The three leather-clad motorcyclists who rolled their Harley-Davidsons to a stop in front of San Francisco’s Moscone Center last May had a tough time convincing the security guard that, really, they were there to register for the APA annual meeting.
But Brian Miller, M.D., A. Ari Albala, M.D., Ihor Galarnyk, M.D., are all practicing psychiatrists from the San Diego area.
“Perplexity and surprise are common reactions when, dressed in full motorcycle regalia, people learn that in our real lives we are psychiatrists,” said Albala. He originally signed up a dozen fellow “Psychs on Bikes” (as Galarnyk calls them) to ride as a fundraiser for NAMI, a noble idea that was dropped when only the Magnificent Three showed up for the ride to the annual meeting.
“We decided to go ahead anyway, if only as a ‘proof of concept’ and, of course, for the fun,” said lead organizer Albala, medical director of Psychiatric Centers at San Diego, a private-practice group.
Miller is clinical director at Grossmont Hospital Sharp HealthCare in San Diego, and Galarnyk is in private practice in Rancho Mirage.
Albala got hooked on motorcycles about seven years ago, after some prompting by his son, and soon bought his first bike. While giving a lecture a few months later, he was approached by Galarnyk, who had spotted a picture of a motorcycle on Albala’s laptop screen. He, too, had never ridden before, but like Albala, had always wanted to give two-wheeling a try. He ended up buying Albala’s first bike when Albala moved up to a more powerful model (a Harley Davidson Dyna Fat Bob).
Albala has so far located other psychiatrist-bikers in Los Angeles; Fresno, Calif.; Yuma, Ariz.; Phoenix; and a few other places.
Still, confounding expectations is a never-ending job. When he reveals in work or social settings that motorcycle riding is one of his hobbies (reading, golf, and tennis are others), Albala said he is greeted with a mixture of admiration, envy, and “you’re crazy—don’t you know how dangerous that is?”
Galarnyk has the perfect retort for that last one. “You never see a horse or a motorcycle parked outside a psychiatrist’s office,” he tells skeptics. ■