News

Surgeon remembered as 'hero' to his children

Doyle Borchers III had a passion for life, helping people

As a doctor, Doyle John Borchers III loved helping people, people others might have written off. As a man, Borchers loved life and everything that came with it.

"He had a passion for life and his family," Borchers' wife, Michele, said. "He adored me and his children."

The 41-year-old neurosurgeon and clinical instructor at Stanford University Medical Center also had a passion for flying. He died last Friday when his small plane crashed near Lake Tahoe, just east of the California-Nevada border.

The Palo Alto resident came by this passion naturally, his family members recalled.

"He started flying a little over a year ago," his father, Doyle John Borchers II, said. The elder Borchers had been a captain in the U.S. Navy and had worked as a test pilot.

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"He had always looked at what I had done in the Navy and wanted to try it, and he was good at. It was something wonderful that we could share."

Borchers seemed to have come by many things naturally.

"The amazing thing about him was that when he looked at something he could assimilate it almost instantaneously," his father said.

While he loved his work, adventure and excitement, it was his family who sustained him.

"He was very kind and loved his family," his father said. "His children were his pride and joy."

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"He was just amazed by them and everything they did," Michele Borchers said.

When Borchers was a child, his father moved the family with each new Navy posting.

"For so many years of his childhood I was away," his father said, "and that came at a price. I think he appreciated that so much that, when his own family came along, he made the decision to work in a much less high-pressure environment so he could spend more time with his family."

This, according to Michele Borchers, was why the family moved to Palo Alto. His neurosurgery position at Stanford afforded him the time to be at home, help his kids with their homework, teach them how to drive and take them on the occasional late-night trip to Great America to catch a couple of rides before closing time.

"He was their hero," Michele Borchers said. "The children just wanted to emulate his love of life and his adventurous spirit."

His son, Adam, has shared his love of helping people and is currently in Paraguay building latrines in a small, remote village. On the morning of his death, Borchers read the most recent letter from Adam, which began, "This is your son reporting from the heart of South America" and ended with "You are my hero."

According to both Borchers' wife and father, that hero-status was well-deserved.

"There are people walking around today because of him," the elder Borchers said, "people who had suffered massive trauma, who other neurosurgeons had written off."

Working at Stanford with Dr. John Adler, Borchers researched the neurological origins of addiction.

"Dr. Borchers was interested in learning how to treat addiction now that we know more about the brain circuitry that underlies the condition," Adler said.

"My interaction with him was refreshing and arguably some of the most intellectually lively research I've been able to do in my academic career," Adler said.

"He accomplished so much in just 41 years," Michele Borchers said. "I truly believed that he would win the Nobel Prize."

"He had everything to live for," she added, "and our lives were truly enmeshed. We made it through better and worse, sickness and health, richer and poorer; we made it through all these times."

Borchers is survived by his wife, Michele; his three children, Adam, Grace and Lauren; his sister, Wendy Muendler; and his father, Doyle John Borchers II.

A memorial service has been scheduled for Aug. 21 from 6-8 p.m. at the Stanford Faculty Club.

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Surgeon remembered as 'hero' to his children

Doyle Borchers III had a passion for life, helping people

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Aug 14, 2008, 3:20 pm

As a doctor, Doyle John Borchers III loved helping people, people others might have written off. As a man, Borchers loved life and everything that came with it.

"He had a passion for life and his family," Borchers' wife, Michele, said. "He adored me and his children."

The 41-year-old neurosurgeon and clinical instructor at Stanford University Medical Center also had a passion for flying. He died last Friday when his small plane crashed near Lake Tahoe, just east of the California-Nevada border.

The Palo Alto resident came by this passion naturally, his family members recalled.

"He started flying a little over a year ago," his father, Doyle John Borchers II, said. The elder Borchers had been a captain in the U.S. Navy and had worked as a test pilot.

"He had always looked at what I had done in the Navy and wanted to try it, and he was good at. It was something wonderful that we could share."

Borchers seemed to have come by many things naturally.

"The amazing thing about him was that when he looked at something he could assimilate it almost instantaneously," his father said.

While he loved his work, adventure and excitement, it was his family who sustained him.

"He was very kind and loved his family," his father said. "His children were his pride and joy."

"He was just amazed by them and everything they did," Michele Borchers said.

When Borchers was a child, his father moved the family with each new Navy posting.

"For so many years of his childhood I was away," his father said, "and that came at a price. I think he appreciated that so much that, when his own family came along, he made the decision to work in a much less high-pressure environment so he could spend more time with his family."

This, according to Michele Borchers, was why the family moved to Palo Alto. His neurosurgery position at Stanford afforded him the time to be at home, help his kids with their homework, teach them how to drive and take them on the occasional late-night trip to Great America to catch a couple of rides before closing time.

"He was their hero," Michele Borchers said. "The children just wanted to emulate his love of life and his adventurous spirit."

His son, Adam, has shared his love of helping people and is currently in Paraguay building latrines in a small, remote village. On the morning of his death, Borchers read the most recent letter from Adam, which began, "This is your son reporting from the heart of South America" and ended with "You are my hero."

According to both Borchers' wife and father, that hero-status was well-deserved.

"There are people walking around today because of him," the elder Borchers said, "people who had suffered massive trauma, who other neurosurgeons had written off."

Working at Stanford with Dr. John Adler, Borchers researched the neurological origins of addiction.

"Dr. Borchers was interested in learning how to treat addiction now that we know more about the brain circuitry that underlies the condition," Adler said.

"My interaction with him was refreshing and arguably some of the most intellectually lively research I've been able to do in my academic career," Adler said.

"He accomplished so much in just 41 years," Michele Borchers said. "I truly believed that he would win the Nobel Prize."

"He had everything to live for," she added, "and our lives were truly enmeshed. We made it through better and worse, sickness and health, richer and poorer; we made it through all these times."

Borchers is survived by his wife, Michele; his three children, Adam, Grace and Lauren; his sister, Wendy Muendler; and his father, Doyle John Borchers II.

A memorial service has been scheduled for Aug. 21 from 6-8 p.m. at the Stanford Faculty Club.

Comments

Observer
Crescent Park
on Aug 15, 2008 at 8:59 am
Observer, Crescent Park
on Aug 15, 2008 at 8:59 am
Like this comment

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Walter E. Wallis
Midtown
on Aug 16, 2008 at 4:55 am
Walter E. Wallis, Midtown
on Aug 16, 2008 at 4:55 am
Like this comment

It is probably more dangerous riding a bike than flying a small plane. Dr. Borchers was ill served, however, if his instructor did not adequately prepare him for mountain flying. Low time pilots should be accompanied by a senior pilot for their first few times in any unfamiliar flight. There is something to be said also for the ballistic chute that can lower the whole plane safely in the event of an insurmountable problem.


Dont blame others
Midtown
on Aug 17, 2008 at 12:32 am
Dont blame others, Midtown
on Aug 17, 2008 at 12:32 am
Like this comment

That is right Walter. Blame the instructor. Brilliant. Insightful.
Does a novice need an instructor to tell him that flying over mountains is dangerous? It is a tragic event. We don't need to find others to blame.


Walter E. Wallis
Midtown
on Aug 17, 2008 at 2:23 am
Walter E. Wallis, Midtown
on Aug 17, 2008 at 2:23 am
Like this comment

Was the FBO who let JFK Jr take off into near IFR conditions blameless? There is primary blame and contributory blame. The old saw about no old, bold pilots still echoes.


Gordon
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 17, 2008 at 4:13 am
Gordon, Old Palo Alto
on Aug 17, 2008 at 4:13 am
Like this comment

JFK Jr. owned his own plane. What's an FBO have to do with that?


Gordon Reade
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 17, 2008 at 4:21 am
Gordon Reade, Old Palo Alto
on Aug 17, 2008 at 4:21 am
Like this comment

I’ve been flying small planes for 31 years and I’m still around.

As for the statement that there are no old bold pilots, my answer to that is Bob Hoover. In other words if you say that a thing dose not exist all you need do is give just one example were it dose exist to disprove the statement entirely.


CGJET
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 17, 2008 at 10:23 am
CGJET, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 17, 2008 at 10:23 am
Like this comment

As someone who knows Mr. Hoover I would say that Bob is calculating and not bold at all.

As for the late Dr. Borchers there are many probabilities. However, I will chose to wait until the NTSB as done the phone book on the event.


Gordon Reade
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 17, 2008 at 10:37 am
Gordon Reade, Old Palo Alto
on Aug 17, 2008 at 10:37 am
Like this comment

Dear CGJET

You know Mr. Hoover but I have had the pleasure of seeing him fly. I rest my case.



excuse me
Charleston Gardens
on Aug 17, 2008 at 2:07 pm
excuse me, Charleston Gardens
on Aug 17, 2008 at 2:07 pm
Like this comment

he wasnt a selfish man for flying planes that was what he enjoyed doing. driving cars is probably equally dangerous. this wasnt his fault


Jon
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 17, 2008 at 11:49 pm
Jon, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 17, 2008 at 11:49 pm
Like this comment

Grace is a friend of classmates/friends from high school.
To the Borchers family, I am so so sorry for your loss.

Observer made a disgusting comment that the Weekly needs to pull, and DOES ANYONE ELSE ON THIS FORUM HAVE ANY BLOODY FEELINGS?

Come on people, have some respect. There is a family mourning and you all are viewing the tragedy from a middle-school aged perspective.


Gordon Reade
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 18, 2008 at 7:15 am
Gordon Reade, Old Palo Alto
on Aug 18, 2008 at 7:15 am
Like this comment

Dear Jon

Yes indeed I do have feelings. What’s more, as a flight instructor who works out of the Palo Alto Airport I can assure you that everyone on the field feels terrible about the tragedy.

As for “Observer”, pay him no mind. There are many people who would love to fly but lack the courage and the skill. When an event like this happens they trash the pilot in an attempt justify their own cowardliness and lack of talent. If the pilot was a respected member of the community, so much the better. Trust me, I have seen this sort of thing time and time again.


wow
Barron Park
on Aug 18, 2008 at 2:49 pm
wow, Barron Park
on Aug 18, 2008 at 2:49 pm
2 people like this

When tragedies occur, public online forums such as this one provide conflicting opportunities.

On the one hand, posters who knew the family can collectively grieve or express condolences and sweet remembrances.

On the other, as a public forum, detached observers can comment and speculate on reasons or motives for what did or did not happened.

It's sad to have such an incongruent confluence of purposes at play. I'm sure it's painful for those who know the family to have to read the other posts.

It's very unfortunate that a small subset of folks lack the sensitivity to start a separate thread to pose a generic question about familyhood and risk levels, entirely separate from the tragedy at hand.

As a detached observer, my condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Borchers.



Walter E. Wallis
Midtown
on Aug 18, 2008 at 4:35 pm
Walter E. Wallis, Midtown
on Aug 18, 2008 at 4:35 pm
Like this comment

Hoover's energy conservation flight, his slow roll with a glass of water unspilled and his arbitrary grounding by an officious bureaucrat that denied us his yellow Mustang all suggest a prudent pilot. An FBO cannot prohibit, he can suggest. Friends don't let friends drive drunk nor fly outside the curve. Apparently my defense of general aviation safety and advocacy of ballistic chutes was not enough to offset my plea for caution. I did not initiate the Old, bold pilot saying.


wow
Barron Park
on Aug 19, 2008 at 3:37 pm
wow, Barron Park
on Aug 19, 2008 at 3:37 pm
Like this comment

walter
I don't usually agree with your comments but I usually understand them. What happened here?


jennifer
another community
on Aug 19, 2008 at 6:03 pm
jennifer, another community
on Aug 19, 2008 at 6:03 pm
Like this comment

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Old Pro
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2008 at 11:55 pm
Old Pro, Old Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2008 at 11:55 pm
Like this comment

Walter that was amazing you seem to have seen it all.
So for you only Walter:
Kick the tire and light the fire/s as the case maybe
Web Link
Uh not exactly what I had in mind. -:o

Now for the trivia for the real aviators.
Think Saberliner 60 - This routine was what ticked off the FAA. Now, there is not too much difference between an F86 Saberjet and the Saberliner. And since Mr. Hoover is all too familiar with both and I would say the de facto most knowledgeable of anyone alive. He is the master and not some young whippersnapper FSDO, hand on sick fresh from his third lunar landing, expert. Bob would know about safety margins and most importantly where the shakings starts and the departure begins. Now, Walter, name the sponsor of the Saber 60.

As for the lost Saber 60 performance it looked a little like this: Web Link

Cheers


Observer
Crescent Park
on Aug 20, 2008 at 9:36 am
Observer, Crescent Park
on Aug 20, 2008 at 9:36 am
Like this comment

Hey, I'm entitled to my opinion and I expressed it. My opinion isn't formed due to cowardice or jealousy. I've flown in small planes many times and never was tempted to learn how to fly - it's not my thing. If this pilot was my dad, I'd be angry that he died pursuing a dangerous hobby - one that was unnecessary, unlike driving is, in this area.

This forum is for the public, not just for the loved ones of the deceased, to whom I'm sure I sound insensitive.


Sandra
Los Altos
on Aug 20, 2008 at 1:37 pm
Sandra, Los Altos
on Aug 20, 2008 at 1:37 pm
Like this comment

Our love goes out to the Brocher Family. As a mother and pilot my greatest hope for my children... for them to live their adventurous, wondrous life, on their own terms. - Loving, living, learning and giving. It sounds like this special man did that for his family and others.


Gordon Reade
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 20, 2008 at 11:11 pm
Gordon Reade, Old Palo Alto
on Aug 20, 2008 at 11:11 pm
Like this comment

Dear Observer

Yes, you are entitled to your option. But unlike you, when I post I do so under my own name. So don’t tell me that you aren’t a coward.



Walter Wallis
Midtown
on Aug 21, 2008 at 2:39 am
Walter Wallis, Midtown
on Aug 21, 2008 at 2:39 am
Like this comment

For 172 and WOW, I was challenged for my Old, Bold pilot comment as if I had coined it. I did not. Old Pro, my first flying hero was Phineas Pinkham. The guy in the panama is current champion. It is between Hoover and Yeager for the honor of establishing the tradition of pilot drawl. Thanks for the pictures.


Old Pro
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 21, 2008 at 5:26 pm
Old Pro, Old Palo Alto
on Aug 21, 2008 at 5:26 pm
Like this comment

Phineas Pinkham! - Walter you are showing your age.

You know that is what is great about us oldsters we have seen it all, almost.

Sad about this fellow and the unfortunate events. I have yet to read a published explanation for his flight. I know all will be published and like CGJET I will wait.

My time was a romantic period in aviation - cotton and silver, courtesy and manners.
Now you have something different.



To Gordon
Menlo Park
on Aug 21, 2008 at 5:33 pm
To Gordon, Menlo Park
on Aug 21, 2008 at 5:33 pm
Like this comment

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


student
Palo Alto High School
on Aug 24, 2008 at 12:51 am
student, Palo Alto High School
on Aug 24, 2008 at 12:51 am
Like this comment

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Walter_E_Wallis
Midtown
on Aug 25, 2008 at 6:26 am
Walter_E_Wallis, Midtown
on Aug 25, 2008 at 6:26 am
Like this comment

As for real name harassment, I have felt it only once. Years ago, I took Congressman Campbell to task for suggesting the people had a right to a visual seascape easement free of drilling rigs. The day after my letter was published, a bottle of waste oil was broken in my driveway and a note from EarthFirst referenced that letter.


Stu
South of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2009 at 5:36 pm
Stu, South of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2009 at 5:36 pm
Like this comment

As a followup to this story, Borcher was a drug addict, and the FAA found that he should never have been issued a pilot license. He had blood levels of illegal drugs at the time of the crash. Apparently, he was on his way to Reno to gamble. He lied about his drug abuse on his flight medical. He was also being investigated by the Medical Board of California, and in danger of losing his medical license.

Conclusion: Pilot error.


MKL
Palo Verde
on Dec 28, 2015 at 3:03 am
MKL, Palo Verde
on Dec 28, 2015 at 3:03 am
Like this comment

John was a good man. He is missed. RIP


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