Alumni Profile: Harold Brandford ’72
Biology alumnus and one of Dyson's first graduates to attend medical school shares his prescription for success.
I saw every course as a step closer to my goal and I truly enjoyed the process of learning.
Harold Brandford ’72 calls himself the accidental Pace student, and one can say the outcome has been positive, and even miraculous.
Arriving in United States from Barbados as a young man, he was first tipped to Pace College, as it was known in 1968, by an admissions officer at another institution he considered attending, who had praised Pace for its experience guiding foreign students. When he sat for his entrance exam, so much in the educational system of this new country seemed novel to him: the use of #2 pencils, instead of pen. Multiple choice questions, instead of essays. A required dress code of jacket and tie.
Once accepted to Pace, Brandford immediately set his sights on going to medical school, and to further this, he had found the perfect mentor in Professor of Biology Dudley Cox.
A family member of Cox had also emigrated from Barbados, so the two men immediately shared a common bond, developing a friendship over the years. When Brandford expressed concern that Pace, known primarily at the time for being a business school, had not yet seen a graduate go on to medical school, Cox was confident that it would only be a matter of time. Brandford was guided to enroll in challenging courses, seeing each as a step closer to his goal, and enjoying the process of learning.
“I will never forget the look on [Cox’s] face when I showed him my first acceptance letter from medical school. He started giggling, looking back and forth between me and the letter,” Brandford said.
Today, he is in private practice in Seattle as an anesthesiologist with a focus on outpatient surgery.
His dream of being a doctor is rooted in his childhood, a time in which Brandford describes himself as rather sickly, suffering from asthma, eczema, and frequent injuries. When he visited the office of his local doctor, Brandford admired him as a man who could “fix” people, and he aspired to do the same one day. Initially studying surgery, he later switched to anesthesiology, finding it a perfect mix of the understanding of anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology, and how these disciplines interacted.
Celebrating his 40th year in the profession, he loves his work and is inspired to keep going, hoping that through his efforts, the quality of care in outpatient surgery will continue to improve.
The journey wasn’t easy, as Brandford admits to finding the development of self-discipline initially challenging. He recalls his days at Cornell University Medical College, when he would hear the sounds of laughter and good times outside his apartment while he was studying. The habits he acquired then, however, served to benefit him.
He said, “Many people are endowed with considerable natural talent, but without self-discipline and the will to excel, they will, at best, be mediocre. Most of us are not especially gifted, but if we set a goal, and make a commitment to achieve, miracles are possible.”
Brandford, who will now be collaborating with his alma mater as part of a recent membership on the Dyson Advisory Board, also has a prescription for success for students.
“Make your priorities. Be brutally honest. If you are interested in high achievement, there will be hard work, sacrifice, commitment and self-discipline. I promise, you can surprise yourself in what you can achieve.”