Hooman Yaghoobzadeh (CRS ‘87,’88) is a physician specialised in cardiovascular disease and internal medicine. As a CRS alumnus, he chairs the Health and Safety Committee and is part of the Reunion Committee. He will be celebrating his 30th CRS reunion this years. Chelsea Beyrand (CRS ‘07) just finished a graduate degree in nursing at Columbia University. Read their conversation about their careers, hopes for CRS and challenges as campers.
Chesea: What made you decide to become a physician, specifically in the field of cardiovascular disease?
Hooman: As always wanted to be a physician I had an interest in science, a Jewish mother, and I suppose other things i wasn’t aware of as a child. It culminated in just a love of the sciences and working with people and being interested in medicine. Medical school was reassuringly exciting and fun. I wanted to be a neurosurgeon because it was the hardest thing, but cardiology is a comb of physics and biology that is very interesting. It’s a physical kind of medicine as opposed to very cerebral. Half my practice is internal medicine, the other half is cardiology.
C: This summer marks your 30th camp anniversary. When you reflect back, in what ways has camp impacted your development both personally and professionally?
H: I think the most obvious answer is that I met one of my best friends, Robbie, to this way. We were in the same class at the same High School, at the same time, but had never talked before. We became best friends at camp. Now our family lives are entwined, we live 2 houses from each other. Camp has had an unbelievable influence on me. More generally, camp was a very eye opening experience. I was born in Iran, moved to the US, lived in different communities before we settled in Staten Island. But I was still rather naive about the world, about growing up, and how complicated life is. I thought I had pretty concrete ideas about right and wrong and camp challenged those significantly. It was the beginning of a lot of self discovery that I think is something that has continued to this day. In both me and Robbie. We are discovering new things and evolving. He’ll find something and teach me, and i’d do the same. We have been on a whole food protein based diet for 6 years, recently got into meditation. A part of my practice is difficult to identify medical issues, diseases that I didn't know, and trying to come up with solutions, so curiosity plays a big role.
Camp had a pretty big impact. Who knows how you’d turn out without anyone pushing you in a certain trajectory. For me and definitely for Robbie, we would have been very different people.
C: When you think back to your time as a camper, what is one memory that has stayed with you all of these years?
H: Councils were very memorable and I still remember some of the talks. And I really remember my hiking trip. I was so terrified, I felt we were gonna die. My legs would shake at times out of sheer fear of heights and hiking. It was difficult situation where i really was pushed past boundaries I didn’t think I’d pass. It was an amazing lesson, in retrospect in was a cake walk, I was just being naive. A lot of it goes back to how naive we are of each other’s experiences.
C: What advice do you have for young alumni as they are deciding upon a career or entering the workplace?
H: For me, what has really paid off is the continued process of self improvement. That constant self discovery is an internal process. Something that I think of as a stride against mediocrity. I hate mediocrity and i think it is something that we gravitate towards in all of our lives. It is something that is sort of a default state. And it sounds elitist to say. To me mediocrity just means you’re not achieving your potential. You’re not achieving as much as you can. But you have to stride to do that. One really valuable perspective that I have as a physician I see patients of all ages, from mid teenage years to a 105 year old. I see how people age. I see people who age gracefully, people who don’t, people who are bitter and feel left alone. And people who are still enjoying their later decades. The quality I see in the people who really enjoy the later decades is the quality of always pushing and trying to experience new things. Being joyful and having a sense of humor.
C: As the Chair of the Health & Safety Committee, you work with a group of alumni that use their combined skills to ensure that our campers and staff have a safe and healthy summer. Do you believe it is important for alumni to stay involved with CRS? If so, what are some ways that you recommend doing so.
H: During my generation of camp, we were never taught that somehow camp would only exist if we were involved in it once we left. But as you grow up you will keep some of those relationships you made, but the concept of CRS exists outside of these relationships. We weren’t taught the concept that this magical mix of culture and experience and youthful naivety won't continue forever to nourish young minds unless we make it so. A lot of that was about Freddy doing such an amazing job at making sure that camp would flourish for so many decades financially and in terms of energy. Both through the summers, but also by relationships he developed with others who would come and lead camp. It was a sort of fossil fuel energy that had been tapped and gushing oil. And when he passed, we had to put that all work in ourselves. But then we didn’t learn that at campers, which was a mistake. We need to learn that it won’t happen unless we make it happen. I was disengaged for decades. My CRS experience made it into all my applications and essays. But it wasn’t until it was made very clear to me that camp was going thru a tough financial situation when it shut down for a season. And that is when I got involved.
Out involvement as alumni is an existential question, if we can figure out how to make our alumni more involved, we will continue, if we don’t figure that out, we will not.
I recommend getting involved in committee work or joining the Visit Team, to see camp firsthand.
C: As an involved alum, what do you hope the future looks like for camp?
H: There are endless possibilities, the future is very bright. I am very excited about the people on the Board and those leading camp. They are measured and careful, and have a long history of experience with CRS. They are creative and optimistic about the future. The sky could be the limit as to what we can accomplish. The best thing we could figure out over the coming two decades is to reestablish two full length seasons. To try to increase the immersion. I think that is a goal that everyone is laser focused on. Before we start thinking about other lofty aspirations, this is something we all feel is necessary to prioritise. And it's a reachable goal. We just need to get alumni reengaged, and move that goal forward.
Homaan: When did you go to Camp? Have you always remained involved?
Chelsea: I went to Stendis in 2007. I wasn’t at first, but I am now. I am on the Health & Safety Committee, and now also on the Reunion Committee.
Homaan: When you hear alumni speak when they went to Red Hook or Clinton, do you hear your experience?
Chelsea: Absolutely, the mission is the same, we had council, challenging conversations… regardless of where it took place. I really hope to get Stendis alumni involved. We have a huge contingency in Europe.
C: If you could impart one piece of advice to this summer’s campers, what would you say to them?
H: Cherish being 14 and 15. And try your damn hardest to understand where people are coming from. Not from a geographic place, but where as far as their views about things that are happening in our world, religion, politics, love, pain, suffering. All of the things that really matter. Explore the top concepts, don’t be afraid to bring up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and talk about it. Don't ever take for granted the politically correct stance of what we are supposed to think about that issue as a liberal society. Because often times we don’t understand these issues for what they actually are but for what they have been published as. Camp is this magical opportunity to discuss these issues, you have Israeli and Palestinian campers, talk to them. Try to get to that place where we see what's common among us as opposed to what makes us different. It is just an unbelievable gift that you’ve been given or 4 weeks on end, not stop. Do that every second that you can. That opportunity comes once in a lifetime.
H: Chelsea, it’s your 10th-year reunion this year, how do you feel about that?
C: I feel old. I think it’s really interesting, camp comes at a time when you’re 15. Now, at 25, we are starting to figure out what the next chapter will look like. To see the success of my fellow camp mates, graduated from colleges all over the world, having opened businesses… Now I realize what a crazy talented community I am a part of and how that really has shaped my life.