Students interested in public health and medicine gathered in the McKeen Center Thursday afternoon to have a conversation with Dr. Peter Pressman ’77 to talk about his medical work in Afghanistan, Iraq and GuantÃ¡namo Bay. Later in the evening, Pressman gave a talk on campus, “Why is it so Hard to do Something Good?” His lecture was part of the Seeking the Common Good Series about the future of Afghanistan.
Pressman has had a long and varied career, earning graduate degrees in the social sciences and psychology as well as medicine. As a doctor, he’s had jobs caring for the most privileged people in the world-Hollywood’s A-list in Los Angeles-to the most downtrodden-prisoners trying to go on hunger strike and patients in war-torn societies.
In 2009, Pressman left his celebrity practice to join the Navy Medical Corps to contribute more meaningfully and directly, he says. In this capacity, he has developed collaborative models for revitalizing Afghan medical education, particularly in the areas of mental health and neurology. In Afghanistan he’s built a distance-learning model with telemedicine to help care for the ill and train medical providers.
But Pressman reminded Bowdoin students that while it’s thrilling and glamorous to ride into a mountain village in Afghanistan on horseback to care for the needy, there’s also need in the United States. He said he designs the projects he does abroad to apply to situations here as well. “What can I do in Afghanistan that I can do better in South Central Los Angeles or South Side Chicago, which might be desperately in need of basic medical services?” he said he continually asks himself.