SUSAN GOSHGARIAN MCGREW
Concord-Carlisle High School
Class of 1972
I would say I hadn’t really found myself in high school. I was a bit of an underachiever, and transportation issues prevented me from engaging in many afterschool activities. I always enjoyed art, but that was something I did mostly on my own. Academically, I was interested in math and science, but didn’t really throw myself into my studies at Concord-Carlisle High School. I had great teachers, and I listened well, so I was very well-prepared for advanced curriculum. When I got to college, I really started working hard and studying hard for the first time. That’s when my grades started reflecting my learning.
Based on my experience, I think it’s a mistake to predict people’s future academic success by what they achieved in high school. I think one needs to look at potential. People mature and find their interests at different rates. I was typical of some young people in that I was distracted in high school but went off to college with the mindset that I was ready to work hard. My teachers at Concord-Carlisle High School knew I wasn’t putting forth my best effort, and some of them even said to me, “You won’t get away with this in college.” That was actually helpful to me; it motivated me to put my best foot forward after I graduated.
Two criteria were important to me in my college search: I wanted a school with a strong science department and one where I could ski. Those two criteria led me to the University of Vermont. At that time, I had the general idea that I would pursue a career in science, but I wasn’t thinking in terms of medicine until I started my college studies and realized all the courses that I was taking – and doing very well in – were the same ones that the pre-med students took.
As I’d hoped, I did a lot of skiing during my college years, and joined some clubs as well, including one for pre-med students and another for community volunteering. I did quite well in my science classes and was accepted to medical school at Northwestern University my senior year. However, I was planning to get married right after college, so I asked to defer medical school for a year and was granted permission.
My new husband and I moved to the Chicago area and I started medical school the following year. It was a lot different from college. In retrospect, I imagine that everyone there shared the same feelings; that they’d been admitted purely by luck and would have to prove their worthiness. But as soon as we took our first set of exams, I realized that I would do just fine in the medical degree program.
After medical school, I went into residency then private practice as a general pediatrician, which was a better choice for a young mother than some other medical specialties. My husband and I had two daughters, and we settled in Nashville. When I started out in pediatrics, the field of autism was just emerging within pediatrics, and I became very interested in it. As a general pediatrician to patients with autism, I tried to help the parents in my practice figure out how to best help their children gain their potential. We didn’t have much research and there were few community resources back then so we had to try together to find therapies which would help. The parents saw my interest and drew in other parents of children with autism. As I evolved into this specialty, I eventually left private practice to start an autism medical clinic at Vanderbilt University, overseeing the medical side of their new research program and focusing on long term treatment and follow up of children diagnosed with autism.
Getting into autism treatment on the ground floor, I stayed at the Vanderbilt clinic for over a decade. At the clinic we all worked together, physicians, psychologists, behavioral specialists educational specialists and school systems to maximize learning and skill development. The clinic grew very rapidly, well above the initial intention, and after about fourteen years I felt like I had accomplished what I set out to do. We now had a program that provided long term medical and psychologic treatment for children with autism.
Meanwhile, going back to private practice days, I had become increasingly aware that I wanted to pursue my interest in art, and that I wouldn’t be happy with my life if I didn’t find a way to do that. First I started working on my own as an artist, and then with a mentor. The mentor helped me come to see my art as a second profession rather than as a hobby. At around the same time I started the Vanderbilt clinic, I had my first professional art show, and for the next decade I did both careers. But eventually, I felt ready to retire from medicine and continue on as an artist. So now I’m a retired physician but a full-time practicing artist. As it happens, my two daughters inherited my two main interests: one is a professional artist and the other is a genetic researcher.
Receiving college scholarship money from The Scholarship Fund of Concord and Carlisle meant a lot to me. I was very grateful for it. I was the third child in my family to go off to college, and every little bit helped. Since I attended a state university, even a small amount of money made a dent in the tuition. Back in the 1970s, college loans weren’t nearly as common as they are now. If you wanted to attend college, you had to find a way to make it work with what you had. I really had to scrape my way through, and The Scholarship Fund of Concord and Carlisle helped me along. Reflecting further on this, I can also see that being selected for a scholarship felt like a vote of confidence in my capabilities, and that feeling probably boosted my achievement in college