Interview with Betty R. Klein, C'82

Betty R. Klein, M.D., C ’82 – Opthalmologist
Major: Anthropology and Biological Basis of Behavior
Location: Danbury, Connecticut

How has your liberal arts degree been influential throughout your career?

I grew up in an era best depicted in the fictional series: Mad Men.  My family was very traditional with a working father and a homemaker mother and, at least in this case, it was not a happy situation for anyone.  As a child I was inspired by the independent spirit and intellectual stature of three very important anthropologists Mary Leakey, Jane Goodall and Margaret Mead. These women studied human and primate societies with scientific rigor and turned the same equanimous lens onto our own cultural roles, including but not limited to families.  As a teenager I also loved the physical sciences and was encouraged to pursue medicine, a more practical and conventional path, by family, teachers and peers. 

I was thrilled to be accepted to Penn but even more delighted when I discovered that it was possible to major in anthropology and simultaneously complete all of the pre-med requirements.  Not only that, but all of the anthropology and archeology classes were held among the priceless antiquities of the University Museum. 

After graduation, I continued on to Yale Medical School where I stayed for residency training in ophthalmology.  I am currently a specialist in medical and surgical retina.   I enjoy my current work because vision is important and the eye is an elegant and complex subject.  I continue to see the challenges of working with colleagues, employees and patients in my community as an opportunity to gain a better understanding of human relationships and to grow as a person.  Perhaps that is where my liberal arts education has helped in my career and in my personal life as well. I will always be grateful to Penn for allowing me to explore the world of my earliest role models while preparing for a really great career in medicine.

How do you stay connected with Penn Arts and Sciences, and why is it a priority for you?

I have been interviewing for Penn for about three years now. I feel like I am still learning about the process.  I firmly believe in the transformative power of an undergraduate education and I want young people to be aware of the exciting possibilities for them.

What advice would you give students at the College who are trying to decide what career path to pursue?

I would advise students to see their own minds and personalities as malleable.  Be fluid, stay open to new ideas and remember to consider the smart people around you as potential collaborators by which you may accomplish mutual goals.

What was your favorite course at the College and why?

In the ‘80s there was an amazing class in Human Sexuality which was quite an eye opener at the time!