For those of you who may not know who I am, my name is Joe Kasper. I am the youngest of seven children and come from a medical family. My mother is a registered nurse, my two brothers are physicians and three sisters are registered nurses. My oldest sister holds a masters in nursing.
I grew up in Bergen County, NJ and attended Park Ridge High School. Directly after high school I enrolled in Stockton State College in Pomona New Jersey where I earned a B.S. in Computer Science. Initially, I did not have a natural interest in medicine, however during the final years of my computer degree I became increasingly interested in medicine through a senior project involving medical diagnostic systems. Subsequently, I decided to pursue medicine as a career and enrolled at Cook College at Rutgers University where I completed all the prerequisites needed to apply to medical school.
I attended medical school at University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey (UMDNJ) in Newark, New Jersey.
I married my wife Karen at the beginning of my third-year of medical school and my son Ryan was born at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia one year later on 6/1/1992. Karen’s pregnancy with Ryan was a high risk pregnancy and she wanted to be close to her family. At that time my in-laws lived in Havertown, Pennsylvania right outside of Philadelphia. That was one of the reasons why I decided to do my medical training in Philadelphia at the Medical College of Pennsylvania (MCP) from 1993 through 1996. My daughter Jillian was born at MCP during my residency in February 1995. After completing my training in Internal Medicine in 1996, I joined my brother’s medical practice in Saddle River, New Jersey. Eventually, I started my own practice and opened an office in the same complex where we continued to work closely until he retired last year in 2016. His son took over his practice in 2016.
I became interested in positive psychology after my son’s diagnosis with Lafora Disease in 2008. Lafora disease is a rare genetic form of myoclonic epilepsy that is uniformly fatal by the third decade of life. Since I knew my son’s life expectancy was significantly limited by his disease I became interested in the concept of posttraumatic growth (PTG). I was exposed to the concept PTG from Dr. Martin Seligman’s book Authentic Happiness. It was there that I first learned about the Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania which was started by Dr. Seligman, who is universally acknowledged as the father of positive psychology. It was in 2012 that I decided to apply to MAPP, thinking I probably would not get accepted. They purposely limit enrollment to around 30 students. At the time they were receiving over 500 applications from over 11 countries. I cannot explain the emotional pull that I felt to attend this program, however I knew I had to apply. That being said, I knew I could console myself if I didn’t get accepted because then I would not have had to solve the logistical problems of being a solo practitioner in a busy practice in New Jersey while attending the program in Philadelphia (not to mention the financial and time commitments). However, I did get accepted to the MAPP program in 2012. It was a life changing event for me. It is in MAPP where my recovery from my son’s death started and where I developed the concept of co-destiny.