Is This America's Most Overqualified, Overachieving Worker?
If you're feeling a little insecure about your achievements, don't read this article. Jacob Appel, 39, has an envy-inducing, jaw-dropping resume. The New York City resident is a trained and working psychiatrist and a medical school professor. And he's qualified to work as a lawyer. In his free time, he works as a notary public. He's also a licensed tour guide for New York City.
Oh, and Appel is also a published author of more than 200 short stories in prestigious literary journals like the Virginia Quarterly Review and The Threepenny Review. He's a journalist as well, advocating for suicide acceptance and opining on obscure subjects, such as using DNA tests to prove that President Warren Harding had an illegitimate daughter. He says that he's able to make a living off his writing and psychiatry practice.
A Multidisciplinary Man
And he'll soon be racking up a few more professional titles. Appel is currently completing a Ph.D in history from Columbia University as well as a Master of Public Health degree from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He's also busy finishing up a Master of Fine Arts in playwriting from Queens College. When he completes those degrees, Appel will have racked up a total of 10 advanced degrees. (He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University in 1996.)
Even in the hypercompetitive world of New York professionals, he stands out for his versatility.
"He's a renaissance man," says Steven Schragis, the co-founder of One Day University, which organizes adult-education lectures with university professors. In speaking to AOL Jobs, Schragis recalled an incident during a program in New Jersey when Appel was scheduled to speak about bioethics. Shortly before the program started, a law professor canceled his lecture on constitutional law, and Appel was asked to step in. "He pinch hit, and was able to discuss various Supreme Court cases. He didn't miss a beat. We have a very educated audience, and everyone was impressed with his lecture on that subject."
As he's moved from one ivory tower to another, Appel sees himself as eventually settling in the field of medical ethics, perhaps with a consulting or directorship position at a hospital. He's currently teaching medical ethics and the law at Mount Sinai and previously taught related material at Brown.
His inspiration for a multidisciplinary career was a Brown University professor, Edward Beiser, who served as a dean of Brown's medical school after a career in political science. Appel met Beiser as a college sophomore studying the field of bioethics, and three years later, Beiser asked Appel to be a teaching assistant in a class on the subject, Appel says.
An Ideas Challenger
Los Angeles-based psychiatrist Mark Goulston does not know Appel personally, but he's written about overachievers. When told about Appel's accomplishments, he says, "Many of us might say, 'Get a life.' But if we judge him, it's because he triggers an inferiority complex in us about our own accomplishments. And it's clear from looking at his life: He's no dilettante. Here's a guy committed to serious work."
Is there any underlying theme to all of his pursuits? "It's about gaining the tools and skills to help people see the world more clearly," he says. "And this is the path that has worked for me."
Indeed, everyone interviewed for this article spoke of Appel's graciousness and selflessness. "He shows up early to his lectures, and stays late to answer all questions," says Schragis. "Despite his schedule, when you miss an appointment, he'll say, 'I must have gotten the date wrong.' "
That doesn't mean he hasn't made a few enemies along the way. His outspoken defense, in The Huffington Post, for suicide in cases of prolonged pain, and his argument that non-traditional sexual activity -- even bestiality -- should be tolerated, have prompted hate mail. "I myself do not engage in [bestiality] and I do not encourage it," he says. "But there's a principle. We only should prohibit things that are detrimental. And not just because of the 'yuck factor.' "
When asked how he's able to fit it all in, Appel, who is single, says he "cuts out all the trivial stuff." That list includes pop culture, and a personal cellphone. "When somebody asks me what do I do for fun, I know I won't connect with that person," he answers. "I am having fun."
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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