A Thank You To My Los Angeles Community - Gene Dorio, MD
I am a medical doctor in my fourth decade of saving lives, but my life was saved long before today by a community that cared. We were poor, growing up with discarded furniture, playing basketball with a hoop made of coat hangers, and using our neighbor’s phone as we did not have one. Yet, we did not suffer from food insecurity, faced homelessness, and rarely dealt with racial prejudice. We lived in a Los Angeles community of color that celebrated achievements together, elevating glory, and sometimes languishing together in defeat.
Our community was made up of families, moms, and dads, guiding their kids to be better citizens. My family could not afford to pay for sports, but luckily my skills as an athlete were recognized early allowing me to compete and move up the ladder which kept me out of trouble, and maybe out of jail. Life has carried on, and since those days, I have looked forward yearly to our high school football team reunion. Because of Covid, we have not met for 3 years until recently in 2023, with diversity still reflected in the team photo taken over 50 years ago.
As we age, many so-called accomplishments become embellished, and seem more brag than reality. But Los Angeles High School in the 1960s and 70s was a haven for some of the finest athletes produced at that time, and there is historic evidence in newspapers and record books substantiating our accomplishments. For instance, the photo of the “Starting Lineup” of a football playoff game revealed three individuals: #60 Calvin Peterson, #83 James Allen, and Principal - N. Schachter. Later, they were participants in Super Bowl X, with Calvin on the Dallas Cowboys, James (Jimmy) playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Norman Schachter, our principal, was head referee of that Super Bowl. No embellishment.
My senior year in 1969, Los Angeles High won the California StateTrack Championship with an abundance of neighborhood athletics including Robert Pollard who set the national record in the pole vault of 16 feet 7 3/4 inches; and Albert Hearvey running the 100-yard dash in 9.2 seconds, one-tenth of a second off the world record. Plus we had two other runners who ran it in 9.4 and 9.6. No embellishment. A tradition was already being carried on by the football team as our fullback, Ed Mosley, is the nephew of Jackie Robinson; and a member of the track team, Paul Felix, with a daughter who is now the most-awarded runner in American Olympic history, Allyson Felix. No embellishment.
In reality, our parents did not care about the awards or recognition but wanted to ensure their kids were given the opportunity to compete even if one could not pay for it. We made them proud, athletically and academically, and this is the hope our parents strived for.
Thank you to my community for giving me the opportunity to be an athlete and a doctor, and keeping me out of jail.
Gene Dorio, M.D.