more Bo

Of 169 graduates of Vicksburg High School in 1970, 4 went to the University of Michigan, a haul that has yet to be surpassed.  We all experienced Ann Arbor differently, but we shared football, sitting in the yet-to-be-filled stadium and watching Bo’s early teams grind out boring football, but winning, winning, winning, going 9-1, 11-1 (losing to Jim Plunkett’s Stanford in the Rose Bowl), 10-1 (deprived of a Rose bowl by Mike Lantry’s 2 field goal misses) , 10-0-1 (deprived of a Rose Bowl by a vote of the Big10’s ADs judging QB Dennis Franklin’s broken leg rendered us uncompetitive), and 10-1, shut out from Pasadena by a squeaker at the horseshoe.  The Boone’s Farm helped to dull the boredom, and we all still enjoyed singing “Hail to the Victors”.  Ross enjoyed the special perspective of the marching band.  Of course, we all were huge fans of Bo, who had slain Woody’s mighty Buckeyes the year before we got there, and had brought glory back to Michigan.  We have taken different paths since graduation: Con right back to VHS to teach for 30 years, Ross taking his dad’s Ford dealership west to South Haven, and Darai much farther west, taking her Natural Resources degree to seek her fortunes in the Golden State, ending up in school administration in sunny Southern California with two beautiful daughters and a burly husband whom I hope I never cross.  Oh, yeah, me to medical school and the training stops that followed.  We’ve of course stayed friends and have kept in touch, especially over matters Michigan.

So when Fielding Yost’s crucifixion came up, I had to tell them.  Responses were surprisingly mute, other than the comment to the effect that I in my elderly unemployed state might be the one with sufficient time to tilt at such windmills.  When the mob turned to Bo, even earlier than I predicted, I had to pass that on, too.  This did elicit a response, at least from Darai, who may love Bo as much as I do.  See us here posed at his statue a day before her birthday in ’19.

Still a pretty girl, eh?

She doesn’t read my blog, finding my torrent of words overwhelming.  So she didn’t see my post when I got into the medical details of Dr. Anderson’s practicing, putting them pretty much in line with standard practices of the day  So I sent her an e-mail with the meat of that post, warning her first that it contained gross medical details (it did).

She wrote me back, asking “So wouldn’t one of the 3.2 million doctors at U of M medical school get the word the stick up for Bo for crying out loud?”

So I wrote back:

Regarding docs at the U stepping up: it’s no longer standard practice to do rectal exams on everyone.  I doubt any doc below the age of 60 does them anymore.  The two main reasons for a rectal are to check the prostate and obtain a stool sample to check for occult blood, meaning something is bleeding from higher up, anything from an ulcer to colon cancer. The PSA test has replaced the doctor’s finger as the way to screen for prostate cancer and for an occult stool blood test you just ask the patient to poop into a cup, take a popsicle stick and smear some on a card that goes in the mail if done at home or to the lab if done in the clinic.  The ball squeeze has been replaced by instruction in self-examination, like you ladies are taught to check out your own precious parts.  Trouble is, young guys don’t go to doctors much and seldom listen to anything when there anyway.  “Hands on” medicine has been dying for decades, the doctor’s touch replaced by reliance on tests.  It’s all horrible for the doctor-patient relationship IMHO, as a bond and trust can grow out of those physical interactions, not to mention gathering of information far cheaper to get than that from an expensive test.  Today’s young doctors seem happy to stare at a screen, type into an electronic medical record, and order tests, much to the approval of their masters. COVID only accelerated the process, as those “virtual” visits were the only way many could get care.  Docs could see a slate of patients – and bill for their services – sitting in an easy chair in their living rooms with a laptop, like I am now.  Nice work if you can get it.  I have an old girlfriend who went and got a DO from MSU after we broke up who now lives comfortably in Albuquerque tending to the big screen in her living room doing primary care.  Not how I’d care to do it that way.

Plus, speaking up is not encouraged at the MECCA, particularly when it flies in the face of the overriding PC mindset.  And believe you me, that midset is already convinced that Bo was a horrible man for letting all those boys get “abused” and then doing nothing.  So don’t expect any champions to emerge from my former colleagues.  Shame.

Kathy points out there may be some hope from one or some of Bo’s many previous doctors.  His main cardiologist, Kim Eagle, wrote a book about Bo’s medical struggles, and he had many, that came out in 2008, two years after Bo died The heart of a champion.  Kim saw the way Bo attacked his health problems and thought it could be an inspiration to others.   It is.  They were giving ’em away at the medical center for a while, so I have more than one copy.  It was free because Medtronic, a pacemaker company, paid for a bunch of copies.  I’d be happy to mail you one of my extras if you’re interested.

On the back of the book there’s a composite picture of the 12 doctors who took care of him plus co-author Fritz Seyferth and two women not wearing a white coat: Bo’s widow Cathy and his last secretary.  I scanned the picture, compiled a legend, and attach it here for your interest.  Maybe one or a few of those guys (and girl) will step up.

Left to right

Fritz Seyferth, fullback for Bo in his first 3 years (you and I saw him play in the less than full stadium), who rose high up in the athletic department.  Retired  in 2000 as executive associate athletic director (#2 guy) to start his own consulting company.  Co-author.  Still around town. Always a staunch Bo defender.

Dr. Eric Good, cardiologist.  Electrophysiologist specializing in sorting out heart rhythm disorders, of which Bo had several.  Still at the U.  Never met him.

Dr. Eva Feldman, neurologist (Bo had neuropathy from his diabetes).  She’s been a good friend of Kathy’s and was a valued colleague of mine, as we worked on some of the same nerve and muscle stuff.  Highly successful researcher and accomplished fundraiser.  Great lady.  Still around

Mary Passink, Bo’s assistant in the athletic department his last years (‘98-’06)

Dr. Fred Morady, cardiologist.  Fred’s an electrical guy, so he looked after Bo’s pacemaker and defibrillator.  I worked side by side with Fred for years in a small multispecialty clinic called the “Faculty Diagnostic Unit” since disbanded because some looked on it as elitist.  Fred’s very bright, kind of aloof (?shy) with a passion for flying.  We were always kinda buddies and grew closer when he heard about Kathy getting her pilot’s license.

Dr. Otto Gago, cardiac surgeon at St. Joes (the enemy!), where Bo went after his first heart attack.  Dr. Gago did his first bypass. He’s a god at St. Joe’s.  Very successful

Dr. Jeff Sanfield, endocrinologist, helped Bo look after his diabetes.  Split for St Joes from the U early on, but a contemporary of mine and I got to know him a bit before he left.   Nice guy.  Still in practice in town.

Cathy Schembechler.  She’s still around, although I think she lives in Florida now.  Imagine what she thinks about all this!

Dr. Kim Eagle, cardiologist.  The closest Bo had to a “primary doctor”.  Kim’s a fantastic doctor, excellent teacher, well loved by medical students and housestaff, with many celebrity patients.  He was the impetus behind this book as he saw that the way Bo handled his struggles could be an inspiration to others.  Still around.  If any of these docs steps up to defend Bo, it’ll be him.

Dr. Rudy Reichart, another St. Joe’s guy.  He was Bo’s cardiologist before decided to come over to the U.  Died 2014.

Dr. Dennis Wahr, interventional cardiologist.  Places some stents in Bo’s heart.  Left the U in 2000 for industry, now president and CEO of Nuvaira, a medical device company in Minneapolis

Dr. Jim Stanley, vascular surgeon.  Bo had blockage of circulation to his legs, likely from his diabetes, that required bypass grafting.  Retired

Dr. Jim Carpenter, orthopedic surgeon.  Until recently, chief of orthopedic surgery department.  Replaced Larry Matthews, who helped me get going with arthroscopy, to the dismay of many of his charges.

Dr. David Fox, rheumatologist.  David was my chief for a long time, ’90-’18.  Kind of a nerdy guy from MIT and Harvard, very smart, but not much of a sports guy.  But he loved to tell people about his association with Bo, particularly their first encounter when he diagnosed Bo’s gout, then showed him under the special microscope the diagnostic material obtained from his elbow.  Gout is diagnosed by seeing the urate crystals in the joint material, which appear yellow and blue under polarized light.  Bo got a kick out of that.

Dr. Hakan Oral, cardiologist.  Electrophysiologist.  Esteemed researcher with 318 publications to date.  Bo sure needed a lot of electricians to keep his poor heart beating!

Conspicuously absent from this composite picture is one Dr. Robert Anderson, who probably was Bo’s first doctor here mainly by virtue of being team physician.  Dr. Anderson was at Bo’s bedside in Pasadena when he had his first heart attack on New Year’s Eve ’69.  Once Bo started having health problems, Dr. Anderson sort of dropped out of the picture.  He’s only mentioned in this book in the first few pages, in the description of the events surrounding Bo’s first heart attack.  Dr. Anderson died 5 years before this book was written.


Schembechler B, Seyferth F, Eagle K.  The Heart of a Champion.  My 37-year war against heart disease.  Ann Arbor MI: Ann Arbor Media Group LLC, 2008.

Published by rike52

I retired from the Rheumatology division of Michigan Medicine end of June '19 after 36 years there. Upon hitting Ann Arbor for the second time (I went to school here) it took me almost 8 months to meet Kathy, 17 months to buy her a house (on Harbal, where we still live), and 37 months to marry her. Kids never came, but we've been blessed with a crowd of colleagues, friends, neighbors and family that continues to grow. Lots of them are going to show up in this log eventually. Stay tuned.

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