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CARDIA: Study guardian preserves his own health

Nearly everyone involved in Kaiser Permanente’s CARDIA study has at some point heard from Steve Sidney, MD, the study’s principal investigator for the past 20 years and day-to-day project director for the five years before that.

“They know who I am because they’ve gotten 50 million letters from me over the course of time,” he said with a grin.

Dr. Sidney has examined many of the CARDIA participants in the Oakland/East Bay area and occasionally runs into them on the street. For a few, when their exam finds something unusual, Dr. Sidney delivers the news.

For example, one participant’s blood showed a very high level of platelets – the cell fragments that help blood to clot – so Dr. Sidney encouraged her to see her physician as soon as possible. She was treated right away.

The wiry Dr. Sidney follows his own advice to eat healthy and get plenty of exercise. As a runner, one of his favorite workouts is a tour of nearby Lake Merritt’s three-mile shoreline.

Dr. Sidney began his running career on the 9th grade cross-country and track teams while growing up in White Plains, N.Y. He continued running competitively while studying mathematics at Yale University.

At Yale he also got a chance to run with Frank Shorter, the famous marathoner and long distance runner, who also studied there.

After receiving his undergraduate degree in mathematics at Yale University, Dr. Sidney went on to complete medical school at Stanford University. Later he received a master’s degree in public health at the University of California, Berkeley.

Aside from spending one summer in Illinois, he didn’t travel much in his youth. But in the late 1960s, Dr. Sidney took a break from his studies at Yale to live in Africa.

During his eye-opening year abroad, he helped train mathematics teachers in Nigeria. He was one of a group of American, British and African college students who brought new mathematics textbooks to Lagos.

“It was a profound experience,” said Dr. Sidney, whose family includes three grown children.

Experiencing life as part of a white minority in Nigeria changed him. It also changed his taste buds. “I like spicy foods now,” he said with a smile.

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