CLEVELAND — If Dr. Howard Tucker were reading you his resume, it would look something like this:
World War II Navy veteran. Chief of neurology of the Atlantic fleet during the Korean War. Law school in his late 60s. Medical-legal expert witness. Currently a practicing neurologist for more than seven decades.
“You’re a celebrity when you get to be 100,” he said, laughing.
But what you don’t see written on his long list of accomplishments over the last 99 years is what Tucker is most proud of: 10 grandkids, four children and a wife of 65 years he says he has never had a fight with.
His wife Sue mirrors his work ethic — a psychiatrist at 88 years old, too caught up with patients to make our interview.
But back to Tucker — did we mention he’s also in the Guinness Book of Records in 2021 as the oldest practicing physician in the world?
“Can you imagine that, yes,” he said, so pleased. “Kinda makes me smile. I tell everyone about it.”
These days, Tucker walks the halls at St. Vincent Medical Charity Medical Center, where he has seen patients and taught medical residents for the last seven years. Before that, he was at the Cleveland Clinic for a decade, where he began his medical career before specializing in neurology in New York and then returning to Cleveland.
His family tells the story of him sneaking out of the house during the height of the COVID pandemic to help treat patients at the hospital.
Such a rich, fulfilled life — his grandson Austin is now working on a feature-length documentary on Tucker’s life, culminating with his 100th birthday on July 10.
“You know, I was naive growing up,” Austin said. “I thought everyone had a grandfather that was working in their 70s, 80s, 90s.”
While Tucker makes it look relatively easy, staying active, seeing patients and teaching medical residents in his 90s, his secret is simple — never stop moving, never stop learning.
“He calls me for help on things and it’s never just, ‘Austin, can you do this for me? It’s, 'Austin, can you show me how to do this?’ Austin said. “He’s really interested in learning: 'How can I do this?' He’s just fascinated with the world.”
Tucker said even at 99 years old, he tries to learn something new every day, staying up on medical practices and studies.
Taylor Taglianetti is directing and producing his documentary, titled “What's Next?"
After a long friendship with Austin, she was simply fascinated by Tucker’s drive, inspired by his life. You can learn more about the film here.
“He has seen 75 years of the evolution of medicine, 75 years of the evolution of the brain, and he has this unique perspective of medicine that is kind of this dying ideology where you put the patient first,” Taylor said.
Penicillin wasn’t around when Tucker started practicing. He pre-dates MRIs and CAT scans.
Back then, every patient was a puzzle to solve, and the way you got to your diagnosis was by getting to know the person.
It's fitting that a doctor of the brain has one of the sharpest brains this reporter has ever encountered.
So what’s the key to his long life, you might ask?
“Genetics is a good start,” he said. “ And everything in moderation, except no cigarette smoking - that’s about it.”
He also boils it down to just being plain lucky.
Even as a centenarian, Tucker said he has no plans to retire.
“Because I’m enjoying what I’m doing," he said. "Retirement is the enemy of longevity. People wither up.”
We know they say age is but a number, and if Tucker doesn’t prove that a hundred times over...well, we don’t know what will.
His birthday is July 10, and he will celebrate with family and friends.
Tucker has been invited to throw out the first pitch at the Guardians game on July 11.