Against All Odds

Courtesy Peter Lundin

Peter Lundin didn't have the kind of Stanford experience featured in admission brochures. His time on the Farm basically consisted of two activities: study and dialysis. He ate special meals -- alone -- in the student health center. He says he literally made no friends.

Lundin has kidney disease, a fact he discovered after he had trouble running down a basketball court as a sophomore at Santa Clara University. Within months his kidneys failed. Admitted to Stanford Hospital, he underwent hemodialysis, which purifies blood by cycling it through an artificial kidney machine called a dialyzer. It was an experimental procedure in those days, and the prognosis was grim. "They knew I was going to die," Lundin recalls.

But Lundin had other plans. Confined to his hospital bed, he resolved to become a doctor. The former philosophy major began reading organic chemistry and, with the help of home dialysis, eventually became stable enough to transfer to Stanford. In two years, he plowed through premed chemistry, biology, calculus and physics. When he wasn't at his books, he was at his parents' house in Los Altos, enduring the exhausting process of dialysis. "I was dialyzing 30 hours per week," Lundin says. His doctors anticipated a downturn at any time, but he shut that out of his mind. "I couldn't let anything intervene," he says. "Otherwise, how could I have gotten the grades?"

Lundin did get the grades, and he went on to SUNY-Downstate in Brooklyn, becoming the first hemodialysis patient accepted to a medical school. Today, he's a nephrologist, treating others with kidney disease.

Still on dialysis 12 hours a week, Lundin lives in Brooklyn with his wife of 25 years, Maureen. He had a kidney transplant in 1991, but the organ lasted only five years. As a physician, he directs two dialysis units, teaches at SUNY-Downstate and educates patients online through "Peter Lundin's Corner." But when asked what he's most proud of, he names just one achievement: "surviving."


Jennie Berry is Class of '01.