Penn State College of Medicine Alumni Update

Robert Goodman Med'99 Making The Best Calls: Life on the Ice

By day, Robert A. Goodman, M.D., ’99, is an anesthesiologist who works in the sterile, controlled atmosphere of an operating room. By night he’s on ice, dealing with passionate players, irate coaches and raucous crowds as a linesman for the American Hockey League.

Dr. Goodman first strapped on ice skates at age eight, and by 15 was officiating squirts on outdoor rinks for in-house leagues, eventually moving to the junior level. He continued to play hockey, but reached a critical decision point in college when he realized that “I wasn’t going to have a hockey career.”

But he never lost his love for the game. As Goodman sees it, officiating gives him regular ice time and a front row seat – well, no seat -- to all the action.

Still based in his hometown of Hershey, Pa., Goodman recalls that he actually didn’t enjoy his first year as a teenage official, especially when parents yelled at him. “I wanted to quit, but my parents said, ‘You started this, so you need to finish the season.’ After a summer break, I sort of forgot the bad parts, went back the next year, and now it’s almost 30 years later.”

Through medical school and residency, Goodman stuck to his skates, officiating whenever his schedule permitted. He explains, “When you’re in medical school, you have to start peeling away what’s less important to you. I hung onto hockey and never gave it up.”

Part of it, he thinks, is due to the fact that he attended medical school as an older student, seven years after graduating from college. Goodman received a bachelor’s degree in business from Shippensburg University, then spent three years working for a Fortune 500 company. He soon realized that wasn't how he wanted to spend the rest of his life.

Goodman fulfilled his science requirements through a post baccalaureate pre-med program at the University of Pennsylvania and spent several years working in a research lab at Penn State University to strengthen his credentials for applying to medical school.

When the time came to submit applications, he was accepted by his first choice: Penn State College of Medicine. “I was thrilled to attend a good medical school right here in my hometown,” says Goodman, who appreciates the school’s reputation for accepting non-traditional students. He began medical school with an interest in internal medicine, but turned his eye toward anesthesiology during his second year. “It has a lot of positives, including no office hours,” he adds.

According to Goodman, anesthesiology is also a field of medicine that also leaves room for pursuing other passions – like hockey.

Doug Yingst, president and general manager of the Hershey Bears, recently described Goodman in The Patriot News as the “one of the best linesman in the American Hockey League”, but to be a hockey official, Goodman needs to know more than the rules; he also has to work out regularly to stay physically fit.

As an official in the thick of action, it’s no surprise that Goodman has been injured on ice. Two years ago in Philadelphia, his wrist got caught on the boards and was broken during a play. He was out for the rest of the hockey season and lost weeks of work. The following year he broke his index finger.

Why, after all this time and trouble, does he continue to take to the ice? “I just love the game,” he says. “It’s that simple.”

Though his sons are too young (they’re ages 4 and 18 months), his wife Stacy occasionally makes it to a game. He recalls one time when a group of fans, yelling abusive remarks about the officiating, noticed her sitting alone. When they learned that her husband was one of the officials, they “bought her a beer and had her join the group, while still yelling at me,” Goodman exclaims.

During another game, one of his buddies left Goodman a message on his home machine disputing a call – something they still laugh about. “I’ve had patients recognize me and fans yell at me, but I’ve never had a guy call my house to complain during a game!”

Goodman works for Riverside Anesthesia, a practice group of 40 anesthesiologists who travel to seven sites around Harrisburg, handling operations ranging from pediatrics to cardiothoracic surgery. Some in his group could care less that he’s an AHL official, while others have season tickets to the Hershey Bears.

Asked if any colleagues ever give him lip about a game, Goodman laughs. “It’s nothing compared to what you put up with the ice, not even on their best day!”

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