About Jim

Jim-Waun-in-the-parkI love listening to and learning from others. My curiosity led me on a peripatetic professional life as a pharmacist, physician and medical educator, finishing my working career as a pharmacist again.  In my 50s I went to graduate school in philosophy, with an emphasis on medical ethics.  My most unusual job was county coroner in northern Michigan. At 70, I developed a passion for writing and have a retired writing professor as a coach and friend. I’ve written a newspaper column for many years and have had a number of them published in various professional and lay magazines.

I play baritone horn, the only thing I still use from high school, in a community band and also in the Scottville Clown Band. As a specialty act, I had a rubber chicken that wowed crowds by rolling over, levitating, and diving from my hat into a half-full cup of beer. When my getting off the floor became a greater spectacle than the chicken, I retired it.

My unattainable fantasies include being a barber on the corner of a crossroads hamlet, like Port Sanilac, MI, village postmaster, or janitor in an elementary school.

If I could return to age 18 and take everything I’ve learned so far with me I’d either go into journalism or become a small, private college social science professor doing current-issues seminars.


Following my nose

Hearing that hospitals sometimes mixed up babies, my mother delivered me at home, an hour from a hospital, in Richmond, MI, (pop. 1200).

Growing up, I lived in our flat over my father’s barber shop; I swept the floors and spent many hours listening to customers’ stories.

I learned from my parents to indulge my interests or risk wondering what it would have been like to try them. I learned the art of listening from my father and, from my mother, that I can’t fully face personal issues unless I discuss them with trusted others.

What Richmond High lacked in academic excellence, it made up for with band, vocal ensembles, drama, sports and other personal development opportunities. There were 43 in my 1951 graduating class.

I followed my best friend to pharmacy school, became interested in the health sciences, and decided to try medical school.

I pursued a humble country-doctor fantasy, but wasn’t a good enough doctor to face its myriad challenges, so I specialized in anesthesiology. During residency training I discovered I liked working with medical students, so I tried academia.

I loved it, but didn’t like being part of a large university, so I became an anesthesiologist in a small northwestern Michigan community.

I was drawn to some unique opportunities for involvement in hospice and nursing homes, primary health care and medical administration.

I became interested in the complex issues involved in making some health care decisions, especially at the end of life. So in my mid-fifties I entered graduate school in philosophy to learn more about medical ethics.

Now two colleagues and I help medical students become more complete physicians instead of merely doctors.


General thoughts on life and favorite quotes

All living things are connected in ways we can’t understand.

Human beings are composites of billions of constantly generating, degenerating and regenerating cells and micro organisms.

Persons are always transforming personally, psychologically and spiritually.

Teaching is a myth. Nobody can ‘teach’ anyone anything. People choose to learn what they want when they’re ready. Stimuli and models facilitate learning. Once I thought I’d ‘taught’ grandson Luke how to tie his shoes. He straightened me out by thanking me for showing him how to do it.

What’s called “common sense’ sometimes means everyone making the same mistake.

“It’s not what you don’t know that kills you, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t true.” Mark Twain.

“If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it.”A Lincoln, A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand. Hall of Representatives, Springfield, IL, June 16, 1858.

“I think that as life is action and passion, it is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of his time at peril of being judged not to have lived.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., thrice wounded GAR officer and future US Supreme Court Justice. Memorial Day, May 30, 1884, Keene, N.H.


Writing Interests

I like learning about others by listening to them and writing their stories.  My favorite questions include:

  • What’s it like being you?
  • Who, what events helped shape you into what you are today?
  • If you could arrange the world any way you wished, what would you do/become?
  • If you were 18 again and could take everything you’ve learned so far with you, what would you do/become?

I like researching, and analyzing ideas and concepts I like analyzing medical ethical issues from the standpoint of all-things-considered. I’m interested in professional integrity. In graduate school I wrote a draft of a theory of integrity in medicine. Sometime I may follow up on that.