ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — David Schade was born in New York City in 1942.
R. Philip Eaton had come into the world in Grand Rapids, Mich., seven years earlier.
It would be more than two decades before the two would finally cross paths, with the initial encounter being unremarkable and brief. But a few years later the two would forge a friendship and a professional working relationship that has spanned decades and impacted the lives of hundreds.
Both men are successful physicians, specializing in endocrinology, at the University of New Mexico. They split their time between practicing medicine and conducting scientific research.
Eaton, 83, the emeritus executive vice president for health sciences at UNM, and Schade, 76, a regents’ professor who has been the university’s chief of the Division of Endocrinology for the past 20 years, first crossed paths in the 1960s at Washington University’s medical school in St. Louis, Mo.
“I first knew Philip there,” Schade said. “But I don’t think he knew me. I was behind him in school.”
Eaton left shortly after that to take a job at the University of New Mexico as an assistant professor of medicine. Eaton’s own father practiced medicine during the Great Depression, delivering babies at night to earn extra money for the family, which influenced his decision to become a doctor. Having in-laws in Santa Fe, Eaton had visited New Mexico and knew it was a place he wanted to live. But he did make one mistake when assessing New Mexico.
“I had been here three times before and it was raining,” he said. “I said to myself ‘This is a beautiful place but man, it’s wet.'”
Eaton relocated here in 1968 and fell in love with the state, its people, the university and, yes, even the dry weather. Schade followed a few years later and the two began their decades-long partnership.
“After finishing medical school, I came to UNM,” Schade said. “I wanted a change of scenery. Something different than St. Louis.”
Since then Eaton and Schade have collaborated on several research studies and projects. Schade said he considers the elder man his mentor. The two collaborated in the 1980s to develop the world’s first implantable insulin pump for diabetics.
They have also spent much of their careers researching heart disease and its possible causes and preventions. Their latest venture is the publication of a book titled “50 Ways to Save Your Heart,” which is free and can be downloaded at stopheartattack.net. The book is meant to empower people to save their own lives.
“The patient’s role in health care has changed, because we can assert more control over our health and prevention of disease,” Schade said. “Our answer to heart attacks now isn’t proximity to a hospital; it’s how we care for ourselves every day.”
Eaton said with the advent of the Internet people have access to more information but much of it is bad advice or just plain wrong.
“There are thousands of videos on YouTube,” he said. “People will never sort through it all so we decided to do a book.”
The book uses clinical vignettes (questions and stories from real patients) and it covers topics such as what kind of doctor to see, diet, exercise, cholesterol, how to determine if one has heart disease, reversing heart disease and medication. One prevention the book strongly suggests is getting a calcium scan. Schade said calcium is linked to cholesterol, which is the “fuel that makes calcium collect in the heart.”
“The lower we keep our bad cholesterol, the less disease we have,” he said. “Engage with your primary care physician and take your health into your own hands. Own your heart and you own your health.”
Eaton said in the world of scientific research, having peers for collaboration is important and necessary and Schade has been one of those people for him most of his career.
“You can bring ideas together and kick it around,” he said. “First of all, it’s a lot of fun. And now is one of the most exciting times in medicine.”
In 2015, Eaton was designated by the UNM School of Medicine as a Living Legend for his work, and impact on the school and community. At the time, Schade praised his friend in an article published by the university.
“Eaton is a marvel at getting everybody together on a project,” Schade said. “He taught me everything I know about research.”