Associate Director Food and Nutrition
Rush University Medical Center
Hometown: Fayetteville, Ark.
Education: B.S., M.S., food & nutrition sciences, University of Arkansas, PhD, food systems management, University of Missouri
Married. Lives with husband, Don Ladd, in Naperville, Ill.
Linda Lafferty, 2005 IFMA Silver Plate winner in healthcare, says she was born with feathers in her blood, meaning that her fervent desire to fly a plane was most likely innate. Though she has yet to earn her pilot’s license, with her marriage license came a new passion (besides her husband) for fly fishing. Here, Lafferty draws a parallel between the two.
“My dad, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Arkansas–Fayetteville, was an Air Force pilot and flying instructor during World War II. He flew ‘The Hump,’ which was combat duty from India into China before the Burma Road was finished. It meant flying over the Himalayas with primitive navigation and unpredictable weather conditions.
His love of flying always intrigued me, but he discouraged me from taking lessons. When I was 22 and had finished my undergraduate work and earned my master’s in Fayetteville, I left home and went to the University of Arkansas School of Medicine in Little Rock for my first job. I felt I could finally take flying lessons without my dad knowing it. I paid for flying lessons once a month; it cost about $25 for 30 minutes of flying time in the early 1970s.
I’d go up with an instructor in a Cessna 150, a dual control plane. Finally, I got to the point where the instructor said I was ready and should start thinking about soloing. However, he looked a whole lot like Robert Redford, so I thought: ‘Why would I want to stop going up with him?’ I never did solo.
In Missouri, while working on my doctorate, I continued instructions with a former Marine Corps pilot. He complimented me by saying I was ‘flying by the seat of my pants.’ That means sensing that the plane is level, lined up with the horizon—you could literally feel it.
When I was at the University of Missouri I think that taking a flying lesson was really therapeutic for me. When you’re at 3,000 feet and looking down on the campus and at the earth’s horizon, you have a better perspective on the grand scheme of things and course work frustrations. I just loved doing it—the freedom of it, the perspective.
By coincidence, my husband also wanted to get his pilot’s license when he was younger. He took ground school—that would have been the next step for me—instead of flying lessons. Now that we’re both in our 60s, we ask each other whether we want to pursue this now. I think there’s a connection between flying a plane and fly fishing, which we both love. In flying you get the perspective of the world around you, in fly fishing it’s the immediate environment. When Don and I go fly fishing—usually in the Smoky Mountains, on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, where we’ve been going regularly since we married six years ago—I’ll eventually put the rod down and listen to the wind, the birds. There’s a therapeutic aspect to both—they feed my spirit.
The technique of fly fishing is something anybody can learn—watching someone cast and reel in is like poetry in motion—but it takes a light hand; you have to feel the fish on that line and then be able to pop the rod to set the hook. It’s fun to figure out where they are and how to entice them to nibble your bait. In fly fishing we don’t use live bait, but rather things like feathers that mimic what is hatching at that time in that area. We do catch-and-release because I don’t want to hurt the fish, unless we’re doing ‘Shore Lunch,’ as they do in Canada. That’s okay—nothing’s wasted since you’re eating it.
For now, I think Don and I will continue our adventures with fly fishing versus flying, but we do think about it.”