You can hear the delight in Robert Pushkin’s voice when he talks about his latest endeavors. At 86, the 1961 graduate of the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery (COMS, now DMU), has plenty in the works and the passion to juggle them successfully. At the heart of all his endeavors is the patient.
“The best way to achieve focus in medicine is to listen to the patient. That’s a great emotional thing for me – not as an ego trip, but as a way of seeing them on a totally different level,” he says.
A longtime gynecologist/obstetrician in Los Angeles, Pushkin delivered babies whose mothers he also delivered. He was chairman of OB/GYN for more than 15 years at a 400-bed hospital and became chief of surgery and eventually chief of staff. His daughter, Sharon Pushkin, M.D., also an obstetric gynecologist, took over his practice in 2021.
“She did me a favor, but retiring from active practice was a very difficult decision,” he says. “Delivering babies and experi- encing the joy afterward for the parents, talking with patients in prenatal exams – giving that up was hard.”
That doesn’t mean he gave up efforts to enhance patients’ quality of life. Pushkin is a principal investigator for a large research institute in Los Angeles, where he conducts research on endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, uterine fibroids and postmenopausal hot flashes. He and Sharon are co-writing a book they hope to get published this year about gynecology and obstetrics for the layperson.
“We’re keeping it non-technical. It’s for women who want to know more about themselves and medical knowledge on female health,” he says. “To tell the truth, our patients can’t wait for it to be published.”
Pushkin and his wife, Ruth, married on July 3, 1957, and then left California the next day for a road-trip honeymoon to Des Moines. While he completed medical school, she completed her degree at Drake University in Des Moines and then taught elementary school.
“Living in Des Moines was one of the most fantastic experiences I have ever had,” Pushkin wrote in a reflective letter to DMU – despite that he worked at a meatpacking plant in the city during his summer breaks, or the below-zero-degree winters and summers in an apartment with no air conditioning.
“We moved to an apartment on Franklin Avenue, where about a half-dozen members of my class lived. Our first child was born during my fourth year, as happened with several classmates,” he says. “We had a ‘buggy brigade’ with the wives walking babies along Franklin Avenue.”
In the early 1960s, through a system in conjunction with the University of California, the California State Board of Medicine in effect absorbed most of the state’s osteopathic physicians into the allopathic profession. (Pushkin has both M.D. and D.O. credentials as a result.) During his second residency interview at a hospital with all M.D.s and just one D.O., he overheard the interviewing physicians debate, “Do we want another one?”
“I wasn’t sure if they meant another D.O. or another Jew,” Pushkin chuckles. “They offered to put me on a three-month trial, and I said, ‘I’ll take it.’ They treated me pretty rough that first year.”
Fortunately, however, a former president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Keith Russell, M.D., practiced at that hospital and personally mentored Pushkin to experience multiple procedures and pathologies. That further paved his path to a rewarding career. He obtained his obstetrics/ gynecology boards in 1969.
“My education at DMU was incredibly enjoyable and greatly appreciated, allowing me to obtain a good foundation for medicine,” he wrote in his letter to DMU. “Although it has radically changed administrative-wise, medicine is truly a noble profession.”