class city, but I don’t compare the two. Each place is able to stand on its own, but the quality of life I have here is the best for me.
Favorite place to hang out: The Community House in Birmingham where the Senior Men’s Club meets. There, we have monthly group sessions on things like classic movies, photography, computers, genealogy, investing and two monthly reading groups. Peabody’s has been a favorite place for years, and the Triple Nickel is my new favorite restaurant.
What most people don’t know about me: I started riding horses when I was in elementary school and continued until I was in my 50s. Thanks to my ability to ride, I was able to catch the attention of my now-wife way back in 1970. It must have worked because we’re still going strong 45 years later. NS