Rose-Mary Rumbley

“Only God knows how long you are going to live. You make the choice as to how you are going to live.” 

– Dr. Andrew Lovy

“Only God knows how long you are going to live. You make the choice as to how you are going to live.” 

– Dr. Andrew Lovy

After about five minutes of talking with Dr. Andrew Lovy, you feel better about yourself. You feel that you can get up and do important things.  That you can reassess your life–and go!

And that’s no accident. He was in psychiatry for 45 years, and at 88, he is still practicing, albeit on a limited scale.  “I love it.  It is a way you can get into someone’s inner thoughts and help them feel good, and then they are better.”

Dr. Lovy began as a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO).  He was the first DO to be given a medical commission in the U.S. Army, serving as a Combat Surgeon in Vietnam with a battalion of the 101st Airborne.  That experience resulted in his engrossing book, Combat Surgeon in Vietnam.

“Before entering Vietnam, I studied the Normandy Battle in WWII.  I told my medics in our unit that almost 70 percent of the medics didn’t get off the Normandy beach—and that there are 47 things that can happen when one jumps from a plane. Forty-six of them are bad,” he said.  “One boy, O’Malley said, ‘Well, I’m going to miss you guys!’  That was a great response.  You can’t be effective if you are negative, because it is catching.”

After Vietnam, he went into psychiatry, having been disturbed by what he saw and having suffered from PTSD.  Psychiatry clearly has been his niche.  With genuine humility, he offers nuggets of wisdom that pour out from his years of practice:

  • I make people feel better. In my practice, I never ask ‘why’ questions, because it puts people on the defensive. I ask, “What happened?  What do you want?  What might you have tried but didn’t know at the time?”  
  • Do the best you can under the circumstances. I have been in marathon races where nothing went right, then I would talk to someone and lift that person up.
  • I ask patients, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” and work that out. Anything less than that is easy.
  • I also ask, “What do you really want to do?” A response often is “I want to do (names it), but I know I can’t.”  Then I say, “Well, let’s figure out how you can. If that doesn’t work, try something else. Don’t tell me it can’t be done until you try it.”
  • I’m just a guide. There is nothing great about me. I just get people to go in the right direction.
  • It doesn’t matter how good you are physically if you don’t have the right attitude and winning desire to be the best you can be.
  • Take what assets you have and use them. If you don’t know what assets you have, then find out!
  • No pity parties are allowed.

As a psychiatrist, he became a Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurobehavioral Sciences at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine, Kirksville, Missouri.  “I would tell my students, you are never going to be as good as I am.  You are going to be better.”

I ask him, “Who inspired you in your life?”  He answers, “My Mom and Dad.  My Dad was modest and not rich.  He was a leader in two synagogues.  My Mom was wonderful.  They told me, ‘We don’t care if you want to be a garbage man, but just be the best garbage man you can be.’”

Dr. Lovy also began running after the war, and he has completed 197 marathons and 234 ultras! (An ultra is longer than a 26-mile marathon.) His last ultra marathon was only last year, the famed “Snowdrop” Ultra benefitting children with cancer.  

Since that marathon, Dr. Lovy had a stroke which impaired his ability to walk. “I’ve had two strokes, the first took my vision, but I got it back.  The second affected my walking.  But neither affected my cognitive abilities,” said Dr. Lovy. “I am grateful to God for that.”

His first stroke led him to move to The Tradition-Buffalo Speedway, where he is a resident in Independent Living.  “I am now near one son, one of seven!”  His beloved wife, Madeline, passed away years ago.

“There are wonderful people at The Tradition.  The staff is terrific.  They understand that I’m not what I used to be at 80,” he says. “There are so many residents here who inspire me!  I found out that one resident, who is currently unwell, ran five departments in his former business. I try to see what I can do to enrich his life.” 

It is clear that Dr. Andrew Lovy is truly “other-focused.” “Only God knows how long you are going to live,” says Dr. Lovy. “You make the choice as to how you are going to live.”

Linda Faulkner Johnston – The Tradition

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