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Espresso with Dr. John F. McCracken Part 2

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Here we are, back again with the concluding part of this edition of Espresso with Dr. McCracken! 

Q: What makes you enjoy your job so much? (I see you leaving office late and coming in early)

A: Well, the opportunity to mentor the docs, these are people that are really hungry to learn. Doctors are professional students; they have to be that way in order to be successful physicians. And I enjoy the mentoring relationships. I started something called the remedial track coaching program for the Texas Medical Board a few years ago. This is a program for docs who are referred to the TMA for behavioral issues and are in danger of losing their license. So I take these folks, and I work one on one with them to help them. Before you can help them, they have to trust that you have their best interest at heart. I get a lot of pleasure out of helping these docs, and I stay in touch with them after the program is over.

Q: You are a great father and also a grandfather. How important is family to you, and how do you balance work and family?

A: Well, I don’t. My kids are all grown up now. One is 38, and another is 40. They have families of their own. I've got my wife and my two pets, a dog, Joey, and a cat, Boo. They kind of understand my work schedule. I am home on the weekends. I don’t do a lot of traveling. What I do is pretty much who I am. The truth is, this is not work for me. This is my life, what I do here. This is a part of who I am. A lot of people come home from work, and they turn off work, and they go back to work the next day, and they turn work on. I don’t. To me, life is a flow. I just keep it going.

Q: You are a very busy man. What do you do to chill / take a break?

A: I play racquetball. I started playing racquetball about 20 years ago. I used to play handball, but I got these big bruises on my hand. Then racquetball came along, and I started playing it and quickly enjoyed it. There is a lot of running; it is quick, it is fast and it is a terrific exercise. I also exercise every day. I get on the treadmill, put some weights on my hand, I do some dips, chins, pull-ups and various other exercises. So the way I relax is by doing exercises and playing racquetball. Exercise is a way of life for me.

Q: What are your other interests apart from academia?

A: The beautiful thing about academia is that you can have it all. If I want to do public speaking, I can. I, if I want to mentor someone, I can. If I want to create new knowledge, I have the ability to do research and publication. I f I want to create classroom material, I can do that here. The fact is, I can scratch just about any itch that I really have here at UTD, including making a visit to the activity center! There are very few things that I enjoy doing that I can’t do from right here. I don’t do the same thing day after day. I do a lot of different things, and I enjoy the large variety of things I do here.

Q: What were you famous for in your high school?

A: I was not famous for anything. It is interesting; I kind of finished a third of the way down of the class. I had two very good friends from high school that I am still in touch with. That is what made my high school days fun for me. When I went to college though, I reinvented myself. I became fairly successful; I was the VP of the student body and was involved in various other clubs and activities. I just decided that I am going to reinvent myself and start over in college, and I did just that.

We are going to have our 55th high school reunion next year. I very much look forward to that; I have got a few close friends, from high school. High school reunions are always better attended than college reunions, and the reason is that high school is a more intense time in your life. I graduated from Ladue High School in St. Louis. I’m really looking forward to the reunion next October.

Q: You are a very interesting person. Give us one surprising fact (about you) that most people do not know about.

A: When I finally retire, I plan to write a crime novel. I already have the profile of a fictional Dallas homicide detective all worked out.

Q: If not a clinical professor now, what would you have been?

[Spontaneously he says…] A: Unhappy.

Q: That is for certain after we have heard how much you love your job here, but can you elaborate on your answer a little more?

A: I probably would have ended up as a financial office in some large corporation. If I did that, I would have been looking at the clock on the wall. Anything that I could have done, I would not have enjoyed so much as I do here. It is just fun for me.

Q: One of your proudest moments so far has been…?

A: Watching the birth of my two kids. Those…that would be the proudest moments of my life.

The second would be that my former students have endowed a chair in my name at the Jindal School, the f, John F. McCracken Chair in Healthcare Management.; I was very touched and humbled by it.

Q: Your definition for: love, success, luck, hard work?

A: Do what you love doing, and most of those things will follow. But if you get up in the morning and go to work because you have to, then you are not going to be happy. If you’re not professionally happy, you are probably not going to be a very good spouse either. So my advice is to look for something that you really enjoy doing. That’s harder than it sounds, though, because sometimes you first have to brush aside the money, title and prestige.

Q: What are some things, people or quotes that inspire you?

A: You know, it is funny that you ask me that because I have kept a list here of my favorite quotes over the last 30 years, in my computer. One of my favorites’ is Churchill’s famous quote: “Never, never, never give up!” He said that during the dark times of World War II.

I collect quotes that really resonate with me.

Here’s another: “You can’t steal second with your foot on first.”

I sometimes pop these on the docs. I’ve accumulated them over a lifetime, and they sum up the way to live.

Q: Any particular thoughts about life?

A: I say the obvious. I wish I knew then what I know now. I went out into the world in June of 1961, when I graduated from high school. That was 55 years ago. I was bright- eyed and bushy- tailed, and I wish I knew then what I know now. Everybody ultimately says that at some point in their life.

Q: Any favorite movies or TV shows?

A: If I want to sit and relax, I enjoy watching sports. If it weren’t for sports, I would probably never turn on the TV. I love college football.

For recreation I listen to audio books. I love three authors in particular, John Stanford, Bernard Cornwell Bernard and Michael Connelly. I absolutely read everything that they write and I cannot wait for the next one to come out. I listen to audio books when I commute. I would rather listen to them than watch TV, because the readers are just absolutely marvelous, and they do such a fabulous job with it.

Q: How would you best represent yourself in one sentence?

A: Happy and content with who I am and doing what I am doing.

What an incredible privilege that is… to be happy and content being who you are, doing what you do. Isn’t that what everyone in life ultimately strives for? And for that — and many zillion other reasons — you will always have our respect and admiration, Dr. John! That brings us to the end of this edition of Espresso with Dr John F McCracken, my fellow Comets! Now go on and get busy doing something that you love — now and for the rest of your lives.

Devi Priya Karuppiah

Devi is a graduate student in the ITM program at the Naveen Jindal School of Management and is currently serving as a research assistant. She previously worked as a technical writer. She calls herself a right brained, ambiverted-neophile. She loves spending her time trying out new things and aspires to write a book someday! Read more articles

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