By Sam Whiting
On Monday, March 24, Dr. Ephraim P. Engleman turns 103. He doesn’t come into the office on Mondays, but the next day he’ll be driving the Cadillac Eldorado up from his home in San Mateo to UCSF Medical Center in Parnassus Heights.
Q: When was the last time someone asked to see some ID?
A: A couple of months ago, a policeman pulled me over. I had just barely gone through a red light. He asked for my driver’s license. He saw my date of birth and said, “Oh, my God.” Then he said, “Go ahead, forget it.”
Q: It’s not too often I get to ask a 102-year-old what his latest project is, but here goes.
A: A book that I wrote called “My Century.” It’s a mix of medicine and music.
Q: Can you remember when you were 2?
A: My good mother was anxious for me to be a great violinist. When I sat on the potty, she had before me music notes. I learned to read music before I could read the English language.
Q: Is this book being marketed through social media?
A: We’re suggesting that if people want it, they should send a check ($19.95) to our office and we’ll send them the book. It is also on Amazon. The proceeds don’t go to me. They go to our arthritis research here.
Q: Describe your occupation?
A: The University of California San Francisco has three major research laboratories concerned with arthritis and rheumatic diseases. We are called the Rosalind Russell/Ephraim P. Engleman Rheumatology Research Center at UCSF.
Q: Do you still see patients here?
A: Not many, but yes.
Q: How do you let them know that you are 102 years old?
A: I don’t. But as a matter of fact, most of them already know it.
Q: How long have you been in this office?
A: About 20 years. I have a view of everything. I’ve been at UCSF since 1948.
Q: Of all the household inventions you’ve seen, which do you remember the best?
A: I don’t know when radio first came on, but that had a great impact, and certainly television. This whole Internet business has had an impact. I don’t understand it, myself. I have a computer in my office, but I don’t handle it. My secretary handles it.
Q: What about the automobile?
A: I don’t know if it was the first, but I remember the very, very early days of the Ford.
Q: Do you have some retirement years left in you?
A: I hope not. I have no intention of retiring. I’m going to stick around as long as the university will have me and as long as I have it upstairs (points to his head).
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: San Jose.
Q: First job?
A: Working in a theater in San Jose. It was the opening of the new Fox California Theatre. It was a brand-new movie house. I had just graduated from San Jose High School, 1927. The local union needed a violinist for the orchestra in the theater and that was my first job. Those were the days of silent movies with an orchestra in the pit.
Q: What do they call you for short?
A: Eph (pronounced Eef). I’ve had that since high school.
Q: When was your last high school reunion?
A: There was a reunion, not just of my class but the whole high school, six or seven months ago.
Q: Were you the only member of the class of ’27 to attend?
A: You bet.
Q: Where did you go to college?
A: I graduated from Stanford in 1933, then I went to medical school at Columbia.
Q: Book on your nightstand?
A: About a 19th century violinist by the name of Joachim. I’m about to write an article about a violin that was owned by him. It’s for a magazine called the Strad.
Q: Favorite vacation spot?
A: My wife and I don’t travel much, although we just returned from Hawaii last week.
Q: Tell me about your wife?
A: She’s a wonderful lady named Jean. We’ve been married 72 years. My book is dedicated to her. She’s 98.
Q: Brothers and sisters?
A: I have one brother who is 16 years younger and lives in Palm Springs.
Q: You guys go forever. What’s the trick?
A: I have 10 tips to longevity in the book. Want me to read them?
Q: Maybe just No. 1.
A: “Be sure to select parents with the right genes.” Want me to go on?
Q: How about tip No. 10?
A: “Be happy and lucky but most important, keep breathing. This is absolutely critical to longevity.”
Q: When can we expect an updated edition of “My Century”?
A: When I’m 105.