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Transcript: Ethan A. H. Shepley, 1969

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This is Archives Collection Oral History Interview Number 3 recorded on October 23, 1969 with former Chancellor of Washington University, Ethan Shepley, concerning the reorganization of the Washington University Medical School and Affiliated Hospitals, commonly referred to as WUMSAH, for the years 1953 through 1961.

. . . the things that occurred here at the medical school are limited to pretty much to the time I served as Chancellor of the University, which was from the fall of 1953 until June ’61.  In that period I was quite familiar with what was going on down here and took a good deal of active interest in it.  Unhappily, my memory is not as good as it might be and I’m having to dictate this with some notes that I made last night and I’m sure that there are many things that I have overlooked.

I start really with a visit I made to the Wohl One Hospital with Dr. Robert Moore, who was the Dean of the School of Medicine at that time.  He was showing me through the building and in the process he was called to the telephone to take a long distance call from Pittsburgh.  They had been after him to come there to head up their school of medicine, but he had declined unless they met one more condition, which was a very substantial one as I recall: the matter of some forty million additional dollars.  It was out of the _____(?) that the money had been subscribed and of course shortly thereafter he left to go to Pittsburgh.

Dr. Carl Moore was then drafted to serve as Dean, which he did with great reluctance as he was primarily interested in the work of his department of medicine.  He served, however, and served very well, being recognized by the members of the executive faculty as really the top man.  Unfortunately, Barry Wood, toward the end of the second year Barry Wood, was elected Vice President for Medical Affairs, or Health Affairs, at the Johns Hopkins and left to assume those responsibilities.  This caused Carl Moore a good deal of concern because he and Barry had been a team really running this very large and important department, and with the loss of Barry, and Carl’s inability to devote than token time to his department he really was troubled over the possibility of its falling apart.  So he asked to be relieved and he had only agreed to serve while they were finding a dean.

Now ordinarily I used to attend the monthly meetings of the executive faculty and being really an amateur, knowing nothing about the technicalities that were involved, I sat back and listened – which was a matter of real pleasure and a rare opportunity for one in the position of Chancellor of the University who ordinarily had to do a lot of the talking.  I finally injected myself into the picture, however, when I called the attention of the executive faculty and their committee that had been appointed to find a permanent dean.  I called their attention to the fact that as they had been accorded the right to select their dean by the University administration they also had the responsibility of doing it.  And it seemed to me that in their entire happiness with Carl Moore they were not working very hard to find relief for him.  It developed that Carl wished to be relieved at the latest in the following October – this I think was in the late spring.  I told him that I thought that he had the right to step out at that time and it was up to them to find a new man or somebody else to take his place by that time.  And this again resulted in a draft.

This time they drafted Oliver Lowry, head of the department of Pharmacology, who took it with even less enthusiasm than Carl Moore had.  Ollie did not want any part of it and he did not like the administrative duties and burdens that were attached to that office, which were incidentally increasing daily.  But he continued to serve until finally they selected Edward Dempsey, who was the first man in their group who really looked forward to the opportunity of serving in that capacity.  The task appealed to him and he took to it as one might say, as a duck to water.  He did a splendid job.

Now somewhere along about this time Edgar Queeny, the former president of Monsanto Chemical Company, was elected to serve to go on the board of Barnes Hospital and shortly thereafter assumed the chairmanship of that board.  Queeny had done a remarkable job in building a huge company and demonstrated rare ability as a businessman.  And he applied to his work at Barnes Hospital the same high degree of intelligence [and] foresight that he had as a business executive.  To a degree he moved into the hospital.  He had his office there, he spent full time on the job and he had with him another retired business man, Robert Otto, former president of Laclede Gas Company.

I don’t suppose there was anything about this huge complex of buildings that Edgar Queeny didn’t become familiar with before very long.  And he formed certain impressions.  One of which was that this thing ought to be put together in a way that it did not then exist.  After making a thorough analysis of all the operations and all the physical facilities, he took the position, much to our surprise, that the Jewish Hospital should become affiliated and become a member of the group.  This had been something that was anathema to the Barnes board and it came as a great surprise to us when Mr. Queeny, in a meeting with our group, said he thought it was an absolutely a must.

Well we were delighted.  Needless to say, we were delighted because we had been trying to work out a closer relationship with Jewish Hospital over these recent years and in doing so had incurred the criticism of [Frank R.] Bradley, the director of Barnes Hospital and his board.  He wanted no part of it.  I think that they felt with the run-down condition of the Barnes Hospital group – and believe me, they were run down – they felt that the Jewish Hospital might furnish the kind of competition that they didn’t welcome.

So we called in the representatives of the Jewish Hospital and we started to have meetings over here at the School of Medicine.  _____(?) Bush was one of the members, Ed Greensfelder [Edward B. Greensfelder] I think was another that came from Jewish Hospital.  George Hecker came representing Barnard Hospital, which was one of the group.  Queeny, Otto, and maybe McAfee, I think Wesley McAfee [J. Wesley McAfee], the former head of the hospital board came representing Barnes.  And I, Ed Dempsey and I, I guess maybe one or two others represented the School of Medicine.  We thrashed out the matter of how it was to be accomplished, the close relationship.  And this finally took the form of what Mr. James McDonnell, who later the entered the picture, as WUMSAH, which I thought was a rather Indian sounding and maybe clumsy name, but it stood for Washington University Medical School and Associated Hospitals – abbreviated as they do now with initials.

But I’m getting a little ahead of the story.  There were a number of things – Mr. Queeny felt that it should be organized as a corporation.  It should have a general planning, but not the control of any of the individual hospitals.  Each one was to retain its own autonomy and be under the control of its own board.  But, the advantage was that each one would be familiar with the budget of the others and with the plans of the others, so that if one needed more parking the others would know about it.  And there were many other problems which were common to all members of the group and it was important for each to know what the other was going to do.  It was also a thought that this organization, with the appropriate director, would be able to suggest developments for the future, such as the possible acquisition of St. John’s Hospital property and its use – part of which property was very much desired by and needed by the Jewish Hospital.

Well, I might say that Mr. Queeny and Ed Dempsey were great admirers of each other at this point to the extent that Mr. Queeny tried his best to persuade Dempsey to resign as dean of the School of Medicine and accept the directorship of the WUMSAH, the joint operation.  Dempsey had had a bad heart attack and I guess for other reasons as well, he was not interested and Queeny was unable to persuade him to do it.  Then the question arose as to what kind of fellow we were going to get for this job.  And here’s where the first differences came in.  Queeny said, “Now you men in the field of medicine know your way around.  We don’t know anything about this.  It’s up to you to bring in names.”  So they brought in the name of a man who had been here at the school, who had demonstrated a lot of ability here as Assistant Dean and who had gone to the University of Colorado and done a magnificent job in getting that operation really on its feet.  I refer to Robert Glaser.  So, at a meeting where his name was injected into the picture and he was recommended by our people, Queeny and Otto said no, they wouldn’t go along with that, that he’d never had to meet a payroll, he had no business experience and this was essentially going to be – they were going to need a man with good business judgment.  And it seemed that either Mr. Otto or Mr. Queeny had contacted some friend in Denver and had received a report that Glaser had been capable of making enemies or critics in the reorganization of the school in Denver, which was readily understandable by anyone who is familiar with the conflict of interest which does exist between the part-time faculty man who has his own practice and the full-time members of the faculty of the school of medicine.  [Anyone] will realize that anybody who’s going to reorganize a school and develop a full time faculty is going to offend some people in the process.  In any event, we had to abandon the idea of Bob Glaser, and incidentally it was rather interesting that within a matter of three or four months he was called by Harvard to take over there, which was a rather interesting development.  He then suggested a man from the Rockefeller Foundation, one of their very top men.  And he was rejected by the Barnes group for the same reason – that he’d never had any business experience, although as a matter of fact he had complete control of all of the overseas operations of that rather large foundation and was responsible for the administration of all those activities.

Now this started to develop a certain amount of suspicion and bad feelings between the two groups.  And while this was going on Queeny was doing a magnificent job in getting the hospital facilities operating on a better basis.  He found that the employees over there were being underpaid, grossly underpaid.  There was a terrific turnover in personnel.  The place was dirty, it wasn’t clean.  It wasn’t being properly – the buildings weren’t being properly maintained and he set about to do a job and he did a great job on that.  And somewhere in this period he also financed, I think himself, I’m not sure, but I think he put up all the money to add four floors to the Rand Johnson wing of the hospital.

Also, during this same period he was planning – they were laying plans – to put a very high building on the corner of Kingshighway – well it’s where Kingshighway turns east to go into Euclid.  I suppose we’d call it the southwest corner of the Barnes group in place of the pavilion, which was about a two-story or three-story structure occupying a large amount of land.  This building was brilliantly developed, I think.  It is now known, over his objection, as the Queeny Tower, but the main thing was this.  There were millions of people that came here to Barnes Hospital not knowing what they were up against.  They were coming for diagnosis of troubles and they came from other states as well as from Missouri and St. Louis.  Frequently a wife would bring her husband here to find out what was wrong.  This building, one of the principle structures – and this was true of people in St. Louis as well as out state – if it was normally a person being diagnosed, a respected patient to occupy a room that was more like a motel, not a hospital room at a very high cost, but a motel room at a reasonable cost.  And where there would be a restaurant where he or she could take their meals and while the tests were being made to determine whether or not he would become a patient and perhaps have to be operated on or given some other kind of treatment, he could stay at a reasonable expense in a nice comfortable place and have his meals there, also park his car there.  It was done, as Queeny would do it, in rather elaborate, but very fine style.  It was not to be a crummy and unattractive looking place.  It was to be a very attractive facility and it turned out to be one, I think.  Also, some of the floors were to be used for doctor’s offices.  And this was one of the purposes would be that a person going there could have a complete checkup.  In other words, the doctors in the various branches of medicine would be available right there in that building.

Now this was also great, but the real serious battle started when the question came up who’s going to say what doctors would be rented space in this building and this is a very serious problem which Queeny didn’t understand.  He said, “Obviously nobody can practice here that hasn’t been appointed a member of the faculty of the Washington University School of Medicine, so why you should complain which ones we choose?  They’ve all been approved by you.”  Well our answer was, “It makes a great deal of difference.  Because while we have many doctor’s positions appointed as part-time members of the faculty, some of them we would never be willing to have in here occupying key space because they do very little for the school.  Some of them make very little, very slight contributions while others make very large contributions.  And we would be responsible as the professionally operating, [for] the operations of the professional aspects of this whole complex.  We would be held responsible for the conduct of those men in their private practice and we’re certainly going to take a good hard look at anybody that we’re going to stand in back of and have here in this place.”

Believe me, we had a real knock down drag out on this and Ed Queeny and Ed Dempsey were getting their respective danders aroused and two men who had been great admirers of each other now became so bitter in their personal relationship that literally they found it difficult to sit in the same room in a conference.  With Ed Dempsey’s very bad heart condition we became awfully troubled over the whole thing.  For his sake we would have liked to removed him, but to do so under those circumstances would have been a repudiation of the man and would have been construed as that within the school itself, which would have been bad.

Fortunately, about this time, Ed was offered the position of Surgeon General of the United States.  He was appointed to that office and accepted and went.  [ed. note: Dempsey was appointed Special Assistant for Health and Medical Affairs to the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare].  And this brought about a good deal of relief from the contention that really was going to come, but it did cause a rift.

And I forgot to mention as I went along.  In order construct this new tower building and other facilities it was necessary to raise a great deal of money.  The precise amount of which I don’t know, but I think it was around twenty-five million dollars, and plans were laid and Queeny and Otto set to work soliciting contributions.  Queeny started off himself with a tremendous gift of, I don’t know, four, five, or six million dollars, I think.  And they called on the big businesses and they got large contributions and pledges.  But when this, well, I might say this, that as they went along in this thing Queeny became rather bitter because Washington University people weren’t doing the soliciting.  We pointed out to him that this had never been anticipated.  Washington University had just completed a twenty million dollar campaign itself and it would be not well received if it came back immediately and started soliciting the same people all over again for another drive.  Furthermore, it was recognized that the reputation of the School of Medicine was what was really being contributed here to the success of the drive.  Queeny recognized that the facilities here had gained their distinction and their outstanding reputation, not because of the hospital but because of the excellence of the School of Medicine.  He knew this and readily accepted it.

But in any event there was some bitterness and finally because of the bitterness that had developed in the relationship on the fundamental issue of who was going to control this business – is it going to be the professional people or the businessmen on the board?  And this was something on which we would not yield.  So the drive, the campaign bogged down.  It came to a halt.  It was finally called off with what they had raised and then Mr. Queeny and Mr. Otto went around and undertook to prevail upon the people – the companies that had made large contributions – to ear-mark their contributions for the hospital in its entirety and not any part of it for the medical school.  And to some extent they were successful in this effort although to some extent people said no, you approached us on a basis that was fifty/fifty and that’s the way we got authority from our board to make the commitment.  So we came out pretty well on it.

Now during this period there are other [things], and the timing of these things is very difficult for me to place with any degree of accuracy.  Let me say this, there are certain things that were very bad.  This happened just shortly before Queeny came into the picture.  I think Mr. Rand, Henry Rand – one of the Rand men were chairman of the board at the time.  Carl Moyer, the chairman of the department of Surgery, had become so disgusted with the application of anesthetics and the control of that department that he notified the Barnes Hospital people that if they didn’t do something about it he was going to refuse to have any further responsibilities for surgery in the hospital.  They got very angry about this and said what business has Carl Moyer threatening us.  So we had a meeting on it.  It was rather amusing.  Dr. Moyer, as I recall, had said nothing at all until the Barnes people had pretty much scolded us for our position.  And Carl Moyer finally spoke up and explained that some years back, when he was connected with the school of medicine at Michigan University, he was given the assignment – for several years he made a study of “Death on the Operating Table due to Causes Other Than the Knife” – in other words, the poor application of the anesthetic.  And he said, “Gentlemen, as I recall there was only one hospital that had a worse record in this respect than Barnes and that was the one I was then connected with myself.”  Well, needless to say, this changed things quite radically and they set about to reorganize that department.  And they did.  They got a man from England, I think.  An outstanding man whose name I’m ashamed to say I’ve forgotten, although I know him well who headed up the Department of Anesthesiology.  I believe Mr. Mallinkrodt, Mr. Edward Mallinkrodt, endowed that chair, but I’m not certain about that.  I think it’s the Mallinkrodt Professor of Radiology or something of that nature.

There was another thing that was sort of a sore spot and that was the location of the x-ray facilities.  Patients would have to, they’d be wheeled there or they’d have to go there to be x-rayed and they’d wait an interminable amount of time.  It was partly due to the physical location of the facility and partly due to inadequate administration.  And the Barnes group was very critical of the head of the x-ray department – that was Dr. Wilson, a fine man, a very fine man.  And I think he finally retired, I believe, and it was turned over to his successor and while some changes could be made it was not until the building alterations were made that some relief was brought.  This again was connected in some way to the development of Queeny Tower.

Well, things went along all right until Mr. McDonnell, Jim McDonnell of McDonnell Aircraft, came on the board and assumed chairmanship of the Board of Washington University.  I had retired as Chancellor and Tom Elliot had succeeded me and he was very anxious to get Mr. McDonnell to head up the board and was successful in persuading him to do that.  In that connection he, of course, took my place on the WUMSAH Board, the medical center board.  And if you saw two able, distinguished business leaders tangle, you saw it with those two men.  I won’t go into detail because I wasn’t at the meeting.  I don’t know – all I know is that they battled.  And one of the principle sources of the battle was the St. John’s property.  St. John’s Hospital had moved to a new location in the county.  Their property was owned by one of the order of nuns, I forget which one.  But they had placed a price on the property which was computed in rather a unique way.  First they valued the property as it was, then they valued the land with the property removed, with the buildings removed.  Then they’d add the two together.

In any event, we had employed Mr. Greg Nooney, incidentally a good Catholic and a very outstanding, able real estate man, and he came in and pointed out the absurdity of their appraisal and he gave his appraisal.  I don't know - it came to around three million dollars.  I think the question of the trouble arose out of who was going to control the disposition of the property after they acquired it.  In any event, Misters Queeny and McDonnell had a good old rough-house every time they met.  They really tangled.  I think of Kipling’s poem, “East and West and never the twain shall meet.”

They are both great men and they both made tremendous contributions to the whole picture.  But it’s inevitable that you’ll always have a conflict of interest between those who are primarily interested in sick people and those who are primarily interested in developing physicians who can take of sick people.  It is an inevitable conflict that exists and the best of men with the finest of motives are bound to have trouble from time to time.

I believe that the picture was saved, and of course I’m now pretty much out of it, I’m still on the board at Tom Elliot’s request, but I’m relatively inactive.  But I know this – I know that when Dr. [William] Danforth accepted his present position as Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences, or whatever they call it, Mr. Queeny’s attitude changed completely.  He found in Dr. Danforth a man who was quiet, very quiet, but very strong in his own way, but not at all antagonistic.  And he and Queeny hit it off very well.  I think Dr. Danforth was able to secure from Mr. Queeny a high degree of cooperation that had never been possible in his absence.  And together they worked out the plans – the St. John’s Hospital property was acquired and it was used primarily for a most important thing which is accommodation of hundreds of automobiles that have no other place to park.  And they also developed the plan for the complete renovation of the whole Barnes Hospital and the Maternity Hospital, which is now going on.

I think this whole period was one in which we are greatly indebted, greatly indebted to these men for the part they played.  While I didn’t agree with my good friend Edgar Queeny, whom I knew for many years and thought the world of – I didn’t agree with him at all in some respects and yet I take my hat off to him for what he did.  I have the same respect for Ed Dempsey.  Ed Dempsey fought for the principle.  I think he was right in the principle he was fighting for, but unfortunately between him and Mr. Queeny they brought about a situation where little constructive could be done because of the personal animosity that had been generated.  The appointment of Ed Dempsey to the position in Washington helped and the entry of Jim McDonnell also helped, although as I pointed out he and Ed Queeny had a tough time getting along.  But between them they did a magnificent job in the planning and development of this whole center.  And then finally, while it may embarrass him for me to say it because he asked me to do this, I think that Bill Danforth has been the key to the whole thing.  I think he’s the man that brought everything together and I don’t know what would have happened without him.  So I guess this is really about all I can tell you of the period during which I was fairly close to the medical school and the medical center.

This is the end of the Archives Collection Oral History Interview #3.


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