November 2, 2009:
Uncle Hugo is retiring after more than 50 years in practice. The following article is taken from ThePress.net.
Maiocco takes down his shingle
by Rick Lemyre
Dr. Hugh Maiocco sits in a comfortable leather chair chatting with a visitor in his Brentwood living room, his broad, ever-present smile accessorized by his sparkling eyes. Outside the picture window to his right, green grass and flowerbeds are bordered by a phalanx of tall trees ringing the property and serving as a visual barrier between his home’s sylvan setting and rapidly encroaching suburbia.
But the shift from neighboring farm fields to next-door dwellings isn’t the only thing changing with the times at the Maiocco household. After more than a half-century of practicing medicine in East County, helping health care make the transition from house calls to hospitals, Maiocco has finally hung up his stethoscope.
“I didn’t want to retire, but the computer shot my legs out from under me,” said the 83-year-old Maiocco. His unique method of keeping hand-written records had served him well, but he admits it was simply “no longer appropriate for the times.”
But while bits and bytes might have been his downfall, they stand as perhaps the only thing he failed to master. Described as a “Renaissance man” by one of his dearest friends, the late Bill Bristow, Maiocco the athlete won Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in track at the 1951 Pan American Olympics. As an artist, his paintings earned him an exhibit at the San Francisco Art Festival. As a psychologist, he was schooled at New York’s Bellevue School of Medicine, and as a philosopher he spent a week at a Buddhist monastery in Shasta. During World War II, he took a month off of work to teach himself electronics and passed the Navy’s Radar program entrance exam with flying colors. He even owns a patent for a simplified system of music that clarifies the half-step progression represented by the black and white keys on a piano.
Maiocco says his lifelong yearning to learn stems from wandering away from his New York home and getting thoroughly lost at the age of 6. Rather than panic, he carefully reviewed his surroundings and how he had gotten there, and eventually made his way back.
“It turned out that finding my way home that day was a seminal life-changing experience because it taught me a fundamental lesson about the nature of knowledge acquisition,” Maiocco wrote in a recent magazine article. Studying many disciplines would also prove handy when he began practicing medicine in Brentwood in 1957.
Ensconced in a small office with doctors Abe Kaplan and Charles Duffy, Maiocco and his colleagues were forced by circumstances to treat virtually every kind of malady, as there was no other medical care for miles around. They needed to be versed in neurology, pediatrics, trauma and internal medicine. They delivered babies, set fractures, had to understand that a neck injury might actually be a stress-related condition, and even once treated a case of leprosy. Calls could come at any time – Maiocco and his little black bag once made 27 house calls on Thanksgiving – or even arrive on his doorstep.
“One time the doorbell rang and there was a man whose throat had been cut in a fight,” he recalled. “We had to integrate our families into what we did.”
Maiocco speaks proudly of his family, especially Carol his wife, whom he met in New York and for whom he took the long way home from school just for her company and a cup of hot chocolate. “I could not have done any of this without Carol,” he said. “She is the family glue.”
He’s also proud of his daughter Ruth, a championship swimmer in school and fearless sandlot football player who now lives in Escalon; and his son Robert, a national champion sprinter in college and a Stanford grad, now living in Florida.
He also maintains strong relationships with his friends, including Kaplan, with whom he has enjoyed breakfast every Tuesday for more than 40 years and plays tennis every week.
Professionally, however, Maiocco is proudest of having helped so many people for so long, and helped to usher in an era of modern health care in East County.
“We were pioneers; we were isolated,” he said. “There were no specialists around here then.” The isolation, however, also helped them become better doctors.
“We saw everything,” he said. “We had tremendous freedom because there was no one else.”
Maiocco’s contributions to area medicine go beyond his role as a country doctor. He was a founding father of Delta Memorial Hospital, ran immunization clinics, served on the County Mental Health Board and as chief of staff at Pittsburg Hospital. He worked as the first family practitioner in Brentwood for John Muir, helping bring the John Muir Medical Center to the city. A few years ago he joined Muir’s staff, and it was from Muir that he retired last month.
“When I was with Muir, I was in heaven,” he said. “They let me keep working on paper, gave me a wonderful nurse. I was able to continue concentrating on being a doctor.”
Kaplan said the community will miss Maiocco a great deal: “I think it’s a pity he’s retiring. The kind of doctoring he did is important. You talk to people, not a computer. People would wait two hours to see him and they didn’t mind, as long as they got to see him. It’s a real loss and it didn’t have to be.”
For his part, Maiocco said his only regret is that he hasn’t written a book about it all. He’d like to document his adventure through life, and he’d like to spread the word about the cure for the one thing that causes him the most pain.
“People have not found the fire of love to weld together the opposites of humankind, and therefore they continue to kill each other physically, emotionally, spiritually, even culturally,” he said. “The answer is always love. Find the friendly answer, and do what love tells you to do.”
November 2, 2009:
My wife’s father is Richard Maiocco. His brother is Hugo Maiocco.
They are as fine a people that you could find anywhere.
I feel tremendously blessed to have these people, and Pia’s entire family, in my life for the past 31 years.
Uncle Hugo has had a profound effect of my life and I wanted to write a little bit about him and post this short video interview of him.
Uncle Hugo is a true lover of life. Now in his mid 80s, he still plays tennis, takes music and art classes, and has a thriving medical practice of clients as a family practice physician. In his lifetime, Uncle Hugo has delivered thousands of babies. He has saved thousands of lives. Listening to stories of some of his treatment techniques and the resulting successes with his patients over the years is an extraordinary experience. Uncle Hugo has an inspired blend of medical expertise, knowledge of psychology, character insight, empathy and finely honed intuition.
He is compassionate, selfless, witty. The list of his positive attributes is indeed a long one, and trying to paint a picture of Uncle Hugo is like trying to describe love itself. Meeting him is a charming encounter, having him as a family doctor is a blessing, but getting to know him can change your life forever. The most important part of my own relationship with Uncle Hugo is that over the 31 years I have known him, he has freely shared his wisdom. When I was a much younger man, he taught me what Joseph Campbell said is the secret of myth: “to teach you how to penetrate the labyrinth of life in such a way that its spiritual values come through.” Uncle Hugo told me about his stays in a Buddhist Monastery at the base of Mt. Shasta in Redding California. His stories of the solitude, mediation and spiritualized atmosphere of the Abby inspired me to visit the place and on two separate occasions I did visit the monastery for extended stays of intense meditation, silence and pillow stuffing. Yup, pillow stuffing. The guests would do various work duties and one of the duties that I performed was stuffing pillows. The pillows would eventually be sold for the support of the monastery.
After my stay I would climb to the top of Mt. Shasta. Most of the “For the Love of God” video was shot on that mountain.
“You have to be friendly with yourself,” Uncle Hugo once told me. I have never forgotten those words. They helped me to understand what all great spiritual teachings mean to say when they tell us to love ourselves.
Uncle Hugo’s brother Richard, my father in-law, is similar to Uncle Hugo in that they both have tremendously warm personalities.
At one point, both Uncle Hugo and my father-in-law, Richard were both All American track and field champions, and held the world record for running in their respective classes. Hugo ranked # 1 in the world in 1950 and 1951 in middle distance.
There is one story that Uncle Hugo told me that has had a gigantic impact on the way I approach playing the guitar, and also life in general.
One day his coach told him to run the track as fast and as hard as he could. He was to give 100 percent of his strength at all times.
Uncle Hugo ran the track as he was told, giving everything he could, even when he thought he had no more to give.
His coach then told him to do the run again but this time only give 90%. He was not to push as hard as he can but was to pull back just slightly.
The 100% race was one of his worst times ever and his 90% run broke all of his records.
People will occasionally ask me what to do about getting nervous on stage, how can they play their best, why do they get tense in front of people. I believe one answer lies in the secret of learning how to relax and only give 90%.
When we get to visit Uncle Hugo and Aunt Carol, which unfortunately is not as often as we would like, our conversations go late into the night. There is nothing a person could tell him that he wouldn’t understand, and every conversation with him leaves each person uplifted and calm.
Uncle Hugo is a precious jewel, an angel on Earth. I sincerely hope you enjoy watching the video interview of this much beloved man.