For one physician, life is always an adventure

With diversions ranging from playing concerts, to sailing and exploration, Arthur Topilow, MD, is constantly on the go.

Performing jazz concerts, exploring the jungle, racing sailboats and practicing medicine: any could be part of an average day in the life of Arthur Topilow, MD, FACP, a physician at Atlantic Hematology/Oncology in Manasquan, N.J.

When the workday is through, Topilow practices the piano until late in the evening, a rewarding hobby he has been working at since he was a young boy.

“My cousin played the piano. I was about 8 and a half years old, and I said, ‘I can do better than that!’ So, I took lessons,” Topilow told HemOnc Today.

Topilow quickly became the featured pianist in his teacher’s annual recital. When he was 15 years old, he was playing the piano in a group at bars in Union City, N.J. Two years later, he was booked six nights a week in the Catskill Mountains playing in hotel dance bands and for vaudeville performers.

Topilow’s musical track record includes concerts with the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, performances of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with the Doctors’ Orchestra in New York and the Schumann Piano Concerto with the Garden State Orchestra, as well as local events like Jazz in the Park in Red Bank, N.J. He currently heads the jazz program at his local Jewish Community Center and has recorded three CDs.

Topilow has even had the honor of playing with his mentor and world-renowned jazz pianist, Dick Hyman.

“We did two concerts together, just the two of us, on two grand pianos. It was a great thrill. It was like being asked by Derek Jeter to play ball with the Yankees.

During the last 15 to 20 years, Topilow has decided to play concerts by request and not take on any club dates. He stays busy performing one concert after the next. He has also performed two-man recitals with his clarinetist brother at multiple venues in Italy, including the American Consulate in Florence.

Arthur Topilow, MD, holding a payara, a jungle dragon fish of Venezuela
Arthur Topilow, MD, holding a payara, a jungle dragon fish of Venezuela, . . .

Dr. Topilow iceboating on the Navesink River in New Jersey
. . . iceboating on the Navesink River in New Jersey . . .

Source: A Topilow

Adventurer, explorer, world traveler

When he is not performing, Topilow likes to travel and explore the jungle.

About 20 years ago, he began accompanying his friend, an expert on tropical fish, to the Brazilian jungle where they researched various species. In Costa Rica, Topilow hunted and photographed poisonous frogs. In Venezuela, he went sport fishing for peacock bass, known as “pavon” in Spanish and “tucunare” in Portuguese.

“As far as jungle trips go, I have been there seven times. The jungle is now called ‘the rainforest,’ which makes it sound nicer, but it is still pretty ‘jungly’ out there,” Topilow said.

Topilow recalled a humorous incident about one particular fishing trip for payara, the dragon fish of the Amazon. “One of the indigenous men in the jungle sold us some blow guns. He wanted to know if I wanted the darts with poison or without. I laughed, ‘No, I’ll take the darts without the poison.’ I now have a collection of blow guns in my basement.”

Seasonal seafarer

For the past 30 years when stateside, Topilow and his five-man crew have been racing sailboats once a week in-season — May through October — at a sailing hotspot: his home state of New Jersey. His latest hobby, however, is iceboating.

Dr. Topilow performing at the Monmouth Museum in Lincroft, N.J.
. . . and performing at the Monmouth Museum in Lincroft, N.J.

“Basically, an iceboat is a sailboat on ice skates. One could potentially go as fast as 60 mph, weather permitting. It’s a popular sport here in the wintertime. I belong to an iceboat club that is more than 125 years old,” Topilow said.

When the Navesink River ices over, Topilow and the members of the club can be seen cruising in their iceboats. In warmer years, like this one, they head to places like Connecticut and Northern New Jersey to get their fix of iceboating.

“I just take the iceboat and go for it. Other people race them, but I don’t; I prefer to just put my helmet on and jump in. The fastest I’ve gone is about 35 mph, which is fast enough when you are lying on your back three inches from the ice,” Topilow said.

Staying busy

In addition to his jaunts to the jungle, Topilow has been to many exotic places around the world, including India, China, Japan, Vietnam, Kenya, Tanzania and Morocco. Topilow and his wife recently returned from Antarctica where they went on an expedition to see wildlife, including several species of penguins, and scenery such as kayaking around iceburgs and visiting an old Antarctic whaling station. This was followed by a trip to explore Easter Island.

This May, Topilow is heading to Croatia on a sailing trip, and this summer, he and his wife plan to visit Outer Mongolia where they will live for a few days in a yurt.

Though his life seems to be filled with adventures and expeditions, Topilow is first and foremost a medical doctor.

“Don’t forget, I do medicine. This other stuff is really just dessert. It’s been great fun, and I learn a lot as I continue to do these things. It just seems to get better all of the time.” – by Stacey L. Adams