By SARA ARTHURS
People choose all sorts of things to do with their spare time. Dr. Andre Gilbert used his to earn a law degree.
Gilbert, a urologist in practice at Blanchard Valley Urology Associates, received his Juris Doctor degree (J.D.) from the University of Toledo in August 2017.
“I’ve been a physician for many years and I love what I do,” Gilbert said.
But he wanted a challenge and was curious about law, which he said involves a different “thought process” than medicine. He’d read books that said learning law was like learning a foreign language. This is accurate, said Gilbert, who also speaks Portuguese and Romanian, having been born and raised in Brazil by Romanian immigrant parents.
He said he enjoyed law school, as he likes learning.
And, after 20 years of practice as a physician in Findlay, he felt sufficiently settled in his practice to pursue another area of study.
“It’s something that’s been brewing in my mind for a few years,” he said of earning a law degree.
Gilbert’s two daughters, now in college, were in middle school and high school when he began his law studies in 2012. He was inspired to show them that “with a goal, perseverance and dedication,” anything is possible.
The University of Toledo offered evening courses that he could take part-time. It took him five years of study, while working full time as a physician, to earn his degree. He’d go to classes twice a week, usually from 6 p.m. until 9 or 10, and sometimes also on Saturdays or Sundays.
Weekends were also spent reading and preparing for the following week’s classes.
Gilbert, who declined to give his age, said some of the “more seasoned students,” already with careers in other fields, were drawn to the evening classes, but he also met some “very bright people” from a younger generation.
In law school, students go through the entire semester with just one final exam at the end — no other tests along the way. The exam is four hours long and includes essays and multiple-choice questions. Gilbert wrote, rather than typed, and developed callouses on his fingers.
“I wrote like there was no tomorrow,” he said.
His daughters were supportive of his studies, but did notice limitations. For instance, Gilbert enjoys traveling but, like any college kid, could only go on vacation during spring break.
However, law students can take American Bar Association-accredited classes, taught in English, overseas with their school’s approval. Gilbert took a two-week course in Berlin, Germany. It was his first time in the country, but that wasn’t the only reason Gilbert found it amazing: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito gave five lectures during that class.
Gilbert later took a class in Cambridge in the United Kingdom, with a British professor who was an expert on the EU and allowed the class to study “so many legal aspects” of Brexit.
Gilbert first came to the United States at age 14 as an exchange student in Columbus.
“I just loved the country,” he said.
He went back to Brazil to go to medical school and completed residency, a year in surgery and three in urology.
His only brother had moved to the United States, and Gilbert followed him here, first to Nebraska, where his brother lived, then completing a fellowship in pediatric urology at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati. While there, he made plans to move to Findlay after having been recruited for the job. So he started subscribing to The Courier while still in Cincinnati.
“Many years ago I saw a Dear Abby letter” in The Courier, he said. The person had written in to say they’d always thought about pursuing a certain dream, but going for it would take four years and they had already reached a certain age. Abby replied to the letter, stating, “Four years from now you’re going to be four years older anyway,” so do it, Gilbert said.
Gilbert said law school wasn’t always fun, and driving Interstate 75 during the widening project, especially in the winter, was not “joyful.” But he would tell anyone else posing a question like the one in the Dear Abby letter, “I think you should go for it.”
Gilbert plans to continue his career as a urologist, though he may look into using his law degree professionally down the road, specifically looking at the law as it relates to health, including ethics, administration and compliance.
His advice to someone else starting a new venture is to set realistic goals and “start slow.”
As for his next venture? “My next challenge is to learn to play saxophone.”