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Volume XVII, Issue 46 ~ November 12 - November 18, 2009

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at work and play

Tickling the Ivories

Breast surgeon Sheldon Goldberg turns
cocktail pianist at Calvert Memorial Hospital’s Galaxy Ball

by Sandra Olivetti Martin, Bay Weekly editor

“Lounge musician is no job for a good Jewish boy,” Mrs. Goldberg proclaimed.

A dutiful son or a practical one, young Sheldon prepared himself for a proper job. His course took him through Washington’s prestige schools. Pre-med at Georgetown University led to medical residency at George Washington University and specialization in surgery.

Sheldon Goldberg landed at Calvert Memorial Hospital and from general surgery focused on breast surgery. That specialty brought a lot of cancer his way.

The death of his first wife to a “very aggressive” breast cancer the doctor could not cure deepened his empathy.

“As a husband, I know what it’s like to be on the other side of the desk,” Goldberg says.

So he’s filled with joy at the opening of the hospital’s Center for Breast Care, which puts Calvert County in the big-city league of cancer treatment. Goldberg is enthusiastic about the technology the center brings to the fight against breast cancer: mammograms developed on computer; instant biopsies by needle; ultrasound to probe tissue.

He sounds just as proud of where the new center is as what it is. “There’s little reason to travel elsewhere with patients getting a comprehensive plan for treatment on their doorsteps,” Goldberg says.

By comprehensive plan, he means support from a breast care team made up not only of surgeon, plastic surgeon, radiologist and radiation oncologist but also wellness nurse practitioner, acupuncturist, support group facilitator, cosmetologist — plus a navigator to guide patients through it all.

Plus, Goldberg says, “It’s more relaxed down here. My phone number is listed in the telephone book. People call me at home.”

More relaxed and more compassionate.

“You save the life of a woman with young children, and she’s going to see them grow up,” the doctor says. “You face their families. You create a lot of bonds. You develop relationships, which mean more to me as a doctor than any amount of money.”

But, he adds, “medicine can be stressful.”

Which is one reason Goldberg never abandoned the piano.

“I’ve been playing piano since I was eight years old,” he says. “Even at Georgetown, when I was supposed to be in pre-med, I did a lot of music.”

After college, when music became a relaxing hobby, he pined for performance. If he couldn’t play cocktail lounges, he could still hanker after department stores.

“Nordstrom became my Carnegie Hall,” Goldberg says.

His longing was not lost on his second wife, Ramona Goldberg, principal at Huntingtown Elementary, who had herself studied music. She set about making her surgeon-husband’s dream come true.

Convincing Nordstrom managers took patience. But eventually, a date was set, 50 invitations printed and friends assembled. Dressed in tuxedo, the ecstatic surgeon played for two hours.

Shoppers looked on, bemused. In Goldberg’s mind, everybody was thinking It must be somebody famous to play for all those people.

Goldberg takes to the keys again at the VIP reception opening the Galaxy Ball, the 21st annual gala sponsored by Calvert Memorial Friends that has raised a million dollars for the hospital in 20 years. This year’s beneficiary is the Center for Breast Care.

7pm-midnight Sat. Nov. 14 @ Show Place Arena, Upper Marlboro. Single tickets are $250; sponsors donating at least $3,750 (for six) get to hear Goldberg play: 410-535-8178;

© COPYRIGHT 2009 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.