Sol Rockenmacher: The Right Attitude, the Right Path
Dr. Sol Rockenmacher caught an early glimpse of his future at a California hospital in the mid-1950s. A senior in high school, he had gone to see his 18-month-old niece following her surgery to address a heart defect.
Listening to the pediatric cardiologist describe the procedure, Sol was moved by the physician's knowledge as well as the respect and concern he showed for one tiny life.
With that in mind, he went on to Dartmouth College and Dartmouth Medical School (then a two-year program), graduating in 1961. He completed his MD at Harvard Medical School and built a fulfilling career as a Dartmouth-Hitchcock physician. Grateful for his education and career, Sol and his wife, Linda, have included a bequest in their estate plans for Dartmouth-Hitchcock and the Geisel School of Medicine (formerly Dartmouth Medical School).
"Dartmouth was where I learned about the respect that one should have for the field of medicine, whether you're practicing medicine or doing research," he recalls now. "There was a warmth and dignity about it—a wonderful combination of these two elements."
Sol practiced as a pediatrician, first in the Navy and then in private practice in the Dover, N.H., area for nearly 15 years. When an opportunity arose to be mentored by the state's only pediatric cardiologist, he jumped at the chance.
"I enjoyed primary care," he says, "but I was ready to take on another challenge."
Traveling the state alongside Dartmouth-Hitchcock pediatric cardiologist Dr. Richard Waters, whom he describes as "the Mr. Rogers of pediatric cardiology," he observed the sincere interest Waters showed in patients' conditions and in their personal lives. "It's an approach that enables you to develop more of a trust with the family and the patient," he says, "and maybe hear more accurately and more openly about what is going on and how they're doing."
After completing a cardiology fellowship at Boston Children's Hospital, Sol joined Dartmouth- Hitchcock's pediatric cardiology team and launched a full-time pediatric cardiology program in Manchester, N.H. He also taught and lectured at the Geisel School of Medicine, which kept him at the top of his game for decades. "If you're teaching in an academic center," he notes, "you're obliged to keep up with what's going on in your field."
Sol retired in 2012 but has remained active in the Geisel community as secretary and class agent for his medical school class. Sol also served for several years on the board of the Friends of the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. "Dartmouth sent me out of the gate in the right direction and with the right attitude," he says. "It got me on the right path."