I was hired by the American Cancer Society in 1977 and became the Smoking Program Coordinator for the Chicago Unit. In this capacity I conducted most of the school based smoking programs and the “I Quit Smoking” clinics throughout all of Chicago.
I left the American Cancer Society in 1978 when I was hired by the Rush North Shore Medical Center’s Good Health Program. The Good Health Program was a pilot program–the first hospital based prevention program in the country. Until this point in time, hospitals were only viewed as a facility where people went when they got sick. The Good Health Program was designed to show that hospitals could do more in trying to prevent people from getting sick.
When I was originally hired the program was only supposed to be a three-year project. I ended up being at the Good Health Program for the next 22 years, providing smoking cessation classes until July of 2000. I loved this work. I got to help a lot of people quit smoking—as many as 10 to 60 people at a time in six-day clinics. I didn’t see these people as a group, but rather as10 to 60 individuals that I got to know on a personal and usually a very friendly basis. I liked these smokers, and because I liked them I wanted them to help them become ex-smokers.
As important as the work seemed to me in 1976, it took on a much more important role to me as time went on. After doing clinics for some time another factor made my work in this field seem even more crucial. I began to personally encounter more and more people who were being ravaged by smoking induced diseases. I really began to see the dangers of smoking–not from the view of national statistics, but now from the view of people I knew and cared about. Over the years I have personally known more people who have died from what was most likely smoking induced cancer, heart disease and other conditions than I can count or keep track of. I see my work as a way to prevent others from facing a similar fate. I don’t want to be a fanatic in the field, and I have never tried to force my position on others. In the field of smoking cessation I have always just tried to help the people who wanted help to quit.
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