If you spend enough time on the Yale medical campus, you’ll likely spot Richard Kayne, M.D. ’76, HS ’79, FW ’81. It might seem he’s everywhere at once. Clad in a bow tie, the locally-based endocrinologist makes a point of attending nearly every student event: the Anatomy Service of Gratitude, the Healthcare Hackathon (where he mentors student teams devising tech-based healthcare solutions), the Cadaver Ball, and so on. He also meets with student leaders to launch new projects. So far, he’s helped start a student-alumna mentorship program, and he’s working to kick off cross-university collaborations on biomedical engineering and climate change. That’s all on top of seeing patients, serving as a summer-camp counselor, and enjoying his children and grandchildren. Thanks to good health, Kayne says, “I can keep this up for a good while…[I have] so much energy for different projects, almost as if you were intern and resident, covering every detail for your team.”
The Association of Yale Alumni in Medicine, where Kayne has served as president for the past two years, recognized his years of service to the school in June with its Distinguished Alumni Service Award.
Growing up in New Jersey, Kayne had an uncle whom he describes as “the internists’ internist, a guy who was in love with taking care of patients…the friendliness and the gentleness was something really unique. His uncle even invited patients to dinner at the holidays.
When his uncle fell ill, Kayne was awed by the man’s “dignity and control and impact that he had on this entire hospital environment that had cherished him for his whole career”. It made such a deep impression that Kayne chose the same career. “I just thought this would be a good combination of thoughtfulness and engagement. It’s always worked that way,” he says.
While an undergraduate at Dartmouth, he met his wife Maria, a Mount Holyoke student from the Philippines who was studying economics and art history. He majored in Spanish literature, a subject he loved so much that he was tempted to become a Hispanist. Early admission to the School of Medicine, though, beckoned him back to his original career path, though it was just a few months into his first year that he hastily flew to the Philippines and married Maria, whose city of Manila had fallen under martial law. After Kayne completed medical school, the couple chose to stay at Yale for the sake of Maria’s tentative plans to pursue a doctorate in economics or art history. Kayne became a local lifer, remaining at Yale for internship, residency, and endocrinology fellowship then opening a private practice in Cheshire.
When their son Daniel was 12, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. After treatment, the boy attended Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Connecticut. “The camp gave him back his childhood,” Kayne says. (Now 35, Daniel has remained in remission and raises money for childhood cancer.)
Kayne fell in love with the camp and joined its board. 2017 will mark the 21st summer that he and his wife are counselors there, and Kayne has grown as famous for wacky hats in summer as he is for bow ties in winter. “I just sort of go native in that environment,” he says of the camp. “We are all the extensions of what this genius (Newman) created, and we’re impacting one thousand children a week.”
The warm, supportive community that Kayne is a part of at the camp and at the School of Medicine is something he also cultivates in his clinical practice. “I’ll see people once a year for their thyroid condition and I can manage the intellectual and therapeutic part in a matter of minutes. But also, when I come in, there’s a sense of, what’s their life like in the last year and what’s going on?” he says. “There is as much joy in being part of someone’s life beyond their illness as there is in figuring what they have. That type of social interaction is empowering to me as any of the intellectual excitements that come from solving something really complex.
“I’m not electronic, I’m not owned by anybody. When I come into the room I can actually talk to people, look them in the eye, and not look at a computer,” he adds. It has allowed him, he says, “to keep the sense of wonder and joy and trust that brought me into this [profession] in the first place.”
In his free time, Kayne and his wife, a Woodbridge selectman, go to musicals, travel to Europe, and visit family in the Philippines. The couple’s three adult children and two grandchildren live in New York City.
Submitted by Jenny Blair, M.D. ’04