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Virginia Minnich – Oral History Transcription (Cont.)

Brodman: Well, while he was here he got to be father confessor for most of the people in the Medical Center. I think that is why he was the first Vice-Chancellor for Medical Affairs. Was he involved in any way in the feud between Dempsey and Queeny?

Minnich: I don’t know. But he told me once that Mr. Queeny took ten years off his life.

Brodman: By doing what?

Minnich: By the contract with Barnes. You know, they worked on that contract for two or three years and finally got the contract together and he worked on that. Then, when he was getting ready to retire – you know he was going to retire to set up a cancer center, and he was not looking forward to doing that either.

Brodman: He was not looking forward to that?

Minnich: He was not looking forward to that. He felt that he had to do it. He thought it was his duty.

Brodman: His duty to leave the head of the Department for . . .?

Minnich: No, he had to retire as head of the Department. He was 65.

Brodman: But he could have continued in his research.

Minnich: He could have continued in his research, but I don’t think he wanted to do that.

Brodman: There was also that escape hatch that the Dean could have asked him to stay on until he was 68, I believe. But apparently . . .

Minnich: He would have stayed on, starting the Cancer Center.

Brodman: But if he wasn’t really very interested in it?

Minnich: He was interested in it. I think he thought it was going to be a terrific job.

Brodman: He didn’t want such a hard job at his age.

Minnich: I think that was really it.

Brodman: He died very suddenly of a heart attack, I assume.

Minnich: Yes, he did.

Brodman: Had he had any previous episodes?

Minnich: Not that we really knew of. I think he knew it himself – I think he knew. He told his nephew that he had something like an infarct about three weeks beforehand. I think he knew he had something but didn’t see anybody about it. He finished writing his last paper and this was a review on nutrition. He went down to the lake to take a swim and got out of the water. His wife went to their cottage and said that he asked for the morphine because he had such terrific pain. They got him to the hospital and he died that night. He monitored his own EKG, monitored everything they were doing for him. It really was a shock.

Brodman: In a way I think it is lucky for him to go that quickly.

Minnich: That is the way he wanted to go. He once told me that if he ever lost control of himself, I should come in and give him a shot of something. But you know I couldn’t ever do that, but he just dreaded so much being like Dr. Sam Grant. He said he never wanted that.

Brodman: I think most of us are fearful of that kind of thing.

Minnich: Now you ask if the medical students are the same as those in the 40s and the 50s. In the 40s and later, after the war, the average age went way up. Our second year class I think in 1947 was something like 28-1/2 years old.

Brodman: Because they were in the war?

Minnich: Yes. Then in the 50s I don’t remember them so much. In the 60s, that is when they started to lose respect. I remember Dr. Al Goldman, the chest man, was lecturing to the students in class. He was giving the lecture on sputum and the kids started to make noise. He said, “I will take any of you on that will come up here, I was an amateur boxer and if you are going to behave like that I can take you on.” They did quiet down. They used to boo; it was really a very bad period. Now, I think they are beginning to go back to looking and acting like doctors. I am awfully glad to see it.

I have taught since 1938. I started teaching in the laboratory medicine course, getting the student labs prepared. I did that for 40 years, which was enough.

Brodman: Do you like teaching?

Minnich: I love teaching, but I like informal teaching, like laboratory teaching. Then I taught at night a lot. My first class were four colonels who were sent here by the army. They worked in the clinics but they were getting bored. They asked if I would I teach them. Well, we had four nights, one hour each night.

Brodman: Was this informal?

Minnich: This was informal, at the microscope. This was an evening course. I know I didn’t know very much about it but that is how I got started, with evening courses. That was one of the reasons I went to Turkey, to get away from evening courses. Then, I taught some in the Continuing Education for Dr. Brown.

Brodman: I am still interested in the evening courses, were they official courses?

Minnich: No, I got paid by the students. I taught many pathologists and many physicians. I taught no medical students in these evening courses. There were a few technicians, but not very many. Most were pathologists and interns.

Brodman: Then you could have stopped at any time and said, “I don’t want to do this anymore?”

Minnich: I was getting requests all the time. Well, I just hate to say “No.”

Brodman: You loved your work.

Minnich: I do. I just wish I had kept a list of everyone I had taught. I taught practically every pathologist in St. Louis. I have Walter Bauer and Richard Payne down at Lutheran and Dr. John Bauer at DePaul and Dr. Gillespie at St. Luke’s, but these were all evening courses.

Brodman: I had not heard about those; this is all news to me. Do many people around here give such courses?

Minnich: No. This is why I was so popular.

Brodman: Others probably made more money so they didn’t feel they had to give evening courses and that was a little extra money for you.

Minnich: I know one time a pathologist asked me if I would teach him. I said it would be $20 and they didn’t come. If I had said $200 they would have come. But since I said $20 they probably thought it wasn’t worth it. I taught house staff for nothing. So I really have taught a lot.

Brodman: It sounds to me as if the Medical School owes you a great deal more than just money.

Minnich: You asked me if I wanted to comment on anything else. The only other thing I wanted to comment on was I have been the historian and the photographer for the Hematology Division.

Brodman: Oh, do they have a history?

Minnich: No, we don’t, but I have taken pictures of all the fellows and the people who have been here. Dorothy Moore has the first book of these – these were actually hematology fellows – and then I have the second book.

Brodman: What are you going to do with all your material?

Minnich: That is just it, what am I going to do with them, I don’t know.

Brodman: Why don’t you give them to the Archives or leave it in your will to the Archives.

Minnich: Well, I probably will do that if they are worth anything.

Brodman: Are you going to stay in St. Louis?

Minnich: Yes, I decided to stay in St. Louis, I don’t think I will be leaving.

Brodman: Then you don’t have the problem I have which is emptying my apartment now. But don’t wait too long to go through all this stuff, and turn over to us anything that you want.

Minnich: I shall do that. Is Mr. Anderson the one to see?

Brodman: He’s the archivist, yes. Thank you very much for this. It has been a very useful interview and I am sure the people who will listen to it in the future will be very pleased to get it. We do thank you for taking the time to do this. This is the end of the interview with Ms. Virginia Minnich on March 25, 1981.

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