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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Interviewee: Edward Woodward
Interviewer: Samuel Proctor
October 26, 1993
UFHC22 Edward Roy Woodward Summary
October 26, 1993
Interviewer: Samuel Proctor
Edward Roy Woodward, was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1916. His father was a physician
and Woodward himself never considered any other calling. He graduated from medical
school at the University of Chicago in 1942. In 1957 he accepted a position at the University
of Florida as Department Chairman for the Department of Surgery, a position he held
Woodward talks about the family history and his parents background. His father was in practice
in Mason City, Iowa, and Woodward relates how his father with other physician partners set up a
practice in 1918. He talks about his father.
Woodward describes his family life as close. He never considered a profession other than a
physician. He recalls going on rounds with his father early in the morning, and he describes his
father's schedule as a physician.
Woodward states that he was lucky enough to be naturally adept in his school course work.
Woodward further talks about his school days. His father was small but athletic, and encouraged
sports. Woodward remembers he did not enjoy sports, but participated due to his father's wishes.
In the Depression, the family income went from ten thousand to about three thousand a year with
the effect that Woodward had to go to college on a scholarship and "room and board" job.
Woodward further describes his father's accomplishments and his life as a physician. He also
talks about his life when he was introduced to the less fortunate part of society as a medical
Woodward describes his life at Grinnell College from 1934 to 1938 and the college itself in
southeastern Iowa. He worked on campus as a "pearl diver" in the kitchen and then graduated to
a waiter. Roosevelt's National Youth Administration program assisted by paying for his position
as chemistry assistant at fifteen dollars a month There he met his wife when he assisted in the
freshman chemistry courses. Iowa was a dry state at that time and mentions that alcohol and
tobacco were not a part of his family. He goes on to talk about the types of social activities of
campus life of the day, and a little bit about his wife.
Woodward gave brief thought to a career in chemistry, but the math was not to his liking and he
went to medical school in 1938 at the University of Chicago, getting his degree in 1942. He
decided to specialize in surgery due to a chance assignment with Dr. Dragstedt of the University
of Chicago. He had planned to be an internist like his father and join the practice in Mason City,
When World War II began, he enlisted in the Navy as an ensign, which committed him to a year
of active duty following one year of internship. He interned at the University of Chicago, and
goes on to talk about his life as an unpaid intern. He mentions patients he had while interning at
the University of Chicago.
He goes on to talk about his life as a general practitioner on board the USS Lindenwald, a British
design LSD with a crew of about 475 men.
Woodward talks about what he did after the war. He remained in the Navy until 1946 to fulfill
his enlistment requirement, and became a Navy reservist after for the pay. During the Korean war
he was sent to Yokosuka, a five thousand bed hospital on a Navy base in Japan sixty miles from
Tokyo. He remembers they received casualties just four hours by air from the battlefield.
Woodward describes the arrangement in his surgery ward, where he specialized in
Woodward backs up to the 1940s again, and discusses his life as a resident. He mentions that he
volunteered at the Illinois State Prison in Stateville, and his x-ray technician was Nathan
Leopold, the "thrill killer."
He mentions his extensive bibliography, and discusses his rise in his profession and the
chronology of his life during this time. He and his family moved to Los Angeles when he took a
teaching position at UCLA in 1953. Woodward discusses the structure of his position at UCLA.
Woodward discusses the differences between his experience in Chicago and Los Angeles. He
discusses patient demographics in Los Angeles, and notes his more famous patients, including
Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable.
Woodward begins to talk about how he came to be involved with the University of Florida. He
was associated with Dr. George Harrell [Dean of the College of Medicine and Professor of
Medicine] while on the same committee which awarded fellowships in cancer research. Harrell's
undisguised interest in Woodward was to learn about practice plans, or ways to disburse the
money generated from physicians in teaching hospitals.
George Harrell offered Woodward a position as Department chairman for the department of
surgery, responsible for recruiting and staffing. Harrell's criteria for staff selection were young,
cutting edge people who had not become "superstars" yet.
Woodward names people who were selected to head the departments at the University of Florida
in the formative years of the medical school. He also drifts into thoughts about his impressions of
Woodward was offered the job in May of 1957, and accepted in July of the same year.
Woodward talks about his impression of Gainesville and how he settled in, building a house just
to get air-conditioning. He remembers the Medical Science Building was complete, but the
hospital was not at this time.
Woodward thought the initial plans for the hospital were good. But, he says by the time of
completion, they were already outdated, and he talks a little about that topic and the type of
patients they treated. The patients were referrals, and not indigent. Woodward lists the surgery
staff he recruited and their accomplishments.
Woodward talks about the motivations of the people who accepted positions at the Medical
School. He believes it was in large part the opportunity to have almost free reign in their
respective fields. He comments on the students and talks a little about George Harrell in the role
of educator. Harrell's idea was not to separate the medical students from the University
atmosphere because he wanted them to interact. Woodward agreed, believing that without the
University influence, instead of being an educational school it would be little more than a trade
school. In fact, Woodward mentions that he encouraged medical students not to take extra
science classes, but to instead take English and speech as electives, and was disappointed that his
advice was not followed.
Woodward discusses reasons for the medical school not maturing into what George Harrell
envisioned; different from other medical schools. He believes the community expected a highly
specialized facility, and that was the force that shaped the Medical School.
Woodward discusses some of the details of his position from committee meetings to his
interactions of the staff. He mentions the two-year OR Technician program and curriculum with
help from his OR supervisor that was adopted by AORN, the Association of Operating Room
Woodward explains the discretionary money, and credits George Harrell with coming up with the
title of Academic Enrichment Fund which comes from patient fees. Woodward talks about the
ways the money is disbursed
Woodward goes on to discuss why Shands hospital became private, citing problems such as the
length of time it took to implement anything through Tallahassee. Woodward states it made a
positive difference overnight. The new not-for-profit organization could pay competitive salaries
unlike the state. Woodward mentions that half of his salary was paid from the Academic
Enrichment Fund. Woodward says that was later combined because of social security concerns.
Woodward retired as chairman at the age of sixty-five in 1982. He talks about his choice as he
approached retirement age, and he discusses ways his department had begun to expand in the
time he was there, especially orthopedics. He talks about his department's relationship to other
units outside of Gainesville.
Woodward discusses some aspects of his personal life.
Woodward mentions how he became involved in research in peptic ulcer disease with Dr.
Dragstedt in 1943. Woodward relates his experience with Dr. Dragstedt who developed the
operation that is used in treating peptic ulcers. The stomach and peptic ulcers has been his field
of research ever since. Woodward goes on to discuss his many articles and book on the subject.
Upon being asked, Woodward concedes he was regarded as one of the top in his field in
America, and that Dean Harrell's plan for attracting the best but as yet unknown people did
succeed. Woodward believes that locating the medical school on the main campus was a good
idea because it dispels the concept of a trade school. The large pool of applicants assured
students of good quality..
Woodward turns from his professional life to discussing his private life. He talks about life when
a boy and later. He mentions that he is very hand-oriented and good at surgery.
On these pages Dr Woodward discusses the life of Dr Dragstedt, for whom a biography is being
written. Woodward tells in these pages how Dr. Dragstedt came to the University of Florida after
his enthusiastic endorsement. He relates many contributions of Dr. Dragstedt in the medical field
and in the lives of those he worked with. It is Woodward's belief that Dragstedt should have been
considered for a Nobel Prize. Woodward then concludes the interview with a few miscellaneous
P: I am doing an interview with Dr. Edward Woodward in his office this afternoon,
October 26, 1993. This is room 6163 and we are in the J. Hillis Miller Health
Center. We are going to talk about Dr. Woodward's career, mainly at the University
of Florida, but also a number of other things. Ed, I would like to start off, if I may,
by asking you to give me your full name.
W: Edward Roy Woodward.
P: And you were born when?
W: September 6, 1916.
P: And where were you born?
W: Chicago, Illinois.
P: Your family had been living in Illinois, in Chicago, for a while?
W: My father was a medical student when I was born. He was a senior medical student
at Rush Medical College.
P: Where was the family from?
W: From Iowa. Both my mother and father were from Iowa.
P: What was your father's name?
W: Lee Roy Woodward.
P: Tell me a little bit about your father. First of all, how did they get to Iowa?
W: Well, his father immigrated from Cornwall, England. He was brought over by his
parents to Canada when he was only three years old. He was a farmer and he
migrated to Ohio to grow wheat. He could not so he moved to Iowa to grow wheat,
and he could not. So he and his next door neighbor decided to grow corn and feed
it to hogs. My Grandfather Woodward retired a wealthy man at age fifty-three
P: As a result of feeding and raising hogs?
W: He was the first farmer in Iowa to have his own train to Chicago.
P: What do you mean his first train?
W: A whole train of hogs from his farm [went] to the packing house.
P: So he waxed prosperous after the disaster with wheat and corn.
P: So your grandfather, then, from what you are telling me, was born in England and
migrated at the age of three to Canada and then came to the United States,
[particularly to] Ohio and Iowa. What was your father's full name again?
W: Lee Roy. I think his mother probably intended it to be Leroy and did not get it
P: Was your father a doctor?
W: Yes, he was a doctor. His father, of course, had no education whatever, and he did
not see any need for it. My father's three brothers went into farming with no
education beyond high school. So, my father had to work his way through Grinnell
College and had to work his way through medical school.
P: With a wealthy father?
W: Yes. His father did not see any need for all that education. Of course, he was glad
to have to have free medical care from my father later in his life.
P: Well, what else?
W: That is what I say.
P: That is what relatives are for.
W: That is human nature.
P: You are right. Absolutely. Tell me about your mother. What was her name?
P: Her name was Lynne Webster. She was born on a farm near Charles City, Iowa,
about thirty miles away from Mason City, where my father had been born. She was
born in what was originally a log cabin her father had homesteaded there. Her
father, George Webster, was descended from Daniel Webster's half brother. So they
were originally from New England. I visited there just two weeks ago to see where
that farm was. The old log cabin had been covered with boards over the years and
it fell apart and the farmer had torn it down. So I saw the place where it had been,
and it is gone forever.
Her father, George Webster, farmed along with his brother, Ernest Webster. The
International Harvester Company brought out a binder that would cut oats or wheat
and tie a knot around it into a bundle that could be stacked and save a lot of storage
space. The original knotter did not work. All the ones that they sold came back to
Chicago except one. The one that the Webster brothers had bought did not come
back. So they sent a man out to see what the trouble was, and these boys had rebuilt
it. To this day it is called the Webster Knotter.
P: [Laughter] Did International Harvester then take over?
W: They bought it for ten thousand dollars. You can imagine in 1887 how much money
P: A lot of money, but it would be worth a lot more, I guess.
W: They also offered him a lifetime job as a salesman, so he was a international
salesman for International Harvester, particularly in South and Central America, but
he went all over the world. He lost an arm in an accident when he was
demonstrating a threshing machine. The sad part is that his wife, my grandmother,
went to Chicago with him at this time to begin the new job, and got typhoid fever
and died at age twenty-eight. So I never did know her. My grandfather Webster
subsequently remarried and had another family. He retired to California and would
come every summer and visit us in Iowa.
P: Did he become a well-to-do man as a result of his sales activity?
W: He had a very good paying job. He was certainly an executive-class person, but not
one of the big-time executives. He was always working in the field.
P: Now, your father, then, becomes a practicing physician. Did he go back to Iowa?
W: Well, he finished medical school in 1917, when I was a year old, and took a rotating
internship at St. Luke's Hospital in Chicago. This is, of course, in the days before
residencies even existed. That had not even been invented yet. Well, one of his
professors at Rush was the chief surgeon for the Milwaukee Railroad. He would
spot his boys at section points all along the railroad so that the railroad employees
would have a place to go for their pre-employment physical and all this sort of stuff.
So, he sent my father to Deer Lodge, Montana. I went there, of course, with him
when I was two years old. The flu epidemic of 1918 hit Deer Lodge, Montana, at
the same time. It was just dreadful. His partner died. It was a pretty grim
experience for him.
In 1921, one of his college friends who had also gone to medical school with him and
had opened a new practice in Mason City, Iowa, offered my father a partnership and
nine doctors started this group in Mason City [that] they called the Park Hospital
Clinic. My father joined it, largely because he hated general practice so much. This
is an enigma that we have not got a solution to. I sure do not know the answer and
I do not think [President Bill] Clinton does either. Family practice is very
unattractive because essentially too broad a field. My father told me over and over
again, "Ed, my patients expect me to be the jack-of-all-trades, but I am the master
of none." He hated it. So, this led him to specialize. These guys had all had nothing
but an internship. The one guy said, "I'll be the surgeon." My father said, "I'll be the
internist." Another guy said, "I'll be the OB/GYN doctor."
P: Just like picking it out of a hat.
W: He knew the part of medicine that he liked was internal medicine. He spent his life
as a consultant to the general practitioners around north central Iowa. They would
send in their patients so my father would work them up and then send them back,
and call them on the telephone and say what he thought the problem was and how
the case ought to be managed. He had very few patients of his own. He much
preferred to do consulting work.
He still had a pass on the Milwaukee Railroad because he still worked for the
Milwaukee Railroad, and he would take the train into Chicago (it is four hundred
miles into Chicago) on a Friday night, and go do medical rounds at the Presbyterian
hospital on Saturday, and then take the night train back. He would do this at least
once, frequently twice, a month. As a result, in 1937, when the American Board of
Internal Medicine was organized, he was grandfathered in. He was a charter
P: He was not bothered by World War I, then?
W: No, he was married and, of course, had one child.
P: I thought they were drafting doctors in.
W: If he had been single or not had any children, he might have been drafted, but he
was not. He was never considered. My parents got married in 1911, and Grinnell
College at that time had a Chinese branch in Tientsin and my father and mother
went there on their honeymoon. He taught chemistry and mathematics for three
years. They took the Trans-Siberian Railroad. [Laughter] It took them three weeks
to get to London.
P: That was an adventure in those days. It might even be an adventure today.
W: Then they got the last ship out of Liverpool just as World War I was breaking out
P: Do you have siblings?
W: Yes. I have a sister two years younger, and my brother is dead now. He was seven
P: So you are the oldest?
P: So they got married in 1911. They had no children for several years.
W: I had an older brother who died in childbirth.
P: I see. You grew up now where?
W: I grew up in Mason City, Iowa. I do not remember Montana or Chicago at all.
P: They came back too early for that.
W: They came back in 1921. I was only five years old, so I do not have any recollection
of Montana at all.
P: You went to elementary school, then?
W: Yes. I went to Monroe School for kindergarten when I was five years old, and I went
to the public schools in Mason City.
P: What kind of a household did you grow up in? I mean, was it close?
W: Oh, very. I had, of course, a much younger brother and a slightly younger sister who
was (as girls grow up faster) in the same crowd as I was when we got into junior high
and high school. We always had breakfast and, of course, the evening meal (we
called it supper in those days) together everyday. Never missed. That is just what
we do today, pick up and take off and maybe get back together in the evening. We
were there all of the time.
P: Close family relationship then?
P: Was it because of your father that you began to think about medicine?
W: I never really thought about anything else. I just sort of thought that was what I was
meant for. I liked it. My father used to take me and make rounds with him. In
those days, believe or not, the nurses worked six twelve-hour shifts a week. Can you
imagine that? They did! Six in the morning to six at night or six in the evening till
six the next morning. He used to go and make rounds at 4:30 in the morning
because he found the night nurses could tell him all he needed to know about his
patients. In the daytime, the nurses said, "I'm kind of busy with baths and
examinations and whatnot." The night nurse had plenty of time to observe her
patients. He always felt he could get better information. I was always an early riser
anyway and I went with him time after time.
P: So your father was not the old traditional movie doctor wandering around the
countryside delivering babies in the middle of the night and taking a bushel of corn
or potatoes as his fee.
W: That is right. He took the emergency call one night a week and one weekend about
every two months. Then he would have to take the trauma whenever it came in.
[There was] not too much in a town of that size.
P: But if a patient was sick enough, he would go out to see them or did they have to
come in the hospital?
W: No, they had to come in. He never did make house calls, except on his own parents.
P: Because that has pretty much disappeared now.
P: House calls. That is in a completely different world. What kind of a student were
you as you were growing up, junior high, high school?
W: I was always the top of my class. I was third in my high school class of about 450
students. It was always effortless for me. I was one of those lucky ones. I was an
avid reader anyway. My usual Christmas would be five new books.
P: Do you like to read everything?
W: Oh, everything, yes. Right now I am concentrating on biographies.
P: Who are you reading?
W: I have just read [a biography of] Lenin. He was a mean man.
P: Oh, he was a mean man then.
W: Awful. I did not realize this, he started out intent on establishing a dictatorship. I
thought that [just] happened, but no, he planned it.
P: Yes. Carefully, coldly calculating it.
W: He sure did, yes. I love biography, but I love novels, too. As a boy I read
everything. I read all of James Fenimore Cooper, all of Sir Walter Scott, all of
P: You had them in the house?
P: So your parents liked to read, too, then?
P: You grew up in that kind of an environment. Were you a sports person?
W: Well, that was always a little bit of a problem because I was a great big fellow. My
father was a very small man. He was only five feet eight, but he was a nine-letter
man in college. I had the size but I did not have his ability. I was never a very good
P: You loved it though?
W: No, I really did not. I just did it because I thought I had to. I hated football except
[for] the friendships I made. They were very nice. I not only did not like to hurt
people, I did not like to get hurt myself. I really disliked it intensely.
P: Were you a spectator sports person?
W: Oh, not then; well, to some extent, I guess [I was]. When I was in high school, I
remember my father used to take me. We were closer to Minneapolis than we were
to Iowa City, so we would go up to at least one football game a year every fall. Of
course, in the early 1930s Minnesota was the national champion for three consecutive
years. We saw those great teams play. The Drake Relays occurred in May every
year and we always went down to that, so I saw the great track stars of the 1930s and
P: Was the family fairly well off, then, during the 1920s and 1930s?
W: Until the Depression hit, yes.
P: I was going to ask you how the Depression impacted your family.
W: It was terrible.
W: Nobody had any money. Nobody could pay. There was plenty of work to do, but my
father's income up until the Depression hit was about ten thousand dollars a year.
P: That was big money.
W: That was big money. We were well-to-do. All of a sudden it dropped like a gun to
less than three thousand dollars a year. Literally, as one of the best known doctors
in Iowa, he had to borrow money to send me to college and I had a board and room
job all the way through college and a scholarship. So, our life got pretty damn tough.
He was very active in state medical politics, and president of the State Medical
Society. He was on the committee that wrote up the Iowa Blue Shield plan back in
the early 1940s. He was well known all over the state, but it sure did not show up
at the pay window. He was pretty hard pressed. But then, of course, with the onset
of World War II, things picked up.
P: Are both of your parents living, or are both deceased?
W: They are both gone. My mother died in 1953, shortly after I moved to Los Angeles.
My father died in 1958, shortly after I moved to Gainesville. She was sixty-nine and
he was seventy-three.
P: You come from good midwestern Yankee stock.
P: Does that mean that all of you were Republicans from day one?
W: I never knew a Democrat until I went to medical school. [Laughter] I thought they
were just some strange race of people.
P: Some strange breed somewhere down South and you were not quite sure just where
that was geographically.
W: Of course, I had never seen poverty, either, until I went to Chicago and went out on
the district [to do] home delivery of babies as a medical student. [That was] the first
time I ever saw poverty, first time I ever saw alcoholism, first time I ever saw wife
beating. I did not even know they occurred.
P: All of those things opened your eyes to another world.
W: I will say. Yes, my social education was perhaps even more of an impact on me than
my medical education.
P: You start in Grinnell College when?
P: And you get out in 1938. Tell me a little bit about Grinnell, where it is and what
you did there.
W: Grinnell is in a village of only three thousand people. It is very small. It is about
half way between Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, in southeastern Iowa.
P: It is an old distinguished school.
W: It is the oldest college west of the Mississippi. It is one year older than the state
university of Iowa. 1833, I think it is.
P: Was it church affiliated?
W: It was originally Congregational, yes, but it did not last very long. It became
completely non-sectarian. We had a vespers service every Sunday at 4:30. We were
more Episcopal than anything else. The only time I ever went to church was because
the music was so beautiful.
P: How large was the student body?
W: Seven hundred at that time. It is about fifteen hundred today.
P: Was it co-ed when you were there?
P: Was it a liberal arts school?
W: Yes, straight liberal arts. No graduate schools or graduate departments at all.
P: You just took an array of courses?
W: I majored in chemistry and biology. We happened to have an extremely good
education in both. So, for example, I was excused from freshman biochemistry and
freshman physiology in medical school. I did not have to take them.
P: But you must have taken some of the other courses that you liked in the humanities.
W: I did. I remember I took modern novel twice because I liked it so much.
P: Was that a good, happy episode in your life, your undergraduate education at
P: A lot of fun things to do there, too?
W: Yes. It was unique in several respects. One, there were no fraternities or sororities
at all. None. The dean of men and the dean of women mixed us all up in the
dormitories so we never knew who was a millionaire's son and who was on a full
scholarship. We had no idea. I found that very healthy. I liked that. That exists to
this day and there are no athletic scholarships at all. The athlete is treated exactly
the same as everybody else. They do not have a two-class system at all. Never have
had. Of course, they recently set a world's record for yards gained in a single game,
when Coe College ran up eight hundred and thirty yards in one game. So they are
not the world's greatest athletic power, that is for sure.
P: What kind of job did you have on campus?
W: I started out in the kitchen as a pearldiver, washing pots and pans, then graduated
to a waiter. One of the few nice things that Roosevelt did for me [was] I got a NYA
[National Youth Administration] job when I was a junior, as an assistant in chemistry.
I assisted the freshman course. That is where I met my wife.
P: You got the lordly pay of fifteen dollars a month?
W: Something like that, yes.
P: I had one of those, too, so that is why I know the pay.
W: It was very nice.
P: Oh, sure.
W: As a sideline, for example, I made vanilla extract for the kitchens. That was one of
my little jobs.
P: You had access to the alcohol in the chemistry lab. You could have gone all the
W: I suppose, yes.
P: You could have become a real bootlegger at the time.
W: I suppose, but that was not a very large part of social activities at Grinnell. Of
course, Iowa was a very dry state in those days anyway, but I had grown up in a
home that never had alcohol, tobacco or firearms in it. Never had any of them.
P: Now, if you did not have fraternities or sororities on campus, what happened? What
kind of social activity?
W: We were assigned to various dormitories and we had a very active program in
student government. My senior year I was president of my dormitory. We had a lot
of athletic events between the various dormitories, and the social activities were very
low key. Every Friday night we had a record dance in our clubroom in each
dormitory. [We would] bring our dates over.
P: You met your wife at Grinnell?
W: Yes, she was a classmate. As I keep telling everybody, she was Phi Beta Kappa and
I was not.
P: [Laughter] Where was she from?
P: What is her name?
W: Dorothy. Her maiden name was Furry.
P: She was born in Chicago when?
W: 1917. She went to Hyde Park High School, one of the famous old public schools in
the city. Her father worked for the Illinois Central Railroad. He was a specialist in
P: So she grew up in Chicago.
W: Yes, on the southside.
P: She went through public schools there before going to Grinnell?
P: Any reason why she went to Grinnell?
W: No. Grinnell had a very active recruitment program in the Chicago area and had a
lot of alumni in that area. We always had lots of people there, and a lot of them,
of course, came from the better known high schools like New Trier School up in
Wilmette, and so on.
P: What was her birthdate in 1917?
W: January 24th.
P: January 24, 1917. My wife is born in 1917. So, they share another thing. You really
have answered this question, [but] I was going to ask you why [you studied] medicine,
and you answered that earlier by saying that was the only thing you ever considered.
W: I gave a brief thought to chemistry. My chemistry professor had sent a lot of
graduates into the chemical industries, particularly the paper industry and so on. It
sounded like a pretty slick way to get a job until I made the mistake of taking
physical chemistry, and I realized that my mind does not work like that. The
mathematics was too much for me. So I realized that it was not for me. I could
learn biology a lot easier.
P: So, you go to medical school where?
W: University of Chicago.
P: When did you start?
W: I started in 1938. I was accepted at Stanford and Harvard and the University of
Chicago without interview, on the basis of Grinnell's record plus my own academic
P: So, you start in 1938, immediately after your graduation from Grinnell.
W: Yes. I graduated in June and started medical school in September.
P: You got your degree there when?
P: It was a five year program, obviously.
P: 1938 to 1942 is four years. You can see where my math is. Now, you told me why
you went into medicine. Why surgery?
W: Well, there is the answer to that.
P: You are pointing to who's picture?
W: Dr. Dragstedt.
P: Who is he?
W: He was a distinguished physiologist and surgeon at the University of Chicago.
P: World known? How did you and he become connected?
W: Accidentally. I did not even know who he was. I was starting my third year clerkship
on surgery in the winter of 1940-1941. I reported for duty on the female surgical
ward early in the morning, and this bright young resident comes breezing in. He
asked me my name and I told him. He said, "Aha, you are assigned to the surgery
three service." It did not mean a thing to me. He said, "Here is your room key and
here is your meal ticket. You are the intern. My intern is down with the flu." He
gave me no choice at all, but it kind of appealed to me, so I said, "Ok, I will do it."
P: If you had no choice at all.
W: I could have said no, I suppose, but it sounded like a good opportunity and, of
course, I did not even know who Dr. Dragstedt was, but he was the attending
surgeon. I spent six weeks just slaving my butt off because I was so green and so
inexperienced. In those days we had nothing like the help we have today. The
intern did all of the blood counts, all of the urinalyses, cross-matched all of the
blood, and started all of the IV fluids. Everything was done by the interns. I learned
how to do all of that and found it to be a great experience.
At the end of the six weeks, Dr. Dragstedt called me into his office [laughter] and
said he thought I was made to be a surgeon. Well, I had never even given it any
thought. I had planned to go into internal medicine and go back into practice with
my father's group in Mason City. It was a very pleasant way to practice. Then I
realized that Dr. Dragstedt was right. I was much too impatient to be an internist.
I could never possibly be a man of inaction. The surgery did appeal to me so I
accepted his offer of an internship and stayed on as an intern.
P: You realized, perhaps, even that early how lucky you were to be working with him?
W: Oh, yes. Of course, I learned a lot about him right away and realized that I was very
fortunate, indeed. Of course, he was like a father figure.
P: Now, were you the one who was responsible for bringing him here?
P: Now, the war is on while you are in medical school. Tell me what kind of pressures
that brought on you and your colleagues in medical school.
W: On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, I was listening to the radio and I heard the
news and realized something catastrophic had really happened. It was obviously
going to impact me right away. So I went down to the naval recruiting station and
enlisted in the Ensign H.V.P. (I have forgotten what those initials stand for), but this
was a medical student who does not yet have his MD degree. It committed me to
enter active duty after one year of internship. So, I joined the navy.
P: Were you commissioned?
W: Yes, I was an ensign. We did not wear uniforms at all. We did not go to any drills
or anything. We just went on through medical school and the first inkling I got of
any naval service at all was right after July 1, 1943, when I finished my internship.
P: So you get your degree in 1942, and then you intern where?
W: At the University of Chicago in straight surgery.
P: So you just really continue on at the same facility that you go to medical school?
P: Where did you live in Chicago?
W: I lived on the southside, right near the campus.
P: Were you already married? You had met Dorothy.
W: I got married after I had been through one year of medical school, in 1939. My wife
promptly got fired. She worked for the Harris Trust Company. They did not employ
married women, so the day she was married she was gone.
P: The Harris Trust Company. So how did you make a living? You were not making
very much going to medical school.
W: No, I had a full scholarship. My entire medical education cost ten thousand dollars.
P: That was a lot of money, too. But you could not support a wife on NYA.
P: I hope she got another job.
W: Yes, she worked as a medical secretary and she was hired largely because the man
she worked for, an internist, at his office on Michigan Avenue right across from the
Art Institute, had known my father in medical school. So he hired his daughter-in-
law without realizing that she had no education in medicine whatever. She did know
how to type.
P: She probably was a quick learn.
W: Yes. She worked half days. He was at the hospital in the morning and had his office
hours in the afternoon.
P: In those years, how much did they pay an intern?
W: Zero. I got six uniforms and free board and room. I had a room that I shared with
another man and a meal ticket. We were fed four full meals a day. We got a big
dinner at ten o'clock at night. I dropped from 220 to 180 pounds that year. I
worked fantastic hours.
P: You learned a lot.
P: What kind of patients would you have had as an intern? That was a big city hospital.
W: No, a fairly good sized hospital; seven hundred and fifty beds, but in those days it
was 97 percent private patients. It has changed enormously since those days. We
had very few indigent patients. Most of those, of course, went to County Hospital,
and we had very well-known men and women who attracted referrals from all over
P: Your patients were across the board, then, in terms of their illnesses or medical
P: So it was a good year of interning as a learning [experience]?
P: And then you go into service.
P: When and where?
W: [On] July 9, 1943 I reported in at the San Diego Naval Training Station examining
P: Did you have to go through a training program there?
W: No. I was there about four months, I guess, examining a thousand recruits a day.
Then I got assigned to a ship that was being built in Oakland, California. I went up
there and assembled the crew on Treasure Island. We moved to Pearl Harbor in
December of 1943.
P: So you were not just a sailor in terms of guns and that sort of thing?
W: Oh, yes, we made eight invasions.
P: I know, but did you get that kind of military training?
W: No, none. I never had any military training at all.
P: When you went in it was to take care of the wounded, not to shoot a gun.
W: That is right, yes. I was just a general practitioner on the ship. It was a pretty big
ship. We had, I think, a crew of 475 men. We had healthy men so I did not have
P: What was the ship?
W: It was called the USS Lindenwald. It was of British design; LSD (Love Sugar Dog)
[Landing Ship Dock]. It was sort of a drydock with motors in it. We could carry
twenty tank lighters and twenty Sherman tanks. Two of us could carry one battalion
of tanks. We carried second marine division tanks into combat. The first one was
Kwajalein and the last one was Okinawa.
P: So you were in the Pacific, then, throughout the war.
W: Yes. We were back in San Francisco. I was due to get transferred off the ship after
two years, when VJ Day occurred. We were combat loading for the invasion of
P: Where was Dorothy while you were out?
W: She stayed in California and worked as a cashier in the Naval Hospital in San Diego
most of that time.
P: She had a little apartment there and that is where you came back?
W: She actually roomed with another military widow, one who had been our classmate
P: No children yet?
P: So, you stay in service until when?
W: Right after VJ Day [August 14, 1945], I got transferred back to the base closest to
my home, which was Great Lakes Naval Training Station. I got there sometime in
P: Of 1946?
W: 1945. I could not get out of the service. I had not done enough days of active duty
yet. They had a point system of some kind. So, I did not get out until April. I
P: I noticed the date I had here was June 1946.
W: I had terminal leave for a couple of months.
P: You went in as an ensign and you came out with what rank?
W: Lieutenant, a two-striper.
P: [I am] jumping ahead a little bit, but you go back into the navy again for a period.
W: Sure, I stayed in the Naval Reserve for one good reason -- economic. We had a
medical company that met in Navy Pier in Chicago every Monday night. I got paid
fifteen dollars each drill. For a family of four, our food budget was fifteen dollars
a week. So, I fed my family with the money the Navy paid me to go to that drill.
With five medical schools in Chicago, sixty doctors in the group, all from medical
schools, each guy would put on one program a year. I would hear a lot about
obstetrics and things I did not know that much about. It was kind of fun. The drive
down Outer Drive to Navy Pier was no problem at all.
P: Another education.
W: That is right. Then in June of 1950, we were driving to San Francisco for a meeting,
and I heard on the radio about the Korean War and I said, "Oh my God, here I go
again." Dot says, "They won't take you now." When I got back to Chicago, I had
orders in my mailbox.
P: You had a family by then.
W: I had two kids. I left Dot in Chicago with a three-year-old and a six-year-old.
Fortunately, her parents lived there, so it was not quite that bad.
P: And you took off?
W: I took off for Japan.
P: With what rank?
W: I was still Lieutenant.
P: You come out as a Lieutenant Commander.
W: Yes, I was promoted to Lieutenant Commander later on.
P: What were you doing at Yokosuka and where is it in Japan?
W: It was their big naval base. It is sixty miles from Tokyo on Tokyo Bay.
P: Is it North or South?
P: What kind of work did you do there?
W: We had a five thousand-bed hospital.
W: We were the medical backup for the first marine division. We were getting
casualties four hours from the battlefield by air. We had our own airfield and
ambulance buses that hauled them.
P: Were they bringing in all of the patients regardless, or were all of them Americans?
W: All first marine division, yes. We did not do anything else except first marine
division. Once in a while we had a few Koreans brought in, but not many.
P: Where did the others go, the British, for instance, or the Australians?
W: They had their own medical setups. A lot of ours went to the hospital ships that
were anchored off shore.
P: How many hours were you away from Korea?
W: Four. Well, less than that, I guess, by air. It is not very far. We were getting
casualties from the battalion eight station to our hospital in four hours. Pretty fast.
It was only about an hour in the air.
P: Were you able to do all kinds of surgery? You had the right equipment and the
W: We were well equipped, yes. We had plenty of blood and good help. I had a 149-
bed ward of general surgery and I had five green, young lieutenant j.g.s [junior
grade]. One of them, Glen Young, for example, became the leading cardiac surgeon
at Duke. So they were really very good men, and I had almost finished my residency.
I was just about to finish. I had not quite taken my board examination, but I was just
about done. So, I would teach them how to do things and we would run three
operating tables at one time. I would just drift from one table to another. We would
do fifteen cases in one day frequently.
P: As a surgeon, do you specialize in a particular area of the body, or a particular type
W: Yes. Surgery of the gastrointestinal tract.
P: That is your special area?
P: That is also because of the influence of Dr. Dragstedt?
P: So you do not do anything below the naval, everything is above? Is that about right?
W: No, I have done a lot of colon and rectal work, for example, as a part of the
gastrointestinal tract. Early on I had to do lots of other things; take care of bums,
do breast cancer surgery, and so forth. I suppose the first thing I gave up was
vascular surgery. I had Dr. [William W.] Pfaff [Assistant Professor of Surgery, 1965]
to come here from Stanford to take on the vascular load because I realized that it
took more specialty training than I had to do the best job. Now, we have, I think,
five full time vascular surgeons.
P: I want to go back into the 1940s for just a moment if I may. When you got out of
service, you go back into practice? I notice that you have got the Douglas Smith
Fellow in Surgery at the University of Chicago.
W: Yes, that was a magnificent job. It paid fifteen hundred dollars a year.
P: Not a day or a week or a month.
W: With a wife and two kids. You can imagine that we were not exactly well-to-do. I
got out of the navy just at the time [that] thousands of other young doctors were
getting out. The residency system was nothing like what it is today in terms of
numbers and availability. There were an awful lot of people looking for every single
job available. So, I was very fortunate. What I did was I drove from Great Lakes
to the University of Chicago every day. Fifty-seven miles right through the city with
no expressway. Everyday, all winter long, in 1945 and 1946 -- partly because, of
course, I was excited to work with him [and] partly because I badly needed a job.
Thank God Dr. Dragstedt had had Dr. Phemister, the chairman, offer me the
Douglas Smith Foundation Fellowship. Otherwise, I was just going to have to go out
and [do] general practice.
P: Your wife was busy taking care of the children, so she could not work.
P: You were living where in Chicago?
W: We were living in Lake Bluff. It is right up on the north shore, only four miles from
the naval base.
P: There was not very much time for a social life, then, for a man like you.
W: Oh, no.
P: I mean, it was work, work, work, work.
P: How long did that fellowship last?
W: Fifteen months. It lasted until July 1, 1947.
P: And you go into 1949, then. The early part of 1949?
W: Then I went into the regular residency program. That fellowship was full time in
research. I did not do any patient care at all. I did work one day a week at the
prison as a volunteer.
P: What prison?
W: The Illinois State Prison in Stateville. Four thousand inmates [and] they had one
P: The state was just as stingy about its dollars then as it is now.
W: Yes. Well, even today, people are not too keen about spending money on prisoners,
understandably. But this one poor GP [general practitioner] was swamped.
Guess who my x-ray technician in the prison was?
P: Who was that?
W: Nathan Leopold [Nathan Leopold and Richard A. Loeb were tried and convicted in
the Criminal Court of Cook County, Illinois in 1924 for the kidnapping and murder
of Robert Franks].
P: Oh my!
W: The thrill killer.
P: Oh, I know exactly who you mean. That is right. He was still living then.
W: Oh, yes, he sure was.
P: A very bright man.
W: Bright as hell, and boy, what a cold cookie. You look in those steely blue eyes, you
could see why he did what he did.
P: They did it just for the thrill of killing somebody.
W: That is right.
P: Did he ever talk about it at all?
W: No, no. He never did. He later died. Largely he was a volunteer in the program
that the medical service had for finding anti-malarials. One of the drugs they were
testing had pretty bad toxicity for the kidneys, and he got his kidneys wiped out and
he died of uremia.
P: He had become a master of languages there, too.
W: Oh, yes. He is a brilliant student.
P: Yes. How did you happen to get him?
W: Just by accident. He was one of the three x-ray technicians and we were doing our
own x-ray work. I would go in and do my own upper GI x-rays and he would help
me with it.
P: Now, just for the tape, I guess we should say that the Leopold-Adler case was one
of the great sensational cases of the 1920s. They were saved from death by Clarence
[Seward] Darrow [1857-1938, American lawyer].
W: That is right. And Bobby Frank's family left a huge endowment to see that neither
[Richard] Loeb nor Leopold would ever get out of prison. Well, Loeb, of course,
was killed in a knife fight in a shower bath , and Leopold, as he became
terminally ill, was finally paroled. He married a social worker and lived in San Juan,
Puerto Rico for a few months before he died .
P: I remember when he died. The newspaper reports revived the interest in that case.
There is a very good book, I have forgotten who wrote it, but I remember some years
ago reading a good book on it that was well researched. Yes, that was kind of an
interesting experience. [Laughter] That made good party talk if you had time to go
W: Well, it was a good opportunity for us. We did our own diagnostic work-up and gave
our own anesthesia and did the operations ourselves on the prisoners. It turned out
to be a worthwhile experience.
P: So, you first start out at the University of Chicago clinics as an assistant resident in
P: Then you become a resident in surgery?
P: What is the difference? More money?
W: Oh, a few pennies, I suppose. Not very much, just sort of..
P: A different title?
W: Yes. You become an assistant resident, then resident, then senior resident, and
finally chief resident. That is the big fellow that is at the top of the heap. At
Chicago, this was a lovely service because you had your own private patients and ran
in tandem with the department chairman. So there was a lot of prestige attached to
it, but also your patients were billed and collected in your name. You were actually
in practice. It was a wonderful experience. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
P: Were you able to enjoy any of the income of the patient's fees?
W: No, none.
P: There was no sharing, then?
W: It was confiscated by the university entirely. We never saw a penny of it.
P: So all you got, then, was the monthly stipend that you received.
P: And that by that time was what?
W: I cannot remember. When I left there as an instructor (my last two years I was an
instructor) my salary was $8,500 a year.
P: Which, for those days, was a very nice life.
W: We got by. It was getting tough, though, because the southside, in the meantime, had
become a slum. The Rae School where our kids went to schools, one of the two best
primary schools in the city of Chicago, overnight, went in the other direction. We
were stuck. We were going to have to either move to the suburbs or send the kids
to private school. I could not afford to do either one. So, about that time, I got
offered a job at UCLA and that solved the whole problem.
P: I was going to ask you about that. I have here that you were resident in surgery from
1949 to 1950. Then you go into the navy, you come back from Japan, and you are
another year in that from 1951 to 1952, and then you become an instructor for one
year also from 1952 to 1953. So you are just moving up the ladder, then.
P: As an instructor did you instruct?
W: Oh, yes. It is a rank that is used very little in medical schools anymore. But this was
the first step in the academic ladder.
P: I mean, you actually had a classroom?
W: Yes. I had my own office, my own secretary, and I still worked in research with Dr.
Dragstedt. Just think, we had a hundred and ten dog cages. We did most of our
research on the dog's stomach. The dog's stomach is so much like the human
stomach that we did most of our research on dogs.
P: You were interested in research right from the very beginning, were you not?
P: I noticed that you have a very, very extensive bibliography.
P: They begin early and continue right up, almost, to the present. You were publishing
P: Both books and articles.
W: I have a paper on the program of the Southern Surgical Association in December.
P: Have you ever tried anything, any writing, other than in the medical area?
W: No, I never have.
P: You have never tried writing a novel?
P: Or your memoirs?
P: Now, this is going to give you an opportunity to do your autobiography. Tell me
about the Los Angeles business. How did that come about?
W: Well, I was at a point where something had to give because we simply could not go
on the way we were. We enjoyed living on the southside [of Chicago]. Just think,
we did not have a car. I walked back and forth to work all of the time. We had no
place to put it.
P: No parking?
W: No. It was becoming unsafe; a lot of people getting mugged and what not. About
that time a friend of ours from Chicago who had been at UCLA took a job at
Comell in New York. I heard about it, so I contacted Dr. William P. Longmire who
is the chairman at UCLA.
P: Now, Chicago had a facility in Los Angeles?
W: No. This is UCLA. So, Dr. John Beal left UCLA to go back to Cornell, and I got
his job at UCLA, based mainly at the Los Angeles Veteran's Hospital on Wilshire
P: Now, what kind of job was this?
W: I was an assistant professor, and later got promoted to associate professor.
P: It was a teaching hospital such as this is here?
W: It was pretty much like the situation here, and then when I started out the hospital
was not finished yet. The first two years I was there we had no hospital, except the
Veterans's Hospital. Then we moved into the UCLA hospital which, of course, today
is enormous. We opened that hospital in 1955.
P: Did it rank with Chicago?
W: It was very, very different. Very different. I did most of my surgery at St. Johns
Hospital in Santa Monica or the Mount Sinai Hospital in Beverly Hills. I used both
hospitals, depending largely on who referred me the case. We had completely
unrestricted private practice. The money went all in your pocket. The only person
who knew what you made was IRS.
P: That was good then.
W: Good for me personally.
P: That is what I mean.
W: But it was really the main reason I came here.
P: Who subsidized the school? The state?
P: All of UCLA's money came from the legislature?
W: Oh, to this day. Of course, they still have far better state support than we do here
at the University of Florida. Essentially, the secretaries of the department at UCLA
were paid by the state. Here, I suppose, one out of ten is paid by the state. The rest
of them are paid out of our practice money. So their subsidy from the state is much,
much bigger than ours.
P: When you say that it was vastly different from Chicago, was that the difference or
were there other differences?
W: We were spread all over the city instead of being in one compact teaching hospital
the way we were at the University of Chicago. We were spread all over.
P: You told me that your patients in Chicago were mainly private.
P: Was that also true in L.A.?
W: Yes. We had a separate charity service that the residents took care of and we just
supervised them. That is another thing. I never liked to classify people for financial
purposes. At Chicago we had a system, a code, that you could learn if you wanted
to. You could find out whether the patient was full-pay, semi-pay, private pay or no
pay, but they were all taken care of by the same group and got the same care as
everybody else. At UCLA we had two classes of patients: the paying patients and
the non-paying. The non-paying patients were taken care of by the residents.
P: Now, the city itself at that time, and continues today, had a pretty polyglot
population. Was that also reflected in the hospital?
W: Yes. Of course, a big oriental population, particularly Japanese.
W: No, very few. They are all in east Los Angeles. They did not come out to the
western part at all. [That was true] in those days, I do not know about now. But we
had a large part of our student body were nisei [second generation Japanese], and
very, very good students, too.
P: Was this the hospital where the sick celebrities went, or did they have their own?
W: We had a lot of them. We had a lot of them at St. Johns Hospital, too. I operated
on Humphrey Bogart. I met Clark Gable when he was in for surgery. I got to meet
a lot of them. Our chief of ear, nose, and throat was married to Claudette Colbert
and through him we got to know a lot of these people. I operated on the mother of
the great tennis player, Jack [Kramer], the originator of the big game. I cannot think
of his name right now. That was when professional tennis was just really getting a
P: How long were you in Los Angeles?
W: A little over four years.
P: 1953 to 1957?
P: And you start out, as you say, as an assistant professor to 1957, and then you are an
W: In 1957 I was promoted to associate.
P: And you stay in there for a few months before you come to Gainesville?
P: What brought you to Gainesville?
W: Dr. [George Thomas] Harrell [Dean of the College of Medicine and Professor of
P: How did he find you?
W: Well, he and I were on a national committee for the American Cancer Society. We
met four times a year; sometimes in New York, sometimes in Bethesda [Maryland],
awarding research fellowships in cancer. Cancer is really not my field, but they
wanted somebody outside of the field of cancer to sit on this committee. So I was
on this committee for a long time, seven or eight years. Dr. Harrell was on it, too.
Every time we met, he always took me out to dinner. I thought that was interesting.
A big-time surgeon making a lot of money gets taken out for dinner by the internist.
But, he took me out to dinner and the main reason was he was pumping me
about practice plans. He had come from Duke and he had some unhappiness about
their system or their practice plan, where again they had the sharp segregation: pay
versus non-pay. I told him about my experience at Chicago where the university took
every dime we earned and even the college of medicine might not get everything
back that they earned, and probably did not. The department of English got it, for
all we knew, whereas at UCLA it was the extreme opposite. Everybody was his own
man. You could operate all you wanted to. I would go for two weeks at a time
working at private hospitals and never show my face at the university, but I made a
lot of money. I told Dr. Harrell that I thought there was a compromise, namely
geographic full time. That could be set up in several different ways, all of which will
work, but that the basic concept is group practice in the university hospital setting.
The pool of money is used for the overall benefit of the physicians.
P: Were you the innovator of that, or was that already in place?
W: Oh, George Harrell brought it up largely on what I told him, and Pete [Peter F.]
Regan [Professor of Psychiatry and Head of Department] was the other guy, the first
chairman of psychiatry. We were the two who really conspired with him about
setting up a realistic practice plan. Sam[uel Preston] Martin [Professor of Medicine
and Head of Department, College of Medicine] was such a dreamer that he [did not
have anything to do with it.] He does not know he did not have anything to do with
it, but he did not. He is such a tremendously bright person, but not at all a practical
fellow. We had it set up, and it has worked extremely well.
P: Did you run into any flack on setting it up from either the legislature or the other
parts of the University?
W: No, none. Initially, Dr. [J. Wayne] Reitz [president, University of Florida, 1955-1967]
was quite dubious. We went to the extreme of setting up a private-for-profit
corporation to manage our affairs. We were just about to the point of signing on the
dotted line. Actually, the legal firm that was setting it up for us was our present
governor's legal firm in Lakeland, Lawton Chiles' firm. Dr. Reitz realized that we
meant business. We will do it right here in the University so we did. We hired our
own manager and we have had one ever since.
P: Now, what did Harrell promise you to bring you here?
W: Department chairman for the department of surgery and that I would be responsible
for recruiting and staffing.
P: That was a challenge that you liked?
W: Yes, because I set it up the way I wanted to. Out of the first thirty-seven people I
hired, twenty-seven were from the University of Chicago, or had been there at one
time or another.
P: People you knew?
W: People I knew, and they knew how I felt about group practice and how it was the
way to teach clinical medicine. We all take it for granted now, but I can tell you we
had to work hard to get it the way we wanted it.
P: Dean Harrell told me that when he was selecting his first faculty he went out of his
way, first of all, to get young people.
W: Yes, I was a little old.
P: You were forty-one, but that he wanted people who were young, and he wanted
people who had not necessarily yet arrived, were not superstars, but were at the
P: You fitted into that category.
W: I did, yes.
P: When you arrived here in Gainesville, who was already here on the staff and faculty?
W: In the clinical departments, Sam Martin and ..
P: Peter Regan? Who else?
W: There were two other internists, Billy [William Clark] Thomas [Assistant Professor
of Medicine and Director of Post-Graduate Education, College of Medicine] and Bill
[William White] Stead [Associate Professor of Medicine, College of Medicine], [who]
were here in medicine.
P: I think [Harry] Prystowsky [Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Head of
Department] probably was coming along about then.
W: He came here shortly. He was here very soon thereafter. So was Dick [Richard T.]
Smith [Professor of Pediatrics and Head of Department], who came here in
pediatrics not too much after this.
P: Was [Thomas H.] Maren [Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics and
Head of Department,
College of Medicine]
W: He was already here, yes. But, of course, he is an non- doctor. He is an MD, but
P: I know.
W: He and I, of course, are very good friends. He and I were responsible for getting
Jerry [Jerome H.] Modell [Professor and Chairman of Anesthesiology, 1969] here.
[BREAK IN TAPE]
P: So, he promises you that you will have a free hand to do what you want in setting up
a new department at a new medical school.
P: Had you ever been to Gainesville or had you ever heard of the J. Hillis Miller
W: I did not have a very good idea where Florida was.
P: I was going to say, you had never been in the South, had you?
W: No. I said to Dr. Harrell, "I am sort of a yankee. I am from the Midwest."
P: Not sort of one; you were one.
W: I said, "We have always looked down our nose at the South as being a very decadent
part of the country." He said, with a straight face, "Ed, Florida is not the South."
The only lie he ever told me.
P: I was going to say, certainly Gainesville is. [Laughter]
W: North Florida is very definitely [part of the South]. Of course, I found that out in
short order when I got here.
P: Yes. South Florida may not be, but North Florida, Alachua County, is.
W: A North Florida Democrat, of course, is very much like an Iowa Republican: very
P: Very much so. Did you come down here exploring?
W: I came down in May for an interview and I went back to UCLA, thought about it.
I do not think I accepted the job until July. Do you know how naive I am? I never
asked what my salary was going to be. [Laughter]
P: Well, you figured you would set your own salary.
W: I knew Mr. Harrell would take care of me, so I just had never said anything about
it at all.
P: Was Dorothy with you?
W: Yes. We stayed at the old union building there right by the student health thing.
P: She did not say, "What are you bringing me to, Ed?"
W: I do not think she was too keen about coming here. We both liked southern
California. We had lots of good friends, [and a] very active social life, but it was an
awful hectic life for me. I would often go from Sunday to Saturday and never see
my children. I would be gone in the morning long before they got up, and get back
at night long after they were in bed. I had never worked so hard in my life. One
day, it was my turn to make rounds at the Harbor branch of the county hospital in
Torrence. I got up about 5:30 to drive down to do this. No freeway, I had to go
down right down Lincoln Avenue to Sepulveda [Boulevard] and down through the
airport. I am going sixty-five miles an hour down a city street, which everybody does
in Los Angeles. Somebody jumped the center line at me and I had to cramp over.
I hit a high curbing and I hit that seat belt. Oh, God, I had a big welt across my
belly. My seat belts I had installed myself. I bought them at Sears and installed
them myself. I went up in a guy's front yard and steered between a couple of trees,
got out and took my right front tire off because it was all blown out, put the spare
tire on, drove back home, called Dr. Harrell and accepted. That is it. [Laughter] I
have lived like this long enough. I was not going to do this anymore.
P: I was going to say, that is the most dramatic acceptance I have gotten on any of the
taped interviews that I have done.
W: I was probably going to take it.
P: I mean a lot of people tell me they came here because they like Gainesville, or
because they liked the University of Florida because they did a lot of things. You
came because of a car wreck. [Laughter]
W: Yes. I grew up in a small city, so Gainesville did not really turn me off at all. It is
quite a bit bigger; Mason City is only 31,000.
P: What month of the year did you come down for this inspection?
W: May. It was already unpleasantly warm and humid.
P: I was wondering.
W: It was not air-conditioned, of course, in the union.
P: Of course not. I am once again asking, what did Dorothy say?
W: She did not say a word. Her silence was deafening.
P: You knew what she was thinking.
W: She knew how much money I was making and she knew what kind of a life she was
having in Los Angeles. It was very, very good. We belonged to a university
duplicate club, for example. Boy, were they good people. We had more fun. We
met every Friday night and played duplicate bridge. Not another medical person in
the group, they were all [from] other parts of the university. It was a lot of fun. I
knew she did not really think too much in the way of leaving that, but she ..
P: And you wondered about the quality of the schools here?
P: So, you come to Gainesville. Where do you live?
W: We rented a house on Northeast Fifth Terrace. Peter Regan bought the house and
remodeled it. We rented it from Max Steadman, right across the street from the
health department director. Dr. Murphree lived right across the street from us. His
wife was such a well known teacher here, Catherine Murphree. Of course, it had no
air conditioning, and M.M. Parrish said, "You do not need air conditioning; all you
need is an attic fan." Well, I knew that my intolerance of heat was such that I could
not exist like that, so we built a house, largely, to get good air-conditioning.
P: So you almost immediately bought the lot on Twenty-third.
P: How much did you pay for that lot?
W: Twelve thousand dollars.
P: I remember when the-were first advertised for $5000. Everybody thought how
expensive they were for Gainesville.
W: People thought we were nuts to pay twelve grand for that lot.
P: I was going to say, that was a lot of money when you were buying it. Now people
kind of laugh at that amount. So, Parrish built the house for you?
W: No, Edwards did. He owned the lot. The only way he would sell it is if he would
build the house.
P: You built the house the way you wanted it, then?
W: Dot was there day after day, hour after hour, making damn sure they did it right.
P: Including the air-conditioning.
P: Now, tell me about this facility. Was it up when you arrived? Did you have an
office here, or did you have to stay temporary?
W: No, I had an office in the Medical Sciences Building.
P: So this building was already open when you arrived on the scene?
W: The Medical Science Building was; the hospital was not.
P: Yes; not the hospital, but the Medical Science Building.
W: The hospital was just started -- well, about half through, I guess, because they
finished it a year later.
P: Now, Dean Harrell told me a lot about his planning for the way that the Medical
Center was going to be. Were you involved in any of the planning for the hospital
or was that already decided?
W: It was already decided, yes.
P: Well, how were you going to be sure that you had the kind of facilities that you
wanted and needed for you and your staff? You must have looked the plans over
and thought that they were fine.
W: Yes. I thought it looked pretty good. I did not realize, of course, how much and
how fast medicine was going to change (surgery in particular). What looked OK
initially was completely inadequate by the day we opened.
W: We had no intensive care unit. We had only five operating rooms. They had to start
right out running the operating rooms at least twelve hours, more often sixteen hours,
a day just to keep up. They did not have nearly enough rooms. We finally converted
half of the recovery room into an intensive care unit [which was] nowhere near
adequate. All the equipment that goes along with the modern anesthesia department
and so forth was absent. It had to be built later.
P: The kind of patients that you began receiving here were much different than what
you had experience with, were they not?
P: I mean, many of these were indigent, not able to pay for it.
W: Oh, no. The majority of the patients that I took care of were private patients
referred to me. I would say two-thirds of them, maybe three-fourths were. If a
doctor was a referring doctor we would take all of his patients. If they were just
dumping their charity patients on us we would not take them.
P: I remember how well the referral thing worked in those early years. You really
could not get in here without a referral. That has changed somewhat over the years,
has it not?
W: I think it has, yes. Most of us got most of our patients by direct referral, usually a
phone call. In fact, I took one this morning when I was talking to you.
P: How did the money factor work? Was it better, worse, or about the same as what
you had experience with in Los Angeles?
W: There was not a lot of difference. I think that the general economic level of the
patients was somewhat less than most of the ones in southern California, but not a
great difference. No, we had an excellent income right off the bat.
P: Tell me about the staff that you were responsible for putting together in surgery.
Who were some of the people you brought in?
W: Well, one of the key type of examples would be Dr. M[aurice] J. Jurkiewicz
[Associate Professor of Surgery]. He was one day out of his residency when I hired
P: Is he still on the staff?
W: No. He left and went to Emory. He had been here about ten years, I guess. I said,
"Is there something you need?" He says, "They need me worse than you do." That
is the only reason he went, because the situation at Emory was so grim in his field.
But he has now been president of the American College of Surgeons and president
of the American Board of Plastic Surgeons. He is at the top of surgery in the United
States today and I hired him one day out of his residency.
P: Who else?
W: Al[bert L.] Rhoton [Professor and Chief of Neurological Surgery] had been at the
Mayo Clinic for about three years out of his residency before I hired him. He is a
world leader in neurosurgery today. Bill [William F.] Enneking [Professor and
Chairman, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery] was typical of the University of
Chicago. I knew him as a resident in Chicago. He is ten years younger than I am.
The war burned up some of those years. He was starting his orthopedic residency
about the time I left to go to UCLA, but I knew him. He is probably the world's
leading authority on bone cancer today. He came here because he knew I was going
to set up a system like Chicago, and he knew that would be good for orthopedics.
Of course, it has. They have got a world class effort in orthopedics ever since he set
it up. So, I hired very young people. Bill [Myron W.] Wheat [Assistant Professor of
Surgery] came as our first thoracic surgeon, and would still be here today if it had
not been for one of our tragic mistakes in management. Edmund F. Ackell [Provost,
J. Hillis Miller Health Center, Professor of Oral Surgery, Department of Surgery, and
Professor of Dentistry], the most malignant son-of-a-bitch I have ever known in
academic medicine, indirectly fired Bill because he hated him.
P: Where is Bill Wheat now?
W: He is in private practice in Clearwater.
P: Where is Enneking?
W: Enneking is still here. He quit operating three or four years ago, and is gone, I
suppose, half the year all over the world teaching bone cancer. Unlike most of us
our age, he has taken up computers and knows computer-assisted teaching inside and
out. He has redone his whole course on computers.
P: Where is Ackell?
W: The last I heard he was in Richmond in the Commonwealth thing.
P: President of a college there, I believe.
W: I think so, yes.
P: I am not sure he is in medicine anymore.
W: No. My friends up there at the Medical College of Virginia say thank God they do
not have anything to do with him.
P: I think he is at Old Dominion.
W: He went from here to the University of Southern California and they fired him after
about two years.
P: Tell me a little bit more about some of the other staff people. It sounds to me like
you have a star assemblage of people who had great, great potential.
W: George [H.] Miller [Professor of Surgery and Chief of the Division of Urology] came
in neurology from the University of Chicago and brought with him Birdwell Finlayson
[Assistant Professor in Surgery], who unfortunately died much too young, but he was
a Ph.D., M.D. His Ph.D. was in biophysics and he studied crystal formation in the
kidney, a pretty good field for a urologist. [He was] world famous and just a great
guy. I hired Herb[ert E.] Kaufman [Professor of Ophthalmology, Chairman of the
Department of Ophthalmology and Professor of Pharmacology] in ophthalmology.
I do not have to tell you what they have done in ophthalmology since then. It has
been a great show.
P: Herb left here and went to New Orleans.
W: I think he went to both Tulane and LSU. I am pretty sure he did. The most
experienced guy I hired was the failure, [Henry] Lamar Roberts [Professor of Surgery
and Chief of the Division of Neurosurgery] in neurosurgery. He eventually
committed suicide. He was an alcoholic and I did not know it, and I am not sure he
was when he moved here. It finally got so the OR supervisor had to come over at
one o'clock in the morning and get him out of the operating room.
P: Did you bring on a doctor by the name of [Charles Frieman] Crampton [Assistant
Professor of Pathology, College of Medicine]?
P: He also committed suicide and was here at the Medical Center.
W: He was in pathology, was he not?
P: I do not know.
W: I am pretty sure he was in pathology.
P: I just heard his name and I really did not have a chance to check on it.
W: Yes, I remember him now.
P: As I say, all I had was the name.
W: Yes, he committed suicide by taking some severe poison right in his laboratory.
P: He was only about thirty-one, thirty-two years old, with a very, very young family.
It destroyed the family as a result. Sounds to me like you were pretty pleased with
what was happening here right from the very beginning, then.
W: Oh, yes.
P: You were able to attract so many of these really young, but outstanding, individuals.
W: Dr. Harrell gave me a free reign and backed me every time I needed backing.
P: Were you able to offer them the salary so that it became competitive?
W: I could not then because I did not have the money at first. Later on I could.
P: But I mean, what brought those kinds of people?
P: Once again, the same sort of challenge that intrigued you?
W: Yes. They were going to be able to do their field the way they wanted to, and they
P: Ed, talk about the quality of the students that you had in those early years.
W: Well, even from the start in George Harrell's informal way of selecting students, they
turned out pretty darn good. I thought the quality of the student was every bit as
good as those that we had at UCLA. Perhaps not quite as good as Chicago, but
P: What do you mean the "informal way of selecting students?"
W: Oh, I have heard Mark [V.] Barrow [Assistant Professor in Medicine] tell me how
he was selected. He just happened in and Dr. Harrell talked to him for ten or
fifteen minutes, liked him, and offered him a job in his first year of class.
P: Well, it seems to me Dean Harrell knew what he was about, if he picked up people
like Mark Barrow.
W: He did, yes. He made very few mistakes in judging people. He was very good at
P: He was a successful dean, was he not?
W: Very, very attractive to us, to the faculty. We recognized his foibles, but above all,
his primary mission was education. We never had any doubt about it. We knew it,
he knew we knew it, and it was understood that everything was done to do the best
job we could in education.
P: You know one of the things that attracted Dean Harrell to Gainesville, and certainly
one of the things that he liked about this whole set up, was the fact that the medical
school was here on the campus, that it was not in another city and that it was
physically on the campus, which gave the faculty and the students the opportunity to
interact with the rest of the campus. Now, how did you fit into that? Were you ever
on any academic committees or anything?
W: No, but we had a fair amount of interplay with engineering, for example, on
materials used in tissue replacement, this sort of thing. But, of course, I have always
had from the very start an excellent opinion and relationship with veterinary
P: But a lot of that which he was so urgent about, or so insistent about in the 1950s, has
disappeared by the 1990s. I am talking about the early years, the 1950s and the
1960s. He wanted his students to be humanists, for instance, he told me.
W: I think the most important single factor is attitude. If you are set up in Jacksonville
or somewhere like that, you are a trade school. Instead of being an educational
activity, you are a trade school. I think it is the attitude that is the most important
single factor of being a part of the University.
P: But how about you and your social life? Were you part of the University community,
or were your friends and your activities all involved with the medical faculty?
W: Most of our activities have been completely outside of medicine. I have a few very
good friends in medicine. Dick [Richard P.] Schmidt [Associate Dean, College of
Medicine, Professor of Medicine], for example, is my golf partner two or three times
a week. We have always had great social activities with the Enneking's, but the bulk
of our friends are either community or other parts of the University.
P: How did you feel about the medical students having to take courses up the hill in
literature and history and all of those kinds of strange areas?
W: Of course, it did not impact me because I did not have them until they were third
P: So they had already finished with all of that. You did not encourage your third and
fourth year students to take a course outside of medicine?
W: No, it is a little too late. Anytime I had a chance I urged them to take no more
science than they had to, to get into medical school. I said, "Above all, take English
and speech. Learn how to talk and learn how to write." Damn few do it.
P: Of course, so you cannot read their prescriptions.
W: No. There is a lot of medical legal work today, and reading the usual doctor's history
is meaningless. There ought to be a word picture of the illness, and there almost
P: You know, Dr. Harrell, I guess in his dream or his concept, was going to turn this
into a medical school that was really different in many ways from the traditional
school, and in many ways from every other medical school in operation in the United
States. That did not happen. Why not?
W: This is one of the major problems that he faced, and that is that what he wanted to
do cannot be done because of what the community expects from a medical school.
They expect ultra-highly specialized tertiary care. That is what they want. That is
what they expect from us. Their routine health care they can get from Joe Blow
down on the corner. They do not need us for that. So, the public needs ultra-highly
specialized, high-risk stuff. They do not come here for general practice. They go to
their local doctor for that. We ran into that. His idea of teaching like a community
doctor just will not wash because that is not what is expected of us.
P: Did you run into any flack from doctors in town who felt that you were taking bread
out of their mouths?
W: I never did directly, no. Of course, I was always such a good friend of Henry
Baber's, who was not threatened by us at all. He actually hired several of our former
residents as partners because he liked the way we taught them. So, I got feedback.
The only time I ever ran into it was the last year I was still active as department
chairman, and was also president of the county medical society. This jackass, [Bob]
Casey, came to one of our executive committee meetings complaining that the
Shands emergency room was sending all of the non-pay patients to Alachua General.
Of course, it was exactly reverse. We never complained, we just took them. He
threatened to sue us and so on.
P: Now, you elected him to the legislature.
W: Gee, we are hard-pressed, are we not? He was a horse's ass as a medical student.
P: Do you remember what political party he was?
W: Is he?
P: I could not help but say that. As a lifelong Democrat, I had to bring that in.
W: Of course, I voted for Graham and I voted for Clinton.
P: Good. Graham is a friend of mine, and a former student.
W: And a conservative.
P: Right. [Laughter]
W: He and I think very much alike about those things.
P: Yes, he is a very good man. As department chair, were you swamped with
P: Now, that was something kind of new for you too, was it not, Ed?
W: I enjoyed it. I liked it. I got pretty good at it. First of all, I hired some awful good
help. I hired a department manager right off the bat. Actually, I educated one of
my own secretaries into doing that work so she would take care of hiring and training
secretaries. I did not have to bother with that. Initially it was a lot of fun because
we got a lot done. Eventually, things got to the point where committee meetings
P: A pain in the butt.
W: Well, the decisions were made long before that, so all you did at the committee
meeting was just a little window dressing. The decisions had already been made by
the powers that had the power to make the decisions.
P: Are you talking about in the dean's office or in the president's office?
W: Yes, or the hospital director, who, of course, can be a very powerful person in our
P: What kind of an image did you project to your students and your staff? Were you
W: Yes, I was known to be a very aggressive fellow.
P: People were kind of afraid around you?
W: I do not know whether they were or not. They always laughed at me because when
they made a mistake I would just roast them. They knew damn well they were going
to get it.
P: So they laughed instead of crying?
W: No. When they got it, they knew they had it coming. The first years were awfully
nice in the operating room because I ran the operating rooms. The hospital director,
under the state, could not possibly hire the people and pay the salaries it took to get
any kind of decent OR function. He asked me to take it over, so I hired an OR
supervisor in the department of surgery, paid for by surgery, so we could pay her a
decent salary. Then she reported to me and not the hospital director, and it worked
very well. I told her, "Allie, our policy will be that we will finish the elective
schedule every day because that is where we make our money, working." She said,
"Yes, doctor." We could not hire nurses. There just was not enough around and they
cost too much. So, she did most of the leg work and I just provided the money, to
set up a two-year training program for OR technician, on the job, full salary, starting
out with some classroom teaching, then less and less classroom teaching and more
and more service. Then a certificate at the end of the two year program. The
national organization, AORN, the Association of Operating Room Nurses has
adopted our curriculum almost verbatim.
They were local people. Their families were here, their friends were here, whereas
the nurses came in from elsewhere, generally. They were young, single girls who
were here for a few months or a few years and gone. I still see technicians today
that we trained twenty five years ago, still working in our operating room. Valuable
people. They get about half to two-thirds the salary of an RN. So that was a lot of
fun to do, to make a contribution to the institution and to the care that the patients
got from the surgeons.
P: How about explaining to us for the tape how this so-called "discretionary," and I
guess that is not the name of it, but the money that you were able to get from the
patients fees -- what is that called?
W: Well, Dr. Harrell [laughter] used his imagination on that. He made me laugh when
he said, "Ed, we will not call this the private practice fund. If we do, every politician
in the state will be after us. Instead, we will call the money not from where it comes,
but where it is going to go. We will call it the academic enrichment fund." I
thought, "My God! [laughter] Who can say anything bad about that?" What a clever
thing that was, and that desensitized it a great deal. We have had very little trouble
P: Now, how did that work?
W: We have a full-time manager (we still do) who does all of our billing and collecting
for us. He allocates the money, of course, by computer nowadays.
P: Does it work on a percentage?
W: No, he is paid a straight salary.
P: No, I am talking about the amount that you get.
W: No, we pay a certain amount of overhead for the operation of our clinics. I think it
is 11 percent or something like that. We have always given the dean a fairly sizeable
chunk, so that he has a discretionary fund, particularly used in the basic sciences.
We learned this from Duke. Duke has always done this. I think he gets 10 percent.
P: So that is about 21 percent that comes out of it.
W: I guess so, yes. Then it goes to the department, and then the department subdivides
it and we just pay ourselves salaries depending on last year's productivity. By that
I mean academic productivity as well as fees produced, so that a scholar that was
doing outstanding work [but] might not bring in a large number of fee-paying patients
would get paid according to what he is worth to us academically. Then we would
negotiate some salaries with each guy in the department each year.
P: Who subsidizes the library? Is that money that comes from the state, or is that
money that comes from your enrichment fund?
W: I do not think that we have had any regular system of doing it. I think we have just
given them money periodically, mostly for remodeling and what not.
P: Of course, they have staff there and, obviously, they are constantly needing to update
their holdings, periodicals and books.
W: The dean, of course, might use some of his share for that purpose. He used to give
us an accounting every year. We told him we did not really care about that.
P: Who is responsible for maintaining the buildings, sweeping the floors, and polishing
W: The hospital [is responsible] for all of that part of it, which is most of us.
P: I mean your office. Who pays the person who comes in and empties your waste
W: I do not have any idea. Before I was over in the medical sciences building, and I am
sure that was the State of Florida that paid that.
P: Anyway, what I am really asking is, that is not part of the enrichment.
P: Has that worked successfully?
W: Oh, very [successfully], yes. We found early on, of course, that we could develop a
very attractive fringe benefit package tied to the academic enrichment fund so that
the salaries might not look so magnificent, but the support was there in terms of life
insurance and health insurance.
P: Tuition for college for the students?
W: Yes. I sent my daughter to graduate school, in part, from the enrichment fund:
$3800 a year.
P: And it has allowed you to live (and this is no criticism) the good life. I mean the
kind of house and the kind of automobile and the kind of club membership, et
cetera, that you feel that you ..
W: Have you ever seen the contract to the practice of medicine?
W: I do not think it has been changed. Dr. Peter Regan and I helped Dr. Harrell write
it up. It is one and a fourth pages, double spaced.
P: It does not take up much room, then, does it?
W: The University of California document is fifty-eight pages.
P: Well, the program that you set up here has been followed, now, by many other
medical schools, has it not?
W: Yes. And there are all kinds of variations that would work well.
P: They did not innovate this. Dr. Harrell told me that he actually brought the concept
here. It had been at Davison or some other places, and that it was already
established. You were not innovating the enrichment program here.
W: I think that is right, yes. I think we set it up de novo, a little better than most of
them had it -- the concept of hiring a manager right off the bat, so that we did not
have to do our own billing and collecting. I have never seen an insurance form. It
is always done for me.
P: I do not understand this myself, and I would like to get it on the tape. What is this
business of Shands being now a private hospital? How did they privatize this? Start
at the beginning so that we can get the historical development of that.
W: The university system simply could not provide us with the support that we needed.
For example, we started loosing all of our nurses because they would all go to work
at Alachua General or the VA [Veterans Administration Hospital] at higher salaries.
In order to get the salaries up to where we could hold them, it would take as long
as eighteen months to put through a salary increase through Tallahassee. The system
was so cumbersome we could not get the state to recognize that a medical secretary
had different skills from somebody else. We had to pay more money for a medical
secretary. We just had a terrible time. The fights I have had with Bill [William E.]
Elmore [Vice President for Administrative Affairs]--oh! He never did understand
what our problem was. The state was not able to react to meet our needs, so the
agreement was made that the private not-for-profit corporation, Shands, would lease
the hospital from the state for one dollar a year, and they would set up their own
personnel department and so on. Overnight it made an enormous difference.
P: Both financially and morale-wise?
W: Oh, all the way, yes. We could pay attractive salaries right away. We could compete
with the private sector for skilled nursing and skilled technicians and what not.
P: Well, what is your responsibility to the state? Does any money go into the state
treasury or to the University other than the dollar a year bit?
W: I do not think so.
P: So everything stays here for the enhancement of this operation here. Now, that is
just the hospital, that is not the rest of the Health Center, is it? Where does your
salary come from?
W: I am not paid anything now.
P: Well, before you retired.
W: I was paid from the academic enrichment fund. I retired when I was sixty-five.
P: But I mean up until that time, did you receive 100 percent from the enrichment fund
or were you on the payroll of the state in the same way that I am?
W: Mine was about fifty-fifty.
P: I see.
W: I was on the state line, and I got about an equal amount of money from the
P: Okay. That is what I meant. Does that hold true today?
W: They have had to alter it, because if they did not they were going to have to pay
social security tax on both, so they had to combine them and I think everybody is
paid by a single check now.
P: But you do have University personnel like [John V.] Lombardi [University President
and Professor of History] and Jerry [Gerald] Schaefer [Vice President for
Administrative Affairs] and others who are on your administrative staff here?
Lombardi has a relationship to this institution, does he not?
W: I do not have any idea.
P: I think so. I think that on that level there is a connection. When did you retire?
W: I retired as chairman in 1982, when I was sixty-five, and I retired from surgery two
P: Now, between 1982 and 1991, then, how were you paid? Once again from the
W: Yes. I went in to see the dean, the little fellow. I cannot remember his name.
P: [Allen H.] Neims [Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Dean, College of
Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics]?
W: No, before [William Deal] Neims. About a year ahead of time as I was approaching
sixty-five, I went in and said, "Look, when I am sixty-five, I do not want to be
chairman anymore. I have had a belly full of it."
P: You were just tired of it.
W: "I do not want to go to another committee meeting. I do not want to hire anybody
or fire anybody ever again." I said, "I would like to work nine months a year." He
said, "Fine. I will pay you three-fourths of your present salary." So that is what he
did. He paid me by a quarterly check from the enrichment fund, so I was able to
retire on my state money. Now, I added my [time at] UCLA, four and a quarter
years, to that, so I had a pretty darn good state retirement.
P: When you left as chairman of the department, how large had your staff and faculty
grown? You started, you said, I think, with seventeen in the 1950s when you first
W: About that, yes.
P: Where was it in the early 1980s?
W: Well, it had begun to expand quite a bit. We had, I suppose, double that number by
then. We had branched out. For example, we had added pediatric surgery; we had
added vascular surgery as a separate specialty. But on the other hand, we had split
off anesthesia, ophthalmology, orthopedics and neurosurgery as separate departments,
so it makes it kind of hard to add it up.
P: I see.
W: There were fields that were obviously burgeoning like holy hell. My God,
orthopedics! By the time they separated, we had three attending orthopedic
surgeons. Today, they have twenty-six. It is just a very important field of medicine.
Of course, they have gone in heavily into rehabilitation, very heavily into hand
surgery. We have five hand surgeons; five guys who do nothing but hands.
P: What is the relationship between the surgery program here and units outside of
Gainesville like the hospital in Jacksonville?
W: Our main purpose in the Jacksonville affiliation is providing intensive trauma
experience. That emergency room at University Hospital is the eighth busiest
emergency room in the United States, largely [due] to man's inhumanity to man.
God, half of those people in Jacksonville hate each other. So, we have sent residents
over there. We just lease an apartment over there. A fourth-year resident just
moves over there for three months.
P: It is an area of the city I would not want to live in.
W: I know.
P: Even if I grew up in that section.
W: The other direction has been much less utilized. We ought to use it more than we
do. We just bring their residents over occasionally for the rotation or for a period
of time in research or something like that, but is not done on a regular basis.
P: Is there any relationship or work and cooperation with the Mayo Clinic surgery?
P: Their doctors do not come here and your doctors do not go there?
P: You do not do exchange residents?
W: They have residents rotate at the Mayo Clinic, I know, but ours do not.
P: I know the people there were upset when the Mayo Clinic was coming in. Just as
many of the private doctors were upset when Shands came here. They looked upon
it as being a threat, but I guess that has not happened.
W: I do not believe it has. I do not think they have been quite as successful as they
thought they would be either.
P: Mayo has not been?
W: I do not think so.
P: But they have just expanded; they have just opened up a brand new unit over there.
I read about that in the paper. They have just dedicated that in the last month or
so, so obviously they are increasing their services or increasing something over there.
I have never been. Have you ever been on that property?
W: No, I never have.
P: I have never, either, but there would be no reason for me to be going there. They
do not teach any history there.
W: The incentive for going there, of course, was that their income in Rochester was
beginning to taper off, so they were going to branch in Jacksonville and in Phoenix.
The Cleveland Clinic has a branch in Ft. Lauderdale.
P: I know it has. Yes, and they have one of our former foundation directors, Bill
[William K.] Stone [Director of University Development], who is now in charge of
fundraising at the Cleveland Clinic.
W: One of the advantages of group practice that the layman probably does not
appreciate is quality control. See, when I got a bad surgeon, what did I do? I fired
him. Pretty hard to get that in the private sector.
P: Yes, I can see that being very difficult to do.
W: So, that is why when one of my friends want to go to the Mayo Clinic, I do not
discourage them. I say, "Your surgery will not be any better than we can do, but you
know one thing; you will never see a bad doctor because they get rid of them."
P: He does not last very long. Three deaths and that is it; you are out the door.
[Laughter] Tell me about your own health. You have had some problems. We were
talking a little bit about it before we put the tape on. You have had a problem with
your leg, your knee.
W: Yes, I had to have my right knee replaced. It is an old football injury from high
P: Oh, from high school, and you were not even a very enthusiastic athlete in those
W: No. I really did not like football. I have very little arthritis, except in that knee
joint, and of course it is gone now. Dr. Peter Gearen [Associate Professor of
Orthopaedic Surgery] replaced it here in late February. It has been very successful.
I have had a minor problem with glaucoma that was discovered by the chairman.
P: Dr. Ruben?
W: Mel[vin L.] Rubin [Richardson Eminent Scholar and Chairman of Ophthalmology].
He was just checking my refraction.
P: He is going to do me tomorrow morning.
W: He said, "Ed, I don't like the look of those disks. I think we better take a look at
whether or not you have glaucoma," and sure enough, I do. It was never very severe;
I do not have any visual loss at all. So, picking it up accidentally was nice. It
prevented my getting blind.
P: I am going in for my regular checkup tomorrow morning. I do not want to find
anything wrong with me, either.
W: This was seven or eight years ago, I guess. More recently, I have got some heart
problems that are getting slowly more serious as I get older. I am seventy-seven
years old, and Dr. [Mark V.] Barrow is my doctor. He thinks I probably had
rheumatic fever as a youngster because I have mainly valve damage. I do not have
any coronary artery problems, thank goodness, but I have an aortic valve that is too
P: Are you slowing down? Have you slowed down in the last three, four, or five years
as a result of these things?
W: No, not really. I play golf four or five days a week.
P: You have always been an interested golfer, have you not? A good golfer?
W: Well, actually, as ordinary golfers go ..
P: I mean that is a relative thing, I know.
W: I have a seventeen handicap, so I usually shoot just under ninety, and that is not too
bad. I hit more good shots than bad. Above all, I love to get outdoors, and I like
the friendships very much. I do not play much bridge in the wintertime anymore; I
play a lot in the summer when we are up in North Carolina.
P: Play what?
W: A lot of bridge. Of course, with my wife's disability, I do all of the housework.
W: I have a cleaning service that comes in and does the cleaning, but I do all of the
shopping, prepare all of the meals, do all of the dish washing and the clothes
P: You say you are a good golfer. Tell me about your bridge. Are you a good bridge
player, or an excellent bridge player?
W: When we were younger, Dot and I were playing in national tournaments.
P: So, you were an excellent bridge player, then.
W: If we had cared to stay with it, we would have both been life masters [a player of the
highest rank in U.S. contract bridge tournaments], but it just got to be too time
consuming, so we slowed down on that.
P: Do you have a place in North Carolina?
P: You are able to still get up there?
W: Yes, we were there for four months this summer from early June and came back in
P: So Dorothy is able to at least travel that far.
P: Do you drive or fly?
W: Drive. It is only four hundred and forty miles.
P: Where is your place in North Carolina?
W: It is in Cashiers, North Carolina.
P: That is a lovely and beautiful area.
W: Yes, it is.
P: So, you have enjoyed that.
W: Yes. We used to go up to High Hampton, which used to be William Stewart
Halsted's [1852-1922, American surgeon] summer home. He is the most famous
American surgeon of all time. [He was] the first chief of surgery at the Hopkins. He
married a girl named Caroline Hampton, who's family is related to Wade Hampton
here in Gainesville. Her father, Frank Hampton, was killed in the Civil War. Her
uncle, Wade Hampton [1818-1902, elected governor of South Carolina, 1876] was the
first post-[Civil] war governor of South Carolina. She inherited High Hampton which
was their retreat in the summertime when it was cool. Much to her family's
opposition, she went to nursing school. Now, girls of wealthy families just did not go
into nursing, you know. She went to the Hopkins and went into the student nurses
program, and she became Halsted's scrub nurse. We used to dip our hands in
bichloride of mercury after scrubbing, and she got sensitivity to the mercury and he
got the Davol Rubber Company, I think it was, or Goodyear to make very thin
rubber gloves for her (she was by then his girlfriend) to protect her skin. That is why
we all wear rubber gloves today, because Halsted's girlfriend got dermatitis. Well,
they were both fifty-four when they finally got married, and she inherited High
Hampton. He added a lot more property to it and made it into quite a spread.
After they died in 1922, her old maid sisters inherited it and they sold it to the family
that now owns it as a summer resort. We started going there because it is on the
American plan and a lot of fun. You can go there and never worry about fixing your
meals. The cabins are very simple; no TV, not even any telephones. So, we like that
part of it. Later on we bought a condo near there.
P: Ed, I would like you to talk a little bit about your research. I know you have been
a research scholar right from the very beginning.
W: I got involved in it after medical school. I did not get involved in medical school;
many students did in Chicago. It was not until after World War H that I got involved
with Dr. Dragstedt in studying the function of the stomach in relationship to peptic
ulcer disease. Of course, [it is] an extremely common disorder; less common than
it used to be, but still very common. He had, I think, the advantage that the clinician
has in investigation in that he could design an experiment in an animal and get the
answer, and then take the answer to the patient, whereas the basic scientist, of
course, cannot do that. So, it is one advantage that the clinician has when he does
research. He can later apply it to where we want to apply it with the human. That
is what he did. He worked out in the dog what makes the stomach work badly that
can result in a peptic ulcer, and he took that knowledge to the patients and invented
the operation that has been used worldwide ever since in treating a peptic ulcer.
P: So that was the thing that you first started working with?
W: Yes. I got exposed to it first because in January 1943, when I was the intern on his
service, he did the first operation. He had already completed the work that led him
up to that at that time. Then, after the war, I got involved in ongoing research
involving the stomach and peptic ulcers.
P: Has that been your special area of research ever since?
P: You have done dozens and dozens of articles.
P: What about your books?
W: I have only published one that had to do with disorders, what we call a introgenic
disorder from stomach surgery. You operate for one illness and produce another.
We call it post-gastrectomy disorders; people who are sick after their stomach is
P: I hope my transcribers are going to be able to find all of these things in the
dictionary. We may have to buy a medical dictionary.
W: I published the first volume of that shortly after I moved here from California. [The
Postgastrectomy Syndromes] I later published a second edition, and more recently,
my two colleagues, Steve [Stephen B.] Vogel [Professor, General Surgery] and Mike
[Micheal P.] Hocking [Associate Professor, General Surgery and Associate Chief of
Surgery, VA] have brought out a third edition. Here is the recent one.
P: Hocking and Vogel, and this is published by W. B. Saunders Company. It is part of
Harcourt-Brace. And what is that?
W: It is the first edition that was published by Thomas.
P: I should have gotten the date on that. The first edition was published in 1963 by
Charles C. Thomas of Springfield, Illinois.
P: The Bannerstone House. What is the date on that revised edition, the Vogel?
P: Are you working on anything now?
W: Not really. The paper that we have on for the Southern Surgical Association meeting
is along these lines. It is treating a post-gastrectomy disorder of a certain kind.
P: That is coming up?
W: Yes, early December.
P: Where will it be?
W: It is at the Homestead in Warm Springs, Virginia.
P: Are you going to that to present the paper?
P: So that is what you are polishing up at this moment?
P: And you say it will be published?
W: Yes, it will come out in Annals of Surgery.
P: Do you have any plans for any more books?
P: Unless it is going to be your autobiography.
W: Oh, sure.
P: [Laughter] Woodward-Proctor, production on all of this kind of thing. This is, I am
sure, a difficult question to ask because it brings the ego thing into it: How do you
stack yourself up? Where are you? Dean Harrell said he was bringing people here
who were on the cutting edge of being superstars. Did you emerge, would you say,
being completely honest with yourself, as a superstar?
W: I really never looked at myself as a superstar.
P: Did other people regard you as being one of the people at the top, then, in American
W: I think in my field, yes.
P: That is what I am really asking. I mean, how did you stack up with all of these
people from Harvard, Yale, and the California schools?
W: Oh, I think very well. I have never been very active in national medical politics.
P: But that has been true of many of the doctors here, has it not?
P: They have compared very, very favorably with doctors all over the United States and
perhaps on the world scene?
P: So, Dean Harrell's plan, then, did work itself out, did it not?
W: Oh, yes.
P: He brought people who had the ability to produce and who, in fact, did produce.
P: As you look at the medical school today, here, Ed (and you have seen it for as long
as almost anybody has seen it), how do you evaluate the school?
W: I think we have done quite well.
P: It has weaknesses?
W: I just do not see enough of the basic science side to really have any kind of an insight
into that. I am sure we do have weaknesses. They are always awful hard to see
when you are right there. Certainly, we are able to attract really very high quality
students. We can select from a very huge applicant pool, so the quality is really very,
P: Do you think the state made a mistake locating the medical school in Gainesville?
W: Oh, no.
P: It was a wise decision as the years turned out?
W: Yes. Many, many schools where this did not obtain wish they were on their
university's main campus; they would be better off.
W: Because as I say, they will no longer look upon themselves as a trade school. If they
are part of the university, they know then they are a basic part of an educational
P: It adds prestige to the school?
P: And I guess the proximity of having a big library and the other things that a campus
this large offers are attractive, too.
W: Oh, yes.
P: Not the least of which are the Harn Museum and the Center for the Performing
Arts. That must be an attractive thing for new families, students, and all coming into
the community, particularly those who want to live here.
W: Of course, the Ham's son-in-law is one of my former residents from the University
P: David [Cofrin] is one of your protegees?
P: Both he and Maryanne are very nice people.
W: They sure are.
P: And that is an unbelievable asset to the community.
P: Have you been involved over the years in fundraising, attracting money?
W: Never overtly, because I just have never been able to do it. I just cannot seem to ask
anybody for anything. Indirectly, I had one patient I operated on who had a post-
operative stomach disorder and she was literally starving to death. I think when I
first saw her she weighed only sixty-six pounds; a little dried up old lady about sixty-
five years old. She said, "I think this might work. I have tried everything else." So
I operated on her, and she began to eat everything in sight. She gained up to ninety-
five pounds, and to my utter amazement, she and her husband came in and donated
$1.7 million to the department of surgery.
P: So, you had a chair.
W: The Axlines also gave a lot of money to the University.
P: He is a very good friend of mine. I have done an oral history interview with him.
W: Yes, but did he not tell you about his wife?
P: He told me about his wife.
W: You know, they are very unprepossessing people. They do not toot their own horn
at all. I had no idea they could even pay their bill.
P: And not only that, I have seen her ashes in the urn as you come in the front door.
Axline is a very nice guy. We have gone down to Punta Gorda and spent a weekend
W: So I have to accept responsibility for all he has done for surgery and for the
P: And just think, I kept talking to him about Florida history and he just kept laughing.
He is a very nice guy. I have not talked to him in several months now, so I do not
know how he is going now. You know she is deceased, of course.
P: But he is still plugging. He made his money in the Brown Shoe Company. He told
me all about that, but I got his story down on tape, so it is really very good.
I want to talk to you a little bit more about Ed Woodward, now. I think we
have talked about the professional Ed Woodward, what about the private Ed
Woodward? Are you a religious man?
W: No. My parents sent me to Sunday school until I got to be thirteen, and then I got
too big to play on the Sunday school basketball team, so I quit. I have never been
back since. The only religious experience I had was the one at Grinnell College,
when I thoroughly enjoyed the music at the vesper service every Sunday afternoon.
That is the only time I have ever ..
P: How about your family?
W: No, never, and neither have my grandparents [or] my parents.
P: And your children?
W: No, they do not go to church either.
P: Would you say you had a religious faith, though?
W: Well, I guess so, yes. I do not know for sure what it is.
P: What did you do for fun? You played bridge; you played golf. I know you like to
travel a lot. Did you see much of the world in all of these years?
W: Yes, we have traveled a great deal. That is why we really do not regret not being
able to travel now because we have really done a lot of it.
P: The East and Europe and all of those places?
W: Yes. I have not seen that much of the Orient, really, in peacetime. I saw it in
P: More than you wanted to see then.
W: Yes, I will say. We have seen just about all of Europe repeatedly. Of course, early
on, in 1925, when I was nine years old, my father built a cottage on Clear Lake,
Iowa, which is fifteen miles from Mason City. We moved over there in the
summertime. His colleagues thought he was crazy. Who on earth would think of
commuting fifteen miles to work, but he did. Of course, we know now why he did
it. He wanted to get us off the streets and get us down to the lake where we, of
course, all became excellent swimmers. My sister and I swam three miles across the
lake when I was eleven and she was nine. We would move over there when school
was out in June and move back Labor Day when we had to go back to school. We
did quite a bit of fishing, but not that much; mostly swimming and diving.
P: Are you a fisherman now?
W: No. When I get invited, I go, but I do not go on my own initiative very often, ever.
P: Were you ever a tennis player?
W: I have tried, but I am not very good at it. I have got an old fracture in my left hand.
I am left-handed. I have got just enough bone in that wrist that I cannot put any spin
on the tennis ball.
P: Do you do any gardening?
W: Yes, I do a lot of that.
P: Do you like that?
W: I take awful good care of my birds. I have got three beautiful woodpeckers right
now. Man, they are gorgeous. They are in there eating my sunflower seeds every
day. I sit and have my second cup of coffee and watch them eat.
P: What do you do about squirrels?
W: Oh, I like squirrels, too.
P: So you do not mind if they come and eat also?
W: One of the feeders is squirrel-proof.
P: Oh, I see.
W: They cannot get in it. The one they can get in, I put cheap feed in. I like squirrels.
I think you can say that I was born and raised with a reverence for life.
P: You have certainly been in the profession that has attempted to enhance that over
the years, Ed. Have you been happy with your life?
W: Oh, very. Yes.
P: Not any disappointments?
W: No. I had a couple of opportunities to go into administrative jobs. I was asked to
be considered for vice president at the University of Iowa, my native state. I would
not even go for an interview. What do they call that law where you get promoted
out of your area of expertise. I knew I was pretty good at what I was doing. The
next level up would be over my head.
P: So, you had started to say that you had got into the right profession at the right time
and you have enjoyed it?
W: Very much, yes. Of course, I have always loved clinical surgery. It has always been
a challenge, and I am a hand oriented person who was able to do, technically, pretty
good work. But above all, I had such a good scientific background, thanks to Dr.
Dragstedt, that I could think along with my hands, and that makes a good
P: Did Dragstedt leave a family?
W: Yes, their daughter lives in their house here in Gainesville. I saw her this morning.
She works as a volunteer here every Tuesday morning.
P: What is her name?
W: Charlotte Jeffery.
P: Where is their house?
W: It is on NW Eleventh Road, just off Twenty-Second Street.
P: Right near us, then, because we live on Ninth right off Twenty-Second Street. She
lives on the next street over. I do not know her, but that does not mean anything.
There are a lot of people there I do not know, even though we have been living in
that house since 1954.
W: Her husband was a clinical psychologist who spent most of his career in the army
designing testing devices for various and sundry things in the military, and when he
retired they came here to Gainesville and assumed the house that the Dragstedt's
had lived in.
P: So as you look back over seventy-seven years, can you say that you have been a
happy, contented man, both personally and professionally?
P: Are you unhappy about the kind of world in which we live?
W: Very. I just cannot get over the tremendous amount, as I said of Jacksonville, of
man's inhumanity to man. It is just so unnecessary, so uncalled for. I do not
P: Of course, this whole century has been characterized by that.
W: It sure has, yes.
P: You just finished reading that biography of Lenin, and that is just part of the story
of the twentieth century.
W: Yes. In contrast to that, I also just finished reading [Douglas] MacArthur's biography
by [William Raymond] Manchester [American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur. 1880-
1964]. I met him in Tokyo.
P: When you were stationed there?
W: During the war, yes.
P: Have you read [David] McCullough's Truman biography yet [Truman]?
W: I have not, but I have got to read that.
P: [Is there anything that you have] not said, Ed, that ought to be said on this tape?
W: I have not said very much about Dr. Dragstedt.
P: I would like you to talk about Dr. Dragstedt. That is something that I have got
written down here. I knew of your close association with him. Has his biography
ever been written?
W: It is being written right now. John Landor, who worked with us in the laboratory in
Chicago as a medical student, has just recently retired at the Brooklyn VA Hospital
and Downstate Medical Center.
P: Talk to us about that.
W: He sent me the first three chapters to review, so he is underway and is going to have
P: You were his closest friend, were you not?
W: I think so, yes.
P: Tell me about him. Who was he and where did he come from and where did he get
his medical training?
W: His parents were Swedish immigrants, and they came to this country and wound up
in Anaconda, Montana, of all places, largely because it was mainly Swedes who were
willing to work in the copper mines, and his father was a blacksmith.
P: When did they come?
W: I do not remember the dates.
P: Early on in the century?
W: Oh, I think late nineteenth century, probably. Dr. Dragstedt left Anaconda in 1911
for the University of Chicago.
P: So they came before the turn of the twentieth century, then?
W: Yes. He had contact with Anton J. Carlson, who when I went to medical school was
the chairman of physiology at Chicago. He was a Swedish immigrant himself, and
he went to Augustana College in Rock Island studying for the Baptist ministry, and
he was sent to Anaconda to fill in for a preacher, and stayed with Dr. Dragstedt's
uncle in Anaconda. While he was there, he saw the light and became a rather
militant atheist. He had no use for organized religion at all. He managed to borrow
enough money to go to Stanford and get a PhD in physiology. He went to the
Rockefeller Institute from there, to the University of Chicago, where he wound up
as chairman of physiology. What a guy; what a character.
Dr. Dragstedt was just finishing high school, so his father wrote back to Carlson in
Chicago and said, "What can I do with this boy?" Carlson said, "Send him to
Chicago. If he can't make it here, then back to the copper mines."
P: [Laughter] What a choice.
W: So he wound up in Chicago, and of course went right up the line: bachelor's and a
master's in physiology, and a PhD. Chicago still has the idea that medical teachers
should be PhD-MDs. Almost all of my teachers were, whether they were in clinical
medicine or a basic scientist. Although he intended a career in physiology, Dr.
Carlson insisted that he go to Rush, which was owned and operated by Chicago, and
get a MD degree. So he went over and took a rather perfunctory MD degree, and
never even took an internship. In fact, [he] became chairman of physiology at
Northwestern, and this is 1925. Dr. Phemister was the first chairman of surgery at
Chicago; the Rockefeller built the medical school there to copy the one at Hopkins.
His most famous scientific work was the discovery of aseptic necrosis of bone; that
is why people with hip fractures do not do well.
Anyway, he had been at Rush and he moved over to Chicago to take over the
chair for the surgery in the new medical school there on the south side right on the
campus at the Billings Hospital. He wanted to build research facilities right in the
department, so he hired Dr. Dragstedt as a consultant to come out there and design
some laboratory space for the department of surgery. When Dr. Dragstedt met with
him later on to show him the working drawings he had figured out, Dr. Phemister
said, "That is all very well, Dr. Dragstedt. But which is your office and which is your
laboratory?" He had intended to hire him all the time. Dr. Dragstedt said, "Dr.
Phemister, I am a physiologist. I am not a surgeon." Dr. Phemister said, "I believe
I can teach surgery to a physiologist. I am interested in teaching physiology to
surgeons." How nice to teach function to surgeons. Obviously, a surgeon has to be
an applied anatomist.
Dr. Dragstedt went home and his wife said, "You accepted, didn't you?"
P: [Laughter] It sounds like a conspiracy.
W: So anyway, the Rockefeller Foundation sent him to Europe for two years while the
Billings Hospital was being finished. For example, he took an elective course with
Freud. That is how interested he was in everything. Of course, he worked in
surgery, and particularly in Budapest, and came back to Chicago as the associate
professor of surgery. Just think, he not only never had a residency, he never even
had an internship! [Laughter]
P: But he had studied with Freud.
W: So he became, one of the leading academic surgeons of all time with this rather
unusual background. Well, when Dr. Phemister retired in 1947, Dr. Dragstedt was
made chairman. He was really too kind to be a chairman. He was not mean like
I was; he would not fire people. I remember, for example, the residents who were
not being rehired found out about it on June 30 when the call schedule came out for
July 1. He never had the heart to tell them they were canned.
But in any event, when he reached retirement age, here he is a card-carrying
physiologist. He wanted to give up clinical medicine and go back into pure
physiology, and you would think Chicago would inhale him. They never offered him
a job. Well, I was going to the university surgeon's meeting in Boston in January
1958. I had only been here a few months, and I had breakfast with two of my friends
from the University of Chicago. They told me the story. I said, "That just sounds
like an utter waste of a great fellow." So, I came back here on a Saturday, and
Sunday I always came in and saw George Harrell in his office. He always came into
work on Sunday in a sport shirt. All he did was dictation, standing up. [Laughter]
So here he was standing with the dictaphone in his hand and I walked in. I said,
"George." He said, "Hi Ed, what have you got on your mind?" I said, "Well, I have
got a story to tell you." I did not even finish. He said, "Let's hire him."
P: Just like that.
W: He caught on right away. He called him up and said, "Dr. Harrell would like to offer
you an emeritus position in surgery and physiology. You can teach both medical
students and the graduate students, and we would like to have you come down and
look us over." Dr. Dragstedt says, "Oh, that is not necessary. I am quite willing to
come. If Ed says it is all right, it will be all right." Of course, I had run his lab for
nine years, and he knew that I knew exactly what he would want to do. It was just
made to order. They were here sixteen years and you never saw people have more
fun in your life.
P: I met him several times. He was a wonderful person.
W: He loved everybody. They were active in everything. Not only on the University, but
in the community at large.
P: I know. You saw them at plays and you saw them at concerts and you saw them
W: Yes, and boy was he active in the teaching and in research. He taught graduate
students in the physiology department, and we set up an elective course in surgery
where the students could repeat certain classic experiments, and of course, they get
to operate, but above all, they could repeat Pavlov's experiment with the conditioned
reflex and so on. It was a marvelous experience for them. We had to give it up
eventually because of cost. God, it cost an enormous amount of money. We could
only offer it to about twenty-four students, and as the student body expanded, it was
just too small of a segment. So we finally gave it up, but he certainly had an impact.
He had a lot of our residents who worked with him and published with him.
P: Of course, you were delighted to have him here in the community.
W: Oh, God, yes. It was just an enormous plus factor.
P: Has his reputation continued?
W: Oh my, yes. The very end of September, I was at Yale. A young fellow there,
named Modlin, in the department of surgery put on a course, and I think you might
call it sort of a festschrift, celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of Dr.
Dragstedt's birth. But, Dr. Modlin is just a little associate professor of surgery at
Yale who does GI tract surgery. He is a South African guy, and how he got involved,
I do not have any idea, but he got tied to the society. He put on a fantastic day's
program which went from 7:00 in the morning till 10:30 at night, nonstop. He
himself gave the address, which of course was a biographical sketch, [and it was]
beautifully done. We had experts from all over the world. One of my good friends
from Capetown [South Africa] was there who I had not seen in thirty years. I had
known him well when he was in Philadelphia. Right up on the cutting edge of the
last word about stomachs and peptic ulcer. God, it was well done. Dr. Dragstedt's
children were all there, and we had a marvelous dinner party, and of course, we had
the Yale Men's Glee Club sing to us. Oooh! So, it was a lovely day. He would have
loved every bit of it.
P: Is there a lectureship or a chair or a named professorship?
W: Our surgery library is named after him. It is the Dragstedt Library of Surgery. The
money was donated by former residents and patients.
P: There is no chair in his name or a named lectureship?
P: Well, you are a great fundraiser, that is your next step. [Laughter]
W: We really ought to do that. I have always been very bad about asking for things.
P: Well, here you have got a motive.
W: Yes, I better get to work on it.
P: You better find some of those rich patients whose lives you have saved over the
years; not only Bob Axline, but others.
W: Research has gotten so different; organ physiology is just too gross anymore. If you
are not at the subcellular level you are just not on the cutting edge anymore. Most
of us in surgery and medicine just do not have that good of a scientific background.
So I feel lost every time I go to a meeting. I do not know what the hell they are
talking about most of the time.
P: Did he have the greatest influence on you, in terms of your professional life?
W: Oh, yes.
P: Dr. Dragstedt was your mentor, then?
W: Yes. When I was still in the navy, driving back and forth from Great Lakes, he put
me on to the first experiment that I had ever done. With luck, it was an absolute
1000 percent success. It proved the presence of a hormone that had been thought
not to exist, a very powerful hormone that had been missed. [It was] first described
in 1905 and we rediscovered it in 1946 or 1947 in his laboratory. Of course, he did
all of the thinking; I just did as I was told. Within twenty years, two scientists in
Britain isolated the hormone, and determined its amino acid sequence and
P: Is Dr. Dragstedt of Nobel [Prize] level?
W: Yes. I do not know why he was never considered because Dr. Huggins, a fellow
professor of Chicago, was named a Nobel Prize winner. His [Dragstedt's] scientific
work was clearly better; not that Huggins was not great. It was a great concept, the
idea that certain cancers are hormone dependent. Nonetheless, I think his
[Dragstedt's] breadth of contribution was much greater. I do not know why he was
P: Are you the mentor of students in the way that he was of you?
W: Yes, I have been. I have, of course, fallen out of it completely since I retired as
P: Well, in the last decade, but you were very active in the 1960s and the 1970s.
W: Oh, yes. Our main interest was in producing community general surgeons, which
most of our people have done, but we have had a half a dozen who have done very
well. My most recent success is chief of the GI surgery section at the University of
Iowa. He has done very well. He has been there seven or eight years now, and he
is world class at what he does.
P: You have just come back, you said, from your reunion?
W: That was in June of 1992.
P: Oh, a year ago. You saw lots of changes in those people that you had known many
years ago. They have all gotten old.
P: Everybody but present company.
W: The turnout was terrible. We had sixty-eight in my class. Twenty-three of us are still
alive. Only nine were there; very poor turnout. But I did see a lot of my professors;
some of them are very long lived. Dr. Walter Lincoln Palmer in gastroenterology is
ninety-two. Dr. Paul Hodges in radiology is ninety-six. Dr. Huggins is ninety; still
alive and active. So I saw quite a few of them.
P: You know it is kind of amazing too that so many of the people who came here in the
1950s are still alive and thriving. Of course, that is not quite so long ago, but that
is still a long time. Not a great many of them have died.
P: And a lot of them are right here in the community.
P: All waiting for me to arrive with a tape recorder. I have done Dick [Richard T.]
Smith [Professor and Chairman of Pathology], by the way. He tells a good story.
That was a good interview.
W: His appointment in pathology was very controversial because he is not a card-
carrying pathologist at all. I thought it was a great move. The department of surgery
subsidized him quite a bit, and helped him get started. He has, of course, done a
P: Then he went (of all places) to the foundation.
P: Well, Criser talked him into that, I guess; for good or for evil. But he did a good job
while he was there in doing that. I do not know how happy he was, but I think it was
a successful five or six years. Well, I want to thank you, sir. I wonder if there is
something that you are sitting there saying, "I wonder why Proctor has not asked me
about that, yet?"
W: No. One thing I was anxious about was to tell you the Dragstedt story.
P: Oh, I am glad you did that. When did they die?
P: The same year as Mrs. Dragstedt?
W: She may have lasted until 1976. She did not live long. She had pretty far advanced
Alzheimers; went downhill awful fast. I do not know how long she lived after he
P: What did he die of?
W: He had a heart attack.
P: How old a man was he at the time?
W: He was just under eighty-two.
P: Had he had a heart condition?
W: No. He had tuberculosis (as so many of us did in the early days), particularly with
his soldiering in Europe, and he had to have a kidney removed when he was a
younger man, but since that time he had never had a serious illness. He had just left
Gainesville to go to their summer place up on Elk Lake, Michigan, and had been
there only about two weeks when he woke up one morning with crushing substernal
pain. His physician's son had just arrived the night before, thank goodness, and was
able to attend him and recognize the problem. He lived only minutes; the way we
would all like to go.
P: Oh, sure. Where is he buried?
W: I do not think he is. I am pretty sure he was cremated and the ashes were spread
over the lake up there. There was a University of Chicago colony that owned a large
part of the shore of this lake. It is right next to the Torch Lake, which is much
better known. It is north of Traverse City and I am sure that is where they spread
P: Well, he certainly has left a great name behind him. Who is this over here? That
W: That is Dr. Dragstedt.
P: Oh, I can see him, and that is you?
P: Dressed up?
W: Suit and tie on. That was taken on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his first vagotomy,
January 18, 1968.
P: And who is that?
W: That is Theodore Billroth, the father of modern abdominal surgery. He was in
Vienna and did the first successful removal of the stomach in 1881.
P: And you have a letter of his?
W: It is a translation that Dr. Dragstedt put on there, yes. Up until that time, it was
thought that the abdominal cavity could not be entered; it would be fatal to enter the
P: A lot has changed in a hundred years, has it not? And maybe we are just standing
at the threshold of the great things that will come in the next hundred years.
W: Yes. Who knows?
P: You and I will not be around to enjoy them, but we have come a long way since the
day of our parents and grandparents.
W: Well, this is one place where Clinton is going to run into a buzz saw.