Billi Gordon, 500 pounds lighter, writing autobiographyPublished 5:24pm Wednesday, May 10, 2006
After concluding an intensive internship at the UCLA School of Medicine Department of Digestive Diseases in the Brain Imaging Core of the Neuroenteric Disease Program, Sept. 15, 2004, Wilbert Anthony Gordon Jr., a 1972 graduate of Dowagiac Union High School, (better known to local residents as Billi Gordon), successfully defended his doctoral dissertation.
Subsequently Gordon earned his doctorate in integrative behavioral neuroscience two years ago, Nov. 1, 2004.
On Dec. 1, 2004, Dr. Gordon received an academic and medical appointment in the Department of Psychiatry (Neuropsychiatric Institute) at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Dr. Gordon utilizes echo planar functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology to conduct research establishing the biological bases for human behavior. He is under the direction of Mark S. Cohen, Ph.D., who came to UCLA from Harvard University more than a decade ago.
On Dec. 7, 2004, Dr. Gordon was chosen by the UCLA Office of the Ombuds to chair the Advisory Committee on Diversity in Medicine.
In the two years that have followed, Gordon's unique perspective on life, which he largely attributes to being born and raised in “one of the greatest towns in America,” has translated into an unprecedented change in Diversity in Medicine.
Therefore, Gordon has worked to make the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA be the first tier-one medical school in the United States to broaden the definition of diversity to include “Euro-Americans.”
For those of us who have known Dr. Gordon as “Billi” and watched his career as a television and film writer and actor, this new endeavor seems diametrically opposite to his previous career.
Gordon's performance credits include “Coming to America” with Eddie Murphy and “Married with Children,” “Women in Prison” and a considerably less mainstream but equally stellar modeling career.
“It was a mid-life crisis thing,” Dr. Gordon jokes regarding the unusual turn of events in his life. “The conventional mid-life crisis is a sports car and a blonde; but I've had a sports car and been married to a blonde for 18 years, so I opted for a Ph.D. in neuroscience. It's just as twisted and costly.”
The fact of the matter, Dr. Gordon has explained in previous interviews, was that he wanted to teach fellow television and film writers about the neurobiological implications of broadcast media on neuroplasticity to promote responsible television broadcasting.
To do this effectively, Gordon says matter-of-factly, “I needed some letters after my name, so I decided to get a Ph.D. in neuroscience. Beyond any doubt, it was the most difficult endeavor I have ever undertaken in my life. It almost killed me, and at times, between the pressures of a obtaining a terminal degree in neuroscience, with the added difficulties and stressors associated with caring for my late mother who at that time was non-ambulatory and in the end-stages of life, I thought it would kill me. But if you're not ready to die, you're not ready to live, I believe,” says Dr. Gordon. “Besides, I am lucky to come from a great place like Dowagiac. It makes all the difference in the world.”
Dr. Gordon's duties as chair of the Advisory Committee for Collective Concerns in Medicine has included designing curriculum for medical students and residents that Gordon describes in the following terms: “It has been about teaching doctors that they are humans first, and physicians second. Additionally, while allopathic medicine is a science, human healing is an art, and true intervention into disease states must be a cohort of both.”
Also among Gordon's research interest is the body abandonment as a survival response to sustained exposure to terror caused by suppression of fear caused by severe early-life trauma.
During his tenure, at UCLA, Dr. Gordon intends to work with several institutes at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Washington, D.C., including the National Institute of Mental Health, The National Institute of Drug Abuse, The National Institute of Aging, The National Institute of Heart and Lung, The National Institute of Digestive Disease and Kidney and the National Institute of Integrative Medicine in establishing the first multiplex medical resource center in South Central Los Angeles, which will combine a research/clinical and training facility in LA's inner city aimed at creating the first facility where an ongoing longitudinal dialogue between research and clinical care in tandem with developing and training strategies to decrease health care disparity.
Dr. Gordon will also seek to achieve his original goal, i.e., providing training for television and film writers in the neurobiological implications of broadcast media on cognitive load and the developing human brain.
Speaking of media, as might be expected, Billy Gordon's autobiography is in the works.
The book, whose working title is, “The Gift of Rage,” is entertaining bids from several major publishing companies on Madison Avenue according to Gordon's literary representation at the William Morris Agency.
The film version is much closer to conclusion.
It is being produced by Dan Pyne, veteran Hollywood screenwriter/producer whose credits include “Any Given Sunday,” “Sum of All Fears,” “Manchurian Candidate” and “Pacific Heights.”