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The Upside of Aging: How Long Life Is Changing the World of Health, Work, Innovation, Policy and Purpose by Paul Irving

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Chapter 15 New Transitions: A Changing Journey of Life and Health

Philip A. Pizzo

Former Dean, Stanford University School of Medicine; David and Susan Heckerman Professor of Pediatrics and of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine; Founding Director, The Stanford Distinguished Careers College

The whole issue of retirement increasingly is irrelevant, or at least less important, when we understand our lives as a continuum of interwoven threads that blend and intersect unpredictably—rather than a series of discreet stages.

The question to me was startling, and perplexing. “How do you like being retired?” It was so far from my reality that I hardly knew how to answer my friends and colleagues. True, I had just stepped down, at the end of 2012, from a 12-year tenure as dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine—a transition I had long planned and had announced publicly nearly two years earlier. In fact, when I first disclosed my transition plan, most of my colleagues anticipated that I would be leaving Stanford for another “big job.” Few believed that I wasn’t on my way to another position in government or in the private sector despite my proclamations that I was planning a different journey.

While I admit that I felt honored to have served as dean of a major medical school, I also felt it was important to have a planned transition—one that would foster personal and institutional rejuvenation—while my career was still “on the rise.” However, ...

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