Role Models & Heroes: Diane Greenfield, MD (2019)

The following essay on role model Diane Greenfield was written by Danielle Greenfield, a middle schooler, enrolled in City Congregation’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program. Students spend a year and a half researching their heritage, values and beliefs, and write on a Jewish subject of their choice, their major project. The process improves both the student’s writing and critical thinking skills, as well as his/her self confidence and overall maturity

I believe that a role model is someone you look up to, and aim to be like. My late Aunt Diane Greenfield was a pediatrician, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be one because of her.  I knew I wanted to be a pediatrician because I wanted to keep Diane ‘alive.’ And knowing that wasn’t possible, I wanted to keep her name alive. I wanted to work in the same place, and have the same medical specialty. In kindergarten, we had to make timelines about our past, present, and future, and when I asked my teacher how to spell pediatrician, her jaw dropped.  Diane is who I aim to be as I’m growing up.  Sadly, my Aunt Diane died before I was born.

Diane was born in New York City on November 17th, 1957. She was my father’s older sister – by seven years. As such, she was always protective of him. He says, “She always made me feel safe.” She was a loving older sister, who would take my dad shopping and made him feel important and loved when he was a shy kid.

Diane started college as a photography major at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She was a smart kid but not a good student, and at the time she didn’t put much effort into her studies. She always loved photography, and even had a darkroom at home, where she would develop pictures. Cousin Rachel says she was a great photographer, and took amazing portraits.

After her grandma Mary got sick with leukemia, when Diane was 18, she decided she wanted to help sick and terminal people, and she started putting effort into her studies, turning her grades around. Seeing Grandma Mary in the hospital in Brooklyn every day, and seeing the medical staff help her, inspired her to want to help people in the same way. Cousin Rachel told me another thing influenced Diane’s decision to become a doctor: When Diane was 17, she was a passenger in a car accident on a highway. She suffered a knee injury that kept her from doing all the sports activities she enjoyed at the time. That experience was also one where the medical staff was a great help and support.

When Grandma Mary passed away, Diane was 20. She decided to transfer to Hunter College for the pre-med program, where she held a 4.0 grade point average. She turned from a student who didn’t do well to a perfect student. To me, that makes her a good role model, because she shows me that even though we all have flaws, we can put effort into working to overcome them. Cousin Rachel said, “It was not easy to then take those courses, and apply, and get in and do everything she had to do. But Diane had real determination and desire, and she wanted to persevere over so many obstacles, all through her life… because she had goals she really believed in.”

Diane loved kids, and so chose to specialize in Pediatrics. She passed her medical board and decided to move to Florida. After she graduated, she started her own medical practice in emergency pediatric care, called Golden Triangle Pediatrics, in Winter Park. She worked there until she died.

In her forties, she suffered another leg injury. One of her clients, in gratitude for helping their child, took her for a ride on their boat. Something detached in the wind and hit her leg. She had emergency surgery right when she got off the boat which left her with a limp, because the bone healed, but not well. She also spent a long while in a wheelchair while recovering.

Diane passed away 2001, when she was 44 years old.

Diane showed enormous strength of character by facing a host of obstacles, difficulties and barriers in her life. By facing them with dignity and strength, she inspired me to face my own emotional hardships and challenges.

While practicing medicine, Diane faced some unpleasant situations. In 1995 she testified in court regarding a case about a baby she treated, who died after her father got annoyed with her crying and hurt her. I feel the fact she reported the case to police and testified shows her courage, and how important justice was to her, even though every doctor is required by law to do so.

This is another example of why she is my role model – she went as far as needed to do the right thing. Doctors take an oath to protect patients and help them, and that also means speaking up and reporting abuse when they see it.

My dad told me about Diane as an older sister. He said, “She was protective of me, she wanted to buy me stuff and take me shopping. She always had my back. I always knew it – and our parents knew it. She always made me feel good – I was shy, she thought I was great and told me so. She was very smart, and had this sense of fairness – things had to be fair. If either of us was wronged she spoke up.”

The values Diane represents for me are education and perseverance for the effort she put into her studies, to become a better student and then a doctor; justice and kindness by the way she treated her patients and stood up for them, and also for family members; responsibility and supportive acceptance by the ways she was a big sister.

I learned from her how to apply a sense of justice and fairness in my life, to speak up when I see wrongs. I learned I should be a supportive sister to Morgan, and protect her, though I’m still working on that.

I never knew Diane, she is a presence in my life because of all I’ve heard about her. My dad told me, “If she were here today, she’d be proud of you”.