Renowned cardiologist Dr. S. Ward Casscells was 54-years old when he had what his wife called “one heck of a midlife crisis.” He left his prestigious post as Vice President of External Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston – and announced that he was joining the army. “In fairness,” his wife said, “I realize you can’t afford a Maserati.”
Casscells had to convince doctors that he was physically able to enlist, having gone through chemotherapy and radiation for prostate cancer. Once approved, he went through basic training at the age of 54. “I haven’t been this tired and intimidated since I was an intern,” he said.
During his years of service, Dr. Casscells fought for better healthcare for veterans and the enlisted. He came under fire during an ambush in Iraq. And he wrote a book about medics who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2007, he was appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs), leading a health and education system with 10 million patients in 100 countries.
All in his final six years.
Outside of his service, Dr. Casscells also helped direct humanitarian relief efforts for both Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Asian tsunami, and developed new techniques for detecting heart attacks early.
Find out more about Dr. Casscells in his New York Times Obituary.