“Salmon must swim upstream against the current or flow of the stream.”

Over the years, I have been sensitive to the impact that mentors or other inspirational figures have had on shaping me.  I have been particularly drawn to the “salmon swimmers,” those who go against the flow.

This week’s blog takes a departure from talking about children and their struggles, to acknowledge two giant salmon swimmers that recently passed away.  From totally unrelated fields, they each had a large impact on me, even though I never had the pleasure of knowing them personally.

The first was Dr. William Carey, a pediatrician from the Philadelphia area with an international reputation.

As noted in the recent obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Dr. Carey was a champion of understanding a child’s temperament as a primary variable in terms of the child’s behavioral tendencies.

The obituary stated, “Dr. Carey pushed back against the assertions by medical professionals that unwelcome behavior in children could be traced mostly to brain function abnormalities.  He argued strongly against what he called the over-prescription of Ritalin (and other stimulants) to calm hyperactive children, including those with ADHD.”

As Dr. Carey said, “I think the current diagnosis of ADHD is a mess and has been wildly overdone.  It blames a variety of symptoms entirely on the child’s brain and ignores the child’s environment and the interaction with it.”

“Ways should be found,” he said, “to reduce the stressful interactions and to teach kids coping skills.”

In the same week, another hero I revered passed, the journalist,  Pete Hamill.

I became a huge fan of Pete’s columns during the Watergate era (yes, I’m that old) when he was a columnist for the New York Post (which was a very different paper than it is today).

Attending a high school in downtown Manhattan, we were allowed to leave the building during the lunch period and go wherever we wanted.

More often than not, I ended up in the local delicatessen (by myself, I might add) with my New York Post in hand.  That was my version of a slice of heaven – a Manhattan deli, the New York Post and Pete Hamill.  It didn’t get much better than that.

I was so enamored with Pete that I had the paper delivered  to my college, even though it arrived four or five days after its publication (probably by Pony Express) as a daily newspaper .

In my professional career, I have always thought of myself as a bit of a “salmon swimmer.”   While in no way comparing myself to these giants, among others they gave me fuel to go against the tide.

May they rest in peace.

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