Washington University School of Medicine Oral History Project Washington University School of Medicine Bernard Becker Medical Library
Home | Browse the Interviews | Index of Names | Rights & Permissions | About this Project

Transcript: Edwin D. Greer, 1976

Please note: The Becker Medical Library presents this oral history interview as part of the record of the past. This primary historical resource may reflect the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times and of the interviewee. The Becker Medical Library does not endorse the views expressed in this interview, which may contain materials offensive to some users.

Listen to Interview

Option 1

Download and open the audio file using your browser’s default media player. Audio interviews are presented in the MP3 audio format and may be accessed using QuickTime, Windows Media Player, or RealPlayer. Some audio files are very large and may take several minutes to load.

Download Interview (46 MB)

Option 2

Use the MP3 Flash Player below to listen to the interview. If you do not see the player, you do not have the Flash Player installed. Click here to install.

Click on the right arrow to start. (If you are using Internet Explorer you may have to click on the arrow twice to start the player.)

This is Oral History interview #24 with Edwin D. Greer, MD, graduate of the medical school class of 1926.  Dr. Greer, could you tell us something of your early family and childhood?

I was born in Oraville, California, November 25, 1895 and I went to school at Oraville.  Then I went up to Oregon for a while and came back with my family to Chico [California].  I went to Oakdale School in Chico and I went from there down to Berkeley where I took a _____(?) course and high school.  When I finished high school, I had studied pharmacy since 1915 and I worked in a drug store.  In 1917 I enlisted in the Navy and at that time I was transferred on detail with the Marine Corps medical department.  From there, because of my pharmaceutical training, I was upped on my rating and was sent originally to Corfu, Greece.  Instead of going there I went to the flu epidemic in Philadelphia and I was delayed there for a little while.  I went from there to New London, Connecticut where I took a ship, the cruiser Chicago, and went to Bermuda and ended up temporarily at the Azores Islands, Base 13.  From there I radiated to various parts of the area by boat and plane.  Into Corfu, Greece, was one place.  When the war was over, I left the Azores and came back to Hampton Roads [Virginia], was discharged there, and given transportation to my place of enlistment in San Francisco.

How long were you in the service during World War I?

I went in in 1917 and I got out in 1919.

During this time were you working as a pharmacist?

No, I was a hospital corpsman, a petty officer, detailed with the Marine Corps.  I even did surgery as a student and had a lot of preliminary information and teaching in surgical techniques.

You learned this from doctors you were working with?

Yes.  Naval doctors.

Were you officially a member of the Navy or the Marine Corps?

No, I was a Navy man, but the Marine Corps is taken care of by the Naval medical department.  The Marine Corps has no medical department.

Did you ever come under enemy fire?

No.  I’ve never been in any enemy fire.  We convoyed President [Woodrow] Wilson into France in a flotilla, but we’ve never been in any fire.

Is this what made you decide to be a doctor – this experience?

Conventionally, it was my job to do.  Incidentally, my profession, crude as it is, is musical.  I’m a musician by profession, but I don’t read music and this thing [World War I] came along and my pharmacy helped me a lot.  So immediately when I got back here I enrolled in the University of California pre-medical.

So you did take the pre-medical course.  Going back to something you said a few minutes ago, did you catch the flu in the epidemic in 1917?

Yes.  In Philadelphia.

Did you have a serious case of it?

I’ll give a short [explanation] about that.  We were in a temporary locality there in Philadelphia – League Island.  I woke up one morning and felt that I was sick.  I took a big dose of calomel [mercurous chloride] to start with.  Pretty soon the ambulance came along and took me into the hospital.  [It was] a big ward – in Philadelphia, League Island.  There they put me to bed and the first thing they did was to give me a big dose of calomel.  I told the nurse that I’d already taken calomel that morning.  She said, “You’re delirious.  Take this and don’t talk.”  I took it and pretty soon I became delirious.  I don’t remember much about it except that before I passed out with delirium and a high fever, I staggered down to the nurses’ station.  Nobody was there at the moment.  I took a tumbler and took about half of that tumbler full of whiskey, which was right there.  I staggered back to bed and don’t remember anything until the next morning.  The next day after that, I went on duty.  That shows you what kind of [case] I had.

Were any of your friends sick?

Yes.  When I woke up the next morning, both beds on either side of me were empty.  They didn’t walk out; they had died during the night.

I wanted to ask you also about your father’s occupation.

He was a carpenter to start with and also he was a storekeeper; he had a merchandising store.

When you were in grade school and high school, what were some of your interests and activities outside of school?

My main activity in high school – incidentally, I don’t recall anything important in my pre-high school schooling, which was routine.  In high school I was interested in music.  I played for dances in the rhythm group.

What instrument did you play?

Drums and rhythm string instruments.

Did you continue to do this in college?


You mentioned that in college you took the pre-med course.

Yes.  I started out in pre-med.  My important course in pre-med at UC was a course in comparative anatomy, which really precipitated my coming to this school.  I had my pharmacy experience for seven years in a drug store and I was originally planning to go on in pharmacy, but music is my profession.  So at the middle of my junior year in pre-med, I couldn’t find any courses that I could use in my professional objective.  So I took a leave of absence at that point, in the middle of my third year in pre-med.  I took a trip to the Orient on an Empire State boat as a saloon watchman.  I had that Oriental experience in that year.  Incidentally, before I went on this trip to the Orient – which was very interesting [and] there’s a whole book full of stuff on that Oriental experience – I applied to three medical schools for entry, thinking I’d never make it because my pre-med course was incomplete.  I was on the waiting list at McGill, the waiting list at New Orleans, and I was accepted at Washington University on the basis of my pre-medical courses of comparative anatomy and pharmacy.

How did you decide to apply to these three schools?

I decided that in the rest of my pre-medical course there was nothing else that I’d be interested in; it was just a waste of time.  Even some of my pre-med courses I took were just a pain in the neck.

So you went on to medical school before you finished college.

Yes.  It’s important, too, that [in] the interval between my return from the Orient and my coming to Washington U., I worked in the lumber mills in the woods – timber falling and that sort of thing.

How long did you do that?

I was there from the time I got back from the Orient, which was in June or July.  I went up in the woods and worked until I had to come to Washington U.  I had been accepted by that time.

Were there any teachers at the medical school that particularly impressed you?  Perhaps you could tell us about them and [about] any incidents you remember.

Dr. [Philip] Shaffer.  I was particularly interested in him because of his ability and his personality and so on.  My chemistry course was such that I was not particularly interested in concentrating tenth normal solutions.  So, I would set up my apparatus in chemistry, go over to the clinic, and work in the clinic.  I’d always done surgery, you see, and I’d come back for the review in the late afternoon and put my equipment away.  So the associate professor of chemistry decided [that] Greer was not qualified to graduate from the school.  Dr. Shaffer called me in and he said, “Greer, you flunked the course.”  I said, “It doesn’t make any difference to me.  I’m going to be a doctor whether you like it or not.  I’ll go someplace else so I can get to be a doctor, because I know what I need to be a doctor – the kind I want to be.”  I had already been indoctrinated in medicine.  So he gave me some books to review for the summer.  He said, “Now, you come back in the fall and we’ll give you a preliminary quiz and see if we can negotiate a program for you.”

I got up in the woods, way off in the mountains working on the logging railroads, and on the Fourth of July I happened to think of Dr. Shaffer.  We called him “P. A.”  I wrote him a note, stating that I had not been able [to review], because of my need to work to get money – because I didn’t have a nickel.  So he [wrote] “Do what you can and come back anyway with your books.”  Which I did.  He gave us a little examination; three questions.  The first two were ornamental, but the third one was, “Discuss what you would do to make the chemistry course more attractive, generally.  He recognized in my attitude that I was not satisfied with the stuff that we were getting in the course in chemistry.  I ignored the first two questions and wrote two blue books on the third question.  He called me in and said, “Greer, I don’t understand you.”  I said, “I can understand that, all right.  But I have my program cut out and that’s all there is to it.”  He said, “Greer, if you will average eighty in the sophomore course, I’ll give you credit.”

My sophomore year was interesting.  One of my classmates, [Walter Joseph] “Dutch” Siebert, was the [class] president and I was his associate, vice-president.  There were certain problems that came up in our sophomore year which had to do with the honor system.  Dr. Shaffer suggested that we appoint a residents’ committee – there were some microscopes missing and so on – [and] I was elected to form the committee.  I never did get around to forming the committee, but the first thing I knew, within a week’s time the microscopes were returned and there wasn’t any more cribbing.  Nobody knew who the members were on the committee because there wasn’t any.  To this day, Dr. Shaffer would like to know who was on that committee.

We do have some of Dr. Shaffer’s papers in the Archives.  Some people have called him rather distant and forbidding.  Would you agree with that?

No.  I had no problem with him at all because I told him frankly of my attitude and I said, “It doesn’t make any difference what you think.”  He backed right down the hill and went along with me, as you know, at this time.  His attitude toward me was always good.  Every minute that I was with him it was just wonderful.

Do you remember any other stories about him?

His [Dr. Shaffer’s] associate in chemistry, I can’t think of his name, was the one who was conducting the laboratory work.  He’s the one that noticed that I was not particularly interested in titrating of tenth normal solutions.

In your lab work, then, you really didn’t perform the experiments?

Some of them I did.  The ones I knew were of no value to me I didn’t do.  They knew I didn’t do it.  So that’s my chemistry association.  Dr. [Joseph] Erlanger was another man that was very difficult – very distant, very hard to approach.  I was on thin ice with him, but he finally decided that I was justified in going on with medicine.

How were you on thin ice?

My work.  According to him the details were not there because I spent a lot of time in the clinic.  Every minute I had [available] I’d work over there [in the clinic].

Could you see patients in the clinic as a medical student?

Yes.  That’s what I wanted; that’s all I needed.

Did they assign patients on a rotating basis?

We’d get the card out and we’d be supervised by a doctor, of course, and we’d negotiate with the doctor and the patient.

Did any other students work over there.

Some of them.  But most of them went along according to the normal curriculum, a lot of which is unnecessary.  I really still believe that.  The trend now – I know lately they’re cutting out a lot of the stuff that is of no value to the student in his professional days.

I’ve heard that they’re trying to have the students get some clinical experience before the third year, too.  It’s a new trend – you did that fifty years ago.

That’s right.  I was before my time.  (Laughs)  I think Shaffer recognized that in me.  I was older, three or four years older.  We were all war babies; the first class after the war was over.

You had had more experience than many of the students and a better basis to judge what you needed.

I had experience – general contact with people.  I’d had wonderful training in the Marine Corps service.  I learned medicine; I learned surgery from the Naval doctors as a chief petty officer in the Navy.

Were there any other teachers in the medical school that particularly impressed you?

One of my interesting courses was anatomy because I’d had comparative anatomy.  The associations I made there were just wonderful, particularly with Dr. Mildred Trotter.  She was very, very helpful in my anatomy stuff.

Have you seen Dr. Trotter at the reunion?

I saw her yesterday.  She’s a wonderful teacher and a wonderful person.

Did you have much contact with Dr. [Robert J.] Terry?

Yes, but never anything more than just the routine stuff – technical dissection and whatnot.

Were you a member of a medical fraternity?

Yes.  Phi Beta Pi.

Did you feel much pressure as a medical student – competition and pressure to succeed?

No.  I had no problem.  I had my definite program set out in my mind and that’s the way I went.  I went right along and [although] I had a lot of controversies over the thing, I stood my ground and said, “This is it.  Take it or leave it.”

How do you think medical education [then] differed from today?

At that time, the uniform requirements on every student – and each one was different.  The majority of medical students in those days were particularly interested in one form of teaching or another.  So that the uniform program of teaching did not fit every student.  Very few were actually in the normal, standard curriculum without having some hesitancy about going ahead with it.  My objective was to learn the things that were important in my future.  I knew what they were going to be, having had pharmacy and also all the surgical training I had in the Navy.  So I went to school largely to get my license, my diploma.

Were you here for four years of medical school?


Was there an examination for a license?

Yes.  In my junior year in medical school I was relief resident in Obstetrics and Gynecology.  At that time I got acquainted with all the OB men, particularly Henry Schwarz and Otto Schwarz, the son, and several of the other men in that group – very wonderful people.  I did a lot of obstetrics in the Barnes Hospital.  I went through the same thing in my senior year and spent a year as a resident there.  After that, the next year I spent with the MoPac Hospital [Missouri Pacific Railroad Hospital] on Grand Avenue – general work.  I had a lot of good work there; marvelous training.

What did you do after that?

Then I left St. Louis.  After I’d taken the state board here and passed it, I spent a year practicing here so that I could [take advantage of] reciprocity in California without an examination.

I meant to ask you one other thing.  In medical school did you keep up with your musical interest?


Did you play in a band at this time?

I played in a colored band in South St. Louis just temporarily because I had to get a place to sleep – I had no money.  I had a place to sleep and two meals out of that.  In my sophomore year, I had to quit all that stuff because the sophomore year is the toughest year in medical school – a lot of different courses.  A lot of the courses were of no value to me but I had to do it.  I was on probation with P. A. Shaffer and I really bore down; I had to.  I borrowed some money that year.

The next year I lived in the hospital – I wore an operating suit most of the time.  My senior year was also in OB.  So, after my sophomore year, after I made that [hurdle], then there was no problem anymore.  Because what I was interested in [clinical work] – after the sophomore year that’s the thing that you should do anyway.  That’s a little different than the standard curriculum at that time, too.  Now, they’ve changed the whole thing so that every student is separately supervised, from the beginning.  That’s my impression anyway.

What made you decide to go California?

That was my home; I lived there and went to high school there.

So you were really returning home.  Did you set up a private practice?

In Oakland.  I started that forty years ago.

Was it hard to get established?

Yes.  It was.  I spent three years in Merritt Hospital (Oakland) as a resident.  At that time it was in the early ‘30s and the Depression was terrific.  I quite often thought I’d have to go back and work in a drugstore, washing bottles and stuff.  But I didn’t; I went in with another doctor there, an older doctor in urology, and he gave me my desk for nothing.  Immediately, I got busy.  I’d lost the hazard of being poor and was beginning to get started.

Was this a general practice?

Yes.  I did everything.  This man was a urologist, [the man] I went in with, Dr. George Riley.  I did some work for him too, by virtue of my obligation to him.  On one trip to Chicago, he met Dr. [William J.] Dieckmann, who was a St. Louis OB man.  Dieckmann said, “How’s Greer getting along with his obstetrics?”  Riley said, “We don’t do obstetrics.  He’s been doing urology with me.”  Then Dieckmann told him about my work here.  When he got back, the first thing I knew I had three OB patients.  I did a lot of OB there.

Did that develop as your specialty?

At that time, yes.  But later on I went into general work.

Are you still practicing?

No.  I retired on July 1 of last year, 1975.

Were you in Oakland for your whole career?

Yes.  I was on the staff at Providence and Merritt Hospitals and I was very busy from then on.  I had no more problems after that.

What was your typical day like when you were in practice?

I routinely got up early and went to the office because in the Marine Corps we learned regularity.

What time did you get to your office?

I got there around seven o’clock in the morning.  About nine o’clock I’d go to the hospital and make my hospital rounds.

Were patients there at seven [o’clock]?

Yes.  You bet.  I’ve been seeing patients at seven o’clock in the morning ever since I’ve been in medical practice.

Then you went to the hospital?

Hospitals.  Saw my patients there.  And my obstetrics [patients] demanded my [immediate attention] to their needs.

What about the afternoons?

Afternoon [hours] were from two to four [o’clock] or two to five [o’clock].

Was this back in your office seeing patients?

Yes.  And in the evenings, with this urology business, Riley had evening hours and I was three nights a week in the office until nine or ten o’clock.  From seven till ten was my usual day, except the weekends, and there was always obstetrics here or there.

What was your membership in professional societies?

I had no [memberships in] professional societies.  I didn’t have time for that.  I was really dedicated.

Did you have house calls, too?

Oh, yes.  I lived seven miles from the medical centers, the office.  I had a medical call office; all my calls were recorded.  Wherever I went, I was available by telephone.  All my associations, other than actual work, were with the hospital – personal contacts, hospital meetings and that sort of thing.

Did you continue to play music?

Oh, yes.  I still do.

What instruments do you play?

The rhythm group, we call it.  Drums were my original [instrument], and strings: guitar, banjo, ukulele.  I taught ukulele for quite a while.  But I don’t read a note of music.

You do it by ear?

That’s right.  I’ve learned several operas by ear.  It’s just easy for me.

How much time do you have for music?

It’s spotty, of course.  [In practice] I’d have to get relief from my routine medical work.  I had alternates for my medical specialties.  We did a lot of dance work for the sororities at [University of California] Berkeley.

Could you tell us something about your philosophy as a physician?  You’ve already indicated that in medical school you were very patient-orientated.

That’s right.  My association with the patients, after my experience in the service and my pharmacy training, gave me an insight in the psychiatry which every doctor should have.  Psychiatry as a specialty is not for me – or anybody, as far as I’m concerned.  It takes a person that’s [off on a] large tangent from the medical field to become a psychiatrist.  I think that every doctor should be his own psychiatrist.  I never did refer anybody to psychiatry and I never would.

So you dealt with your patients’ emotional problems yourself?

Right.  When a patient walked into my office, I looked at the patient, not at what was the matter with him.  Lots of times he went out of there having lost the idea that there was something the matter with him.  All I did was sit there and listen and the first thing you’d know [he’d say], “Gee, Doctor, I feel so much better.”  But I was not a psychiatrist; I was just a plain doctor.

Is there any other aspect of your career as a doctor that you would like to mention?

Yes.  I was interested in different religious forms of medical [practice], especially the Orientals.  I studied the Oriental idea of needle puncture [acupuncture] of the Chinese.  On my trip to the Orient I studied that.  But I was never equipped to accept that in my profession because it was too variable in its approach.  [There is] a high percentage of hypnotism in the treatment with needle puncture.  That I know.  Because of that hypnotism thing, which I don’t approve of, I could do my own interpretation of personal equations to eliminate a lot of unnecessary procedures in the treatment of that patient.  Do you understand that?

I think I do.

It’s the same philosophy I had through medical school; I didn’t spend any time on stuff that was of no value to me.

Could you tell us about your trip to the Orient?

This was a sudden trip that I [heard about] from a friend, a college friend, a service man in the Marine Corps.  He was a port captain in San Francisco.  He said, “We’ve got a trip for you.”  He called me up at eleven o’clock in the morning.  At this time I had just taken my leave of absence from college.  He said, “You get over here as fast as you can because the boat leaves at one o’clock.”  So I got a couple of dollars from my mother and I got over there.  I was signing the ship’s papers while the whistle was blowing and it was pulling out.  This job I had was as night watchman on a ship, passenger and freight – one of the old Empire State boats.  We headed for Honolulu and the Midways and then into Yokohama, Hong Kong, down to Manila, and over toward the Malay peninsula.  During the stopovers in the different ports I would take tangents to study the local philosophy, if you will, and religion.  I’ve studied most of the religions of the world and I’ve used that a lot in making my personal equations easier.

What do you mean by “personal equations?”

The capacity for understanding and cooperating with a patient and what is the matter with them.

Did you often find that [an illness] was emotional rather than physical?

Of course.  But I would never say, “There’s nothing the matter with you.”

Would you ever say to a patient, “There’s nothing the matter with you physically but there is emotionally?”

No.  That’s bad.  Because if you make an emotional problem out of a patient, he’ll never get over it.  If you tell a patient, “Have you ever had any trouble with your heart, George?”  [And he answers] “No.”  You listen again.  “Doctor, is there something the matter with my heart?”  [Doctor replies], “Well, it’s not very important.”  That guy will never get over heart trouble; he’ll have heart trouble the rest of his life.  That I know because I’ve seen it happen so often.  It’s an interesting thing – first you have to have an entrée to the patient.  You have to get that, and you do it by listening first.

So you listen carefully to what the patient says.  What do you do next?

I minimize the thing that bothers them the most.

Does that mean that if he has a serious condition you wouldn’t tell him about it?

I minimize it.  I tell him what it is.

Do you think it’s wise to tell the patient the whole truth?

You have to use your judgment on that.  That was my main job, you see.  If a patient comes in with cancer, for instance, [and says], “Doctor, is it serious?”  I say  “You have to decide whether it’s serious or not.”  Put the load on the patient because it’s what you [the patient] do for yourself that’s going to make it serious or not.  What the doctor is doing for you is less important than what you do for yourself.  Then you can start out and you’ve taken the load off of him.  I use very little medicine; I learned that medicine is the least important [factor] in the treatment of the patient.

So you try to use the minimum amount of medicine?

That’s right.  I tell every patient, “This medicine is essential for what you’ve got.”  If the medicine doesn’t fit, you don’t take the medicine.  You won’t need it.  If the medicine is worse than what you got the matter with you, you’d rather get along with what you’ve already got without getting more trouble.

If the medicine has side effects—

Fine.  Psychologically, medicine is bad for the patient even though they depend on it.  It’s bad to be dependent on any kind of service.  For instance, here’s a family with three children coming in on vacation from Seattle.  The kids are all sick, they’ve got the pills that the doctor sent with them and they’re still sick.  So I say, “Let me see the medicine that you’ve brought with you.”  I examine them and I don’t find anything the matter with them, but I don’t tell them that.  They’re sick from the medicine, probably.  I say, “Leave the medicine here for a few days while you’re in town.  Let me study the medicine and you can get it when you come back.”

Then I found out that the majority of people with something the matter with them do not tolerate milk – very definitely.  So I’d tell these kids, “No milk for three days, no pills, nothing.”  [They would say], “We have to have the medicine.”  I’d say, “You don’t have to.  I’ll be responsible for you.”  Three days later they’d come in and they’re all well.  No more milk.

You found allergy to milk to be common?

Eighty percent of sick people do not tolerate milk.  That means it’s of no value to them.  Milk is of no value.  It’s the hardest food we have to digest, it’s something you don’t chew, it’s considered a solid food, you don’t salivate it.  It goes right on through; you just pick up the stuff in the stool as it went in.

Is there any other food that you think it’s best for sick patients to avoid?

Yes.  There are other foods that are essential in allergy problems.  Milk is an allergy problem, plus [its] indigestibility.  Milk is the hardest food we have to digest, period.  That’s established, and it’s beginning to come into the public eye now.  Chocolate is a famous one for allergy and pineapple is one, and there are several other foods that are not compatible with certain people.  And that doesn’t mean they’re ill with it.  It means they can’t use it.

What other techniques did you use in your practice?

The approach to the patient.  For instance, if you’re going to operate on a patient or deliver a patient, by this time you’ve studied the case.  The first thing, when you walk in the patient’s on a table.  The nurses have taken the clothes off and there he is.  [The patient says], “What’s going to happen now?  Are you going to stick a needle in me, Doctor?”  I say, “We have to give you some medicine of some kind.”  I did lots of transfusions.  I sit down by the patient and I don’t grab the syringe and the needle right away – I sit there with him.  I say, “What’s your objection to the needle?”  [He says], “Well, it hurts.”  And I say, “This won’t hurt you.  I’m going to give you this medicine with a hypodermic.  Now, you look over that way and don’t say [anything] and as soon as I’m ready to give you the needle, I’ll tell you before I give it to you.”  So I get the needle over there and there’s a way of giving hypodermics that doesn’t hurt them.

That’s what I’ve learned in medicine.  I do spinal punctures without a bit of pain, and that’s not the Chinese stuff.  I have no idea about that – I don’t accept that.  But as I say, there’s a certain amount of psychology – not psychiatry – as a preliminary to these approaches to the patient, which cuts down the hazard of whatever you’re going to do to them.  In other words, they’re at ease.  Number one, put the patient at ease, even if they’re in pain; that’s the general thought that I have for that [situation].

Again, that’s very patient-orientated.  Are there any other comments you’d like to make?

I think in any doctor’s approach to the patient or association with the patient – unless it’s a surgical job where the doctor never sees the patient as a patient – he just goes in there, it’s just his job.  The patient goes to sleep, the surgeon comes in and does his job and walks out and he never sees the patient again.  His associates or his students – nowadays the doctors have so many people who are helping them who are not M.D.’s – they’re licensed, but they are also subject to [law] suits.

This gets into the business of malpractice insurance.

Right.  Some of these young people – doctors’ aides, nurses aides, or whatever, they’re subject to suits, and plenty.  The malpractice problem is the thing that terminated my active practice.

Did it get too expensive?

I couldn’t begin to afford it.

Were you working part-time?

I’ve been a lone wolf all my life except for my short time with this fellow Riley for a couple of years.

You had a private practice?

Yes, always by myself except on this occasion in the Depression of the early ‘30s when I either had to ask for help like that or go back on a daily wage of some kind.

Would you tell us about your wife?

Yes.  My wife was Magdalena Bleicker, B-l-e-i-c-k-e-r, from Belleville, Illinois.

Did you meet her in St. Louis?

I met her in Barnes Hospital; she was in the Washington U. Nursing School on a scholarship.  She was a graduate nurse in obstetrics at Barnes Hospital with me.  She graduated the same year I did, and we worked together on the obstetrical wards in Barnes Hospital.  After I went to Oakland, as soon as I could I got her to come out there and we were married in Carson City.  From then on, she worked in a hospital in Oakland as a nurse under her maiden name.  Finally, as we got better established, she didn’t have to work any more.  But my last ten years in medicine were spent in a little town called Arnold in Calaveras County, California.  During this time, she acted as my office nurse/assistant at intervals.  In 1965 when I was seventy, I decided I would retire in Oakland.  I moved up to this town where there was no doctor.  So, I was in a semi-private practice in Arnold and I got busier there than I’d been in Oakland.  So that’s my story.

Did you have any children?

No, no children.

A few minutes ago you said that you had to earn every penny on your own in medical school because you supported yourself through school.

Yes.  By sophomore year, as I said, I didn’t have time to earn any money on the side.  I had to [devote] full time to medicine.  At that time I had to borrow money to tide me over that year.  The next year I was a relief resident there [at Barnes Hospital].  When I went to MoPac Hospital [Missouri Pacific Hospital] I got $100 a month there.  All of a sudden I was a millionaire – the first money I ever had.  From then on the feeling of being poor was not so severe.

Do you have any comments about present-day medical education?

Yes.  I think that present-day medical education is in a stage of transition to the point where it’s not definitely outlined to the student as such.  The medical student coming in today – his curriculum is most uncertain.  In my day, the curriculum was well-established [and] had been for years.

Are there any other comments you’d like to make?

No.  To me, the future of medicine is very definitely unpredictable.  That’s the main comment I have to make.

Thank you for coming and consenting to give this interview to us.


Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of these oral history transcripts. If you discover an error or would like to offer suggestions, please click here to contact us.
Home | Browse the Interviews | Index of Names | Rights & Permissions | About this Project