Article image

by Author Unknown

July 19, 2000

Enjoys benefits of swimming

It started at eight years old. He could drag the water logged five foot Turkish towel the fastest across the "Y" pool. That was his ticket to the swim team.

As a teenager growing up in St. Louis, it seemed that Alan Rapperport had all the markings of a star swimmer. He spent most of his free hours in the water, challenging himself to swim stronger and faster. His hard work paid off. He won numerous medals, was a Missouri State High School multiple champ and went on to become an All-American at Harvard, Class of 1955 and freshman swim team captain.

Then there was medical school. The hours he had spent in the pool were overwhelmed by his studies. When time allowed, he continued with some recreational scuba diving and snorkeling, but he knew that his competitive edge was slipping away. The dreams of Alan Rapperport, the swimmer, stayed submerged to make way for the ambitions of Alan Rapperport the plastic surgeon.

More than 40 years passed. One day, Cynthia Bruce, a patient of Dr. Rapperport and a United States Masters swimming (USMS) champion lady, learns about his past as a swimmer. She suggests that he get involved with Masters competitive swimming at the University of Miami. Dr. Rapperport takes his patient's advice and joins the Gold Coast Masters group. To his delight, he finds that the competitor within is still very much alive—and he does incredibly well.

"Swimming with the Masters has brought a wonderful change to my life. It was so much fun to get into the national meet. I actually met some of the very guys I used to swim with and against in college. It was such a thrill to see them again, "Dr. Rapperport says. He relives memories with Dr. Paul Hutinger and Dr. Robert Mac Donald, swim opponents fifty years ago! (and champions again this year!)

In 1995, his first year of Masters competition, he was registered as one of the top ten American swimmers, an honor that was repeated in 1996, which was also the year that he was sixth in the world for the 100-meter backstroke.

In the 1998 National YMCA meet, 65 year-old Rappeport got a taste of national championship—winning the 400-yard individual medley in 6:07.98 and second in the 500-yard freestyle in 6:42 which was his then personal best. In that meet, he won three third-place medals in the 50-, 100-, and 200-yard backstroke. This taste of winning gave him the shove he needed to do even better.

In 1998, Alan was second in the world in the 1500-meter freestyle. In 1999 he was first in the world in the 200-meter backstroke, and a member of the 200-meter freestyle relay team that set a world record.

To keep his competitive edge, Dr. Rapperport swims five to six mornings each week, either at the pool in his condominium complex, the University of Miami or at the International Hall of Fame pool in Fort Lauderdale. The swim buddies include Cav Cavanaugh and Debbie Cavanaugh, June Krauser , Cynthia Bruce, Joel Burns and Rorie Anderson. Also inspirational are Abby Ross, David Mc Intyre, Gina Derks-Gardiner, Kris Derks, Herb Kern, Tracie Moll and Marcia Barry . These folks keep the workout fun and moving.

He misses the gallant lady, Anne Mc Guire, who had a premature death. She taught him the modern breaststroke which was new to him.

"I go early in the morning and swim about 3,000 yards per day. Then I have breakfast before I go to work as an American Board Certified Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon."

He adds, "One of the first things I noticed when I started swimming again, was that I had more energy. When I go to surgery, I had extra energy to do it well. It takes a lot more for me to feel fatigued."

He has taught his two daughters, one son and three grandchildren to swim and enjoys being in the pool with them. He also enjoys swimming while in North Carolina. "The laps go by so fast when there is beautiful scenery all around."

"You can defuse a life problem in the water. If you're a proficient swimmer, you set your 'regulator' so that your body stays moving while your mind works through the problem," he says.

For Dr. Rapperport, swimming is more than a hobby. It is a part of who he is. "I think it's important to have something else in life besides your work. Even though I pushed it aside for awhile, I've always been a swimmer—and I feel grateful that it's a prominent part of my life again. I always feel grateful for our USMS and our swim meet organizers. They deserve and get a super thanks.”

Dr. Rapperport has been performing plastic surgery in Miami since 1966 and is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, the only board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties to certify plastic surgeons. He is an honors graduate of Harvard University and Tulane University School of Medicine. His plastic surgery training was at the University of Texas Medical Branch Hospitals.

In addition to his private cosmetic and reconstructive surgery practice, he holds an Associates Professorship at the University of Miami, Department of Plastic Surgery. He is a past president of the Florida Society of Plastic Surgeons. Memberships include the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, and International Society of Clinical Plastic Surgeons and he is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He has published 30 scientific articles. Dr. Rapperport has been chief of plastic surgery at South Miami Hospital and is also on the staff of Larkin and Baptist Hospitals.

Now his wife, Sue, his number one supporter, gets up and is swimming too. Soon we'll have another senior Gold Coast member.

Life is good. Go for it!