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A long, full and active life—keeping fit and taking on lots of jobs

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2006 - Spring


“The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off,” is a saying quite familiar to Henry E. Markley, M.D. ’43. At 87, Markley went into full-time retirement when Greenwich Hospital’s Home Care/Hospice Program, where he worked as part-time medical director, closed in September 2004. Although he bristles at the closing of the program, which served up to 300 patients, he has no plans to slow down. An avid tennis and golf player, he continues to exercise up to an hour and a half each day, a testament to the notion that a healthy lifestyle leads to a long and healthy life.

Markley’s ties to the hospital’s home care program go back half a century, when an anonymous donation enabled the hospital to set up a pilot home care study for chronically ill patients who often required lengthy hospital stays. The only nursing home in Greenwich had a long waiting list, so there was a dire need for alternate long-term care. After visiting Montefiore Hospital’s home care program in New York, Markley helped set up the Greenwich service, which initially accommodated only 10 patients. “By the seat of our pants we built up the program,” he said. “We were a pioneer service.” After a year, in 1956, the medical staff voted unanimously to request that the hospital make home care a department, and Markley continued as medical director for almost 50 years. The program was recognized across the state, serving patients from Greenwich and its surrounding communities.

Markley’s medical career began with a lingering doubt. When he applied to the School of Medicine in 1939 he had little hope of being accepted. He was a top student at Penn State, but most medical schools then had an unspoken quota limiting Jews to 10 percent of any given class. One of his Jewish classmates from Penn State had already been accepted at Yale, and Markley thought it unlikely that, with a class of only 48 students, the school would accept two Jewish students from the same college. Much to his surprise, however, he entered the medical school with the Class of ’43. After being drafted, he joined the Reserve so that he could postpone his Army service until he graduated. The war ended not long after he went on active service, and following an internship at Philadelphia General Hospital, he did a residency at Greenwich Hospital. He eventually received an Army assignment to Puerto Rico, which he followed up with additional training in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins. When he was offered a position on the staff at Greenwich Hospital in 1950, he returned for good to practice internal medicine.

Markley has worn many hats over the years, in addition to founding and directing the home care program. He served as the hospital’s electrocardiographer for 24 years; formed the first professional medical corporation in Greenwich in 1963 with three of his fellow internists; served as chief of medical services from 1967 until 1974; and after selling his internal medicine practice in 1979, became medical director of Greenwich Health Examiners, a company that performed physicals for executives. In 1993, at 75, an age when most people would have been retired, he cut back his professional activities, limiting himself to running the home care program. Although it wasn’t a full-time commitment, he spent a few hours each day at the hospital reviewing charts and coordinating services.

Markley said he continued to work all these years because his father, who lived until the age of 102, retired at 75 and regretted it for the rest of his life. Even though longevity runs in his family, Markley practiced preventive medicine. He is trim, has never smoked, has only an occasional glass of wine and is very active, although age has taken a slight toll. “I’m not any good at tennis any more,” he admitted. “I know where I’m supposed to be on the court, but it takes me a while to get there.”

Markley married his wife, Nicki, 13 years ago after twice becoming a widower. “The first time I was married for 25 years, the second for 20 years. I told Nicki we’re not fooling around this time; we’re going for 30 years,” he said. Meanwhile, he has other milestones to look forward to. I went to my 60th medical school reunion,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the 65th.”

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