Accomplished Alumni: Dr. Dirk Bernold

Cadets alumnus considers his Garfield Cadets experience a large part of his tremendous academic and professional achievements

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Garfield Cadets, 1989

Dr. Dirk Bernold marched in the Garfield Cadets from 1988 to 1990.

At 16, he had never been to a drum corps show, but like many of us, his parents forced him to join marching band. While marching and playing the trumpet in high school, Dirk was instructed by Jeff Sacktig, Rick Wygant and Larry Ambrosio, who introduced him to the Garfield Cadets and encouraged him to audition. He thought the music sounded pretty cool, so he tried out and made third soprano in 1988.

“The Cadets changed me,” Dirk said. “I was smart, so I was always able to get by, but in The Cadets, I had to start working. I practiced for the first time in my life, and I worked harder than I ever had before.”

Mark Sylvester, long-time Cadets visual instructor and drill writer, affectionately nick-named Dirk “Dopey,” an adjective Dirk’s colleagues today would never imagine once described him. Once he returned home after his rookie year as a Cadet, his work ethic had completely changed, and his grades improved. “I learned discipline and the importance of following through,” he said.

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Garfield Cadets, Les Mis, 1989.

In 1990, Dirk’s final year in the corps, he was a freshman engineering student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Instead of marching the following summer, he took an internship with Ratheon, where he designed guidance systems for Trident II missiles, which were launched from submarines. He received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Electrical Engineering from MIT.

But Dirk’s hardworking spirit drove him forward, straight into the medical field. Next, he attended medical school at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “I wanted to study oncology because I had a little brother in my fraternity at MIT who struggled with and eventually died of bone cancer.” Dirk had also taken a year off of school to take care of his mother who also battled cancer, and tragically lost that battle shortly thereafter.

He went on to receive his residency training at NYU and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where he was assistant chief resident. He attended the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for his fellowship in oncology and hematology.

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“The Cadets taught me what I was capable of,” Dirk said, “and that helped me to deal with the long hours of medical school and residency much easier. The physical demands there were nothing compared to The Cadets.”

Dirk strongly advises young people to march in The Cadets while they have the opportunity. “You learn a tremendous amount about yourself that you will never learn otherwise. You discover what you’re capable of.”

Dirk also said that his Cadets experience helped him to stand out in job interviews. He included his years in the corps on his resume, and when asked to explain it further, employers were always interested and impressed. “It shows that you chased a desire to the highest level,” he said.

Today, Dirk is the president of the Interlakes Foundation, a private medical oncology and hematology practice in Rochester, NY. He is also a faculty member at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He attributes much of his success to his experience in the Garfield Cadets, which taught him the value of hard work.


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