When patients enter the rheumatology office of Ernie Katler, MD, FACP, FACR, in San Pablo, Calif., they’re transported to a galaxy far, far away.
Hundreds of toys, props and figurines of Yoda, Darth Vader, Jabba the Hutt and other characters, as well as three original Star Wars movie posters, greet patients. If they’re lucky, patients can also practice using a light saber, just in case they need to defend themselves against the Earth’s enemies.
As a sci-fi fan and Star Wars aficionado, Dr. Katler has collected hundreds of items of Star Wars memorabilia, and for nearly 20 years, he and his wife, Ann, have been active members of the Golden Gate Garrison (GGG) in Northern California, which is part of the 501st Legion, a worldwide Star Wars Imperial costuming organization. The group comprises more than 160 devoted Star Wars enthusiasts who create and wear authentic-looking Star Wars costumes at fan-based community events to promote interest in the epic movies and raise money for local charities.
Medicine, War & Stormtroopers
Dr. Katler’s medical education took place on planet Earth. He graduated medical school in 1970 from the University of California, San Francisco, and completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue, formerly Bellevue Hospital Center, in 1972.
By then, a real war had already erupted in Vietnam. He was drafted into the U.S. Army and served the next two years in Germany as a commander of the 189th medical attachment, caring for 5,000 troops and their families.
In 1974, he returned to Bellevue for his second year of residency and a two-year rheumatology fellowship, and joined the faculty for one year. Although he didn’t realize it at the time, his life was about to change. While still in Manhattan in 1977, he watched the first Star Wars movie.
“I was still a fellow at the time,” says Dr. Katler. “The sentinel moment was the first five minutes of the opening scene. It was such a step forward in terms of creativity, the way it was photographed. My mouth just opened up.”