Interviewee: Dr. Melvin Rubin
Interviewer: Samuel Proctor
Date: May 7, 1996
P: I am interviewing Dr. Melvin Rubin in a conference room of the J. Hillis Miller
Health Center. Today is May 7, 1996. Please give me your full name.
R: Melvin Lynne Rubin.
P: Where did the middle name Lynne come from?
R: I made it up. I made it up in high school. I had a teacher whom I really
admired. His middle name was Lynne and I wanted to model myself after him.
I just adopted the name.
P: You were not given that middle name when you were born?
R: No, when I write my name officially--for Social Security and for the IRS [Internal
Revenue Service]--I write Melvin Rubin.
P: When were you born?
R: May 10, 1932.
P: Where were you born?
R: I was born in San Francisco.
P: How did it happen that your family lived in San Francisco?
R: My parents were both from Poland. My father came over in about 1928 or 1929.
His brother and sister were already here in the United States. They brought
him over. He worked here for a few years, then went back to Poland and
married my mother. She came back with him on a boat. They came into New
York and [then traveled to] San Francisco because that was where his family
P: What was your father's name?
R: Morris Rybaczki.
P: And your mother's full name?
R: Maida Gelman.
P: Where were they from in Poland?
R: From a small town outside of Vilna, called Lida.
P: Did your father know your mother before he left [Lida] and came to the United
R: Yes he did.
P: What kind of work did he do?
R: He was a specialist tailor. He made vests. Actually, he was a super-specialist.
He made vest pockets--pockets for vests.
P: Do you have their birth dates?
R: I think my father was born somewhere around 1895 and mother in 1914. I am
not exactly sure, but I think those are the birth dates.
P: Did they leave family behind?
P: Were they decimated in the camps?
R: Yes they were.
P: You lost family in World War II?
R: Yes. I remember writing to my grandmother in Yiddish during the 1930s. About
1942 we [received] the last communications we ever got from them.
P: Has any effort been made to see if there were any survivors?
R: Yes, my mother made some effort. She learned she had a brother who did
survive and went to Israel. Aside from him, there was no one else left.
P: All right. Let us talk about your early life in San Francisco. First of all, let me
ask you if you have any siblings.
R: Yes, I do. I have a sister [who is] two years younger.
P: What is her name?
R: Phyllis Tannin.
P: Where is she living?
R: She now lives in Chappaqua, New York. It is a suburb of New York City.
P: It sounds like an Indian name to me.
R: I think it is. [Laughter]
P: You grew up in San Francisco and went to school there. Give me some dates.
When were you graduated from high school?
R: I went to an academic high school, Lowell High School, in San Francisco, and
graduated in 1949.
P: What was an academic high school?
R: It was the only high school you could go to from anywhere in town. I think there
were ten or twelve [regular high schools] in San Francisco. For Lowell, you had
to be accepted for admission, though it was still a public high school. All the
other high schools were regional, where you had to attend if you lived within a
certain radius [from it].
P: The usual neighborhood high school.
R: Yes, Lowell was geared for academic people who were a little bit more interested
P: [Geared] for people going off to college?
R: Yes, and you competed to get into this high school. It was [in a way] like the
Bronx High School of Science. I think, 98 percent of people from that high
school went on to college.
P: Were you interested in the sciences early on?
R: Yes. I attended an intermediate school after grammar school, which was like
[Gainesville s] P.K. Yonge School, but in San Francisco. It was a part of the
San Francisco State Teacher's College. I do not know what it is called now, but
it was part of the teacher's state college [system] in San Francisco. The college
had a practice school, where as part of their internship the teachers conducted
classes in this school--for grammar school and junior high school students. It
was called the Frederick Burke School. I went there for the two years before high
school. A teacher there got me interested in science. I was always a
gadgeteer, and played with building radios from scratch, that is when my interest
in math and science started.
P: You did not neglect the humanities, did you?
R: No. I was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family, and the humanities were always
part of our culture. Religion played a big part of my early years. My family s
whole cultural life [revolved] around the synagogue, [religious] activities, and
social things dealing with the synagogue, but always leaning toward charity,
doing social services, and things of that sort.
P: Did you have a close family relationship?
R: Yes. We did not have any money. The maximum my father ever earned during
his whole lifetime was something like $3,000 a year, although that was a
reasonable amount of money in the 1930s. We never had a car. We lived in an
apartment building in a three-room apartment. I always shared a room with my
sister. There were not that many rooms in the place. My parents lived in the
living room, and I lived with my sister in the bedroom, which was also the dining
room, which was also part of the kitchen. It was a very close family--not just
physically close. We did everything together.
P: Did you have cousins?
R: My father's sister lived around the corner from us. She had three children.
They were half a generation ahead of us, so we were not too close to them
academically, though we were closer physically. They were already adolescents
when we were little kids. They were grown up when we became adolescents.
Our families did spend a lot of time [together] mostly on the Sabbath and
holidays. We visited each other all the time.
P: Growing up in that kind of Jewish household, did you attend Hebrew school a
R: For seven days a week, from the time I was five, until I turned sixteen, I
remember every day after I finished [regular] school, I would go down the hill to
Hebrew school. It was from 3:30 to 6:00 every afternoon. On Saturdays, we
had services in the morning, and we studied in the afternoon. On Sundays, it
was the same thing in the morning. We had off Sunday afternoons.
P: Growing up like that through high school, were you able to find time and develop
any interests in sports and other activities?
R: No, basically no. I never felt physically capable to do sports. I was not weak or
anything, but sports were just not my thing. I did not have very good vision. I
did not know that trees really had leaves until I got my first glasses at age seven
or eight. My vision not being up to snuff, I always felt that I should not
participate in sports, not to risk damaging my vision any further. So I never
really played any sports.
P: Did the Depression decade impact your family in any kind of a harsh way?
R: Yes it did. Vests in this country were not exactly the avant-garde. During the
1930s, they were fading in terms of popularity. [Father] had a hard time finding a
job. He worked in a small factory, a mill shop with people making vests, which
were losing popularity. I remember being hungry during the 1930s.
P: Your mother did not work outside of the home at all?
R: No. She actually had more formal education than my father. She went through
high school. My father only finished the third or fourth [elementary] grades.
Her father was a principal of the gymnasium, which was in Europe [equivalent
to] the high school [here]. So she had more formal schooling. For her English
was easier than for my father. I could not speak English until I started grammar
school, since we did not speak English at home back then.
P: You all spoke Yiddish at home?
R: Yes, we spoke Yiddish at home. So [as I was] going to school, I helped promote
English at home to my parents. They became citizens during the 1930s and had
to learn English. They eventually became quite comfortable with English, but it
was not their basic language.
P: Did they talk with an accent?
P: Just as my grandparents. So you leave Lowell High School in 1949?
P: That meant you were not old enough to get caught up in World War II.
R: World War II was over just before I started high school.
P: Did you have to work while you were in high school?
R: Yes. I did odd jobs. I worked for a grocery store to help with the family
[finances]. You had to have a permit to work [before] you turned sixteen. So,
before that time, I sold magazines. I also sold newspapers and delivered
newspapers. I did anything I could to try to help with the earnings for the family.
P: It does not sound like you had much of a social life either, [when you were] going
through high school.
R: No, not when you remember that I had a personal obligation to attend Hebrew
school and to work within the religious environment. By age sixteen, I was
finally becoming an adolescent. Actually, mine was a late adolescence, as I
became aware of the other sex. I had friends in high school who started to show
me that there were more social aspects of life. In fact, through the YMCA, [they]
introduced me to a dance group. That did not sit well with my parents. This
was a formal social group. I started to realize there was another life out there,
besides family and religion. It was fun socializing. I became very close friends
with two people in high school, with whom I have maintained a friendship all the
way, even to this day.
P: When did you learn that there was a world beyond San Francisco?
R: When I went to college. I did pretty well academically when I was in high school.
You will find this interesting. I had a number of scholarship offers, but these
were boiled down to two that were close by--either the University of California at
Berkeley, or Stanford [University at Stanford, California]. I did not have to
travel very far from the family. The Stanford [University scholarship] was for
$1,000 a year. The problem was that it covered the tuition for Stanford, but it did
not cover room, board, books, or living expenses. I got a $250 scholarship to
the University of California. The tuition there was only $37 a semester. Since
with the scholarship was $250 a year, I could pay room and board, books, tuition
with it, and still have spending money left over. We did not have any money. I
could not afford to take the $1,000 scholarship to Stanford. In retrospect, I have
not regretted it, but I have always wondered what would have happened had I
gone to Stanford instead of the University of California.
P: So you went to Berkeley?
R: Yes, I went to Berkeley.
P: Berkeley was already a school with some prestige to it.
R: It was a wonderful college, and a wonderful environment. Up until then I always
lived at home, so it was my first chance to get away from the family environment.
P: And to have your own room?
R: Well, I shared it with a roommate. He was a friend of mine from religious school
and from our old neighborhood. We have continued to be close ever since. He
went in structural engineering, and I stayed on with what I started in high school,
research in vision.
P: So what year did you start at Berkeley?
R: In 1949. There was one more side-point that I wanted to bring up. Again, it
showed my interest in science. During high school, one of my teachers
encouraged me to enter the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, a national
contest. I got an honorable mention in it just by taking an exam and writing a
scientific paper on vision. I was interested in stereoscopic vision even back
then. I followed that trail. I am sure that was the reason I was offered some of
the many scholarships to the other universities. I had followed that trail, using
my interest in vision. Incidentally, the paper that I wrote was on
telestereography, dealing with stereoscopic vision. I sought out people at
Berkeley who were interested in using that topic as a practical tool. I was
referred to a professor of forestry, since that profession uses telestereography in
forestry for doing contour mapping.
P: What is telestereography?
R: Tele- meaning distance, and stereography meaning the stereoscopic vision --for
measuring distances and depth. They use that technique by flying planes, taking
two separate but parallel photographs of the ground, and then using the paired
images to construct contour lines. This is how they draw contour maps of
elevations of mountains, valleys, and earth s surface irregularities. The forestry
department was already doing that, technically. So I was connected up with
them as soon as I started [at] Berkeley. I began doing some research in the
forestry department. Then they connected me with somebody in optometry who
was doing the same thing, but more on the vision side. That is how I became
interested in optometry while I was at Berkeley.
P: So Berkeley was set up really to meet your own special needs and inclinations?
R: It was not set up that way. It was there.
P: All of this was there?
R: It was there, and I could take advantage of it. It was such a wonderful thing. At
the time there were only 10,000 students at Berkeley. Right now there are
P: Where did you live?
R: I lived in the shadow of the University, in Berkeley.
P: Did you live in a rooming house?
R: Yes, exactly.
P: What kind of a life did you lead in Berkeley? Once again, was there anything
outside of the classroom and the library for Mel Rubin?
R: I joined Hillel, the Jewish organization for students. They had social activities.
At that time, Israel was just being formed. Remember this was just 1949. The
state of Israel came into existence in 1948. There was a tremendous Zionist
movement among Jewish students. It was called the International Zionist
Federation of America (IZFA). I became involved in that group, and also with
folk dancing and Hebrew music. There was one more thing I just recalled that I
had forgotten, in connection with a continuing thread in my cultural life. I was
always involved in some aspect of music, either listening or playing in an
orchestra. I used to play the violin. I played that instrument in grammar school,
junior high school, and high school. When I went to college, I just did not have
time to do that in addition to everything else. But I was always involved in
P: Did you take violin lessons?
R: I did, all the way up to the time I started college. Then, I just did not have time
[to carry on]. In fact, even during college, I took some lessons for a year or two,
not regularly, but a couple times a month.
P: Of course it was not uncommon for young Jewish boys to take lessons to be a
R: Correct. In fact in the late 1930s and early 1940s, maybe three or four years
before I started there, the principal of our Hebrew school in San Francisco was
[Yehudi] Menuhin's [American violinist] father. He was the principal of the
school. So he served as the model; you were always going to be another
P: Or a Jascha Heifetz [American violinist]?
R: Jascha Heifetz was also very famous at the time. I remember going to a movie
that the entire Hebrew school was taken to. It was called They Shall Have
Music. It was with Jascha Heifetz. I think it was the only movie they ever made
with him, but it was shown in many movie theaters.
P: I heard Jascha Heifetz play in Jacksonville, I think, or perhaps it was here in
Gainesville. Anyway, I know that was what Jewish parents dreamed of, that
their son would become another musician like Heifetz or Menuhin.
R: Either that or a doctor.
P: Could you be both at the same time? [Laughter]
R: At the time I was in college, I was really not interested in becoming a doctor of
medicine. I felt it would take too long and I could not afford it. It would take
another eight years after college, and here I was struggling to make my way
through the undergraduate years. I worked in the library to help support my way
through college. I partook in some other things besides IZFA and Hillel. You
asked about the other activities. I started fencing. I needed something to do
physically. As I said, I was not a sports-minded individual, so I took up fencing
in college. Actually, I eventually got to be pretty good in intercollegiate fencing.
I fenced all three weapons [foil, epee, and saber]. When I became a junior, the
coach of the fencing team left because he was ill. They asked whether I would
take over the coaching job. Now that was almost ludicrous, because here I was
really a rank amateur. On the other hand, I was pretty good with teaching things
to people. So they asked me to do it. There was a downside, it meant giving
up my eligibility to compete in intercollegiate scale. If you became a sport
professional, such as a coach, you could not be a fencer on the team. I wrestled
with that question for a long time since I loved the competition. However, an
extra $50 a month looked incredibly good to me while I was going to college.
Finally I decided I would take the coaching job. I coached for two years, our
team winning the Pacific Coast Conference championship my second year.
Actually, during my first year of medical school, which was in Berkeley, I was also
a part time coach.
P: So have you given up fencing and violin?
R: I have given up the violin, although I started again when I moved to Gainesville.
But I recognized that I know good music, good musicians, and I did not
appreciate the way I could play.
P: You were not Jascha Heifetz.
R: [I was] far below [him]. I could really not tolerate my music.
P: What about the fencing?
R: It was a wonderful physical activity and I made many friends through fencing, but
I gave that up. When we came here, I started to fence again on campus. I
knew I had to stay with it if I wanted to stay active. I decided I just did not have
time for that.
P: Back to when you were at Berkeley two years. What was this AA degree that
R: It was a degree achieved on the way to a bachelor's degree [BA], awarded. At
the end of two years, after completing a general arts curriculum--the associate of
arts [AA] degree.
P: We have that same program at the University of Florida [and at all community
colleges in Florida].
R: I am sure you do. It was an intermediate degree. If you wanted to stop there,
you have at least some degree.
P: That was why I could not quite figure out what was happening with your record.
You graduated in 1953?
R: In 1951, I received from Berkeley the AA degree, which I had to have to get into
optometry. At that time, optometry school also took two years. In 1951 I
entered optometry school, with my AA degree.
P: Was the optometry school also physically located on the campus, in Berkeley?
R: Yes, it was, it was also at Berkeley. Now, I never did want to go out and
practice optometry. As far as the practice of optometry goes. I felt that was just
selling glasses. I did not want to do that. I wanted [to work with] the scientific
aspects of it. I was thinking of staying on to get a Ph.D in the physiology of
vision. After one year of optometry, I realized that I really wanted more out of
life. I could do more and I was capable of doing more. One of my teachers
[Gordon Walls], in optometry, convinced me that I ought to try to get into medical
school. Originally, I rejected that. It was not what I wanted to do. It was what
my parents would have liked me to do, but it was not what I was interested in
[going to medical school]. My teacher exerted enough pressure, intellectual
pressure. It was a tease, a challenge. He said, "You can really do it." I said
no, I did not think I had the will or the financial wherewithal to actually go through
that much time. Nor did I know if I had the intellect to be a physician. He
convinced me that I did and I left it up to fate since I applied to only one school,
the University of California, since it was the only place I could afford. Tuition
was ridiculously low by our standards now. It was a $100 a year for a resident
of the state of California. I was entitled to apply, and if I got in, that was all I
would have to pay. I applied to the University of California at San Francisco and
I got in.
P: So the school was in San Francisco, but it was part of the California university
R: Yes, it was part of the University of California system. The first year of medical
school at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco was
actually held in Berkeley. So I just stayed in Berkeley for another year, making it
a period of five years that I lived there.
P: Unlike the University of Florida, the main medical school was not on the campus?
R: Officially, the medical school was located in San Francisco. [back to the
decision,] during my third year of college at Berkeley, when I was coaching
fencing and going to optometry school, I decided I would like to try to go to
medical school, but I also wanted to finish optometry. Thus, I had to double up
on taking pre-med courses while taking the optometry curriculum. I had to go to
summer sessions, nights, weekends, and complete everything to keep up.
P: And working at the same time?
R: And working. I met Lorna at that time, through Hillel, at a religious Passover
P: I am going to get you into the personal part in just a moment, but before you get
into that, let me ask if you graduated from the University of California School of
Optometry, in 1953, with a bachelor of science degree?
R: Correct. Summa cum laude, too, I say immodestly.
P: Now, when did you make the decision to go into medicine?
R: The summer before. I had only one year into which to cram in all the pre-med
P: Then the decision was made in 1952?
R: The final decision was made in the spring of 1952, but I still needed the pre-med
courses in order to apply. The application deadline was not until November
1952, but I had to start getting the courses. I did not have a lot of additional
pre-med courses that had to be taken, since some of them overlapped with the
pre-optometry. That is, you needed certain courses for optometry that were also
required for medicine.
P: You made the decision to go to medical school after you found that optometry
was not really what you wanted?
R: Yes, and I discovered that during my first year, maybe after six or eight months
P: In addition you had a professor who encouraged you, adding some outside
pressure to your own inner pressure, and your family also pressed for medicine.
R: My family did not exert any real pressure at all. They were happy that I was
happy doing what I wanted to do. I am sure they were secretly pleased that I
decided to try for medicine. And it was a matter of trying. I did not know I could
get in. I only applied to one school, and the chances of applying to one medical
school and getting into that medical school [were slim] at a time when most
people applied to twenty medical schools. I could not even afford to travel for
interviews to other places. It was just too expensive. But I thought I would try
UC and I left it up to fate. If I got in, I would go into medicine; if not, I would stay
in optometry. I was on the path to finish the College of Optometry and I could go
ahead and practice optometry or go on for an advanced degree.
P: So the medical school accepted you?
R: They accepted me in the spring of 1953.
P: Before you left Berkeley, I understand then that you had a complete life on that
campus. You were involved in fencing. You were involved in Hillel.
Obviously, you had a girlfriend. Life was really well rounded for you; you were
interested in music and theater, and other things. I guess you took advantage of
whatever you could?
R: One of my first dates with my future wife turned out to be going to hear [Arthur]
Rubinstein [American pianist, considered world s finest interpreter of Chopin]
play in Berkeley High School auditorium.
P: Very good!
R: We heard Pete Seeger [American singer and songwriter] sing on campus; [I was]
just [involved in] a general social life.
P: Let us talk about your personal life now. What is your wife s name?
R: Lorna Isen Rubin.
P: Where is she from?
R: She is from the Los Angeles area, Torrance, California.
P: What is her birth date?
R: June 15, 1932. She is one month younger than I am.
P: Did her family live in Torrance there a long time?
R: She is an only child. I am not sure where her father's parents originally had
come from, but his parents were living in Los Angeles in the 1920s. Her father
was born and raised there. He was American-born.
P: What was she doing at Berkeley?
R: She spent her first two college years at UCLA and then she moved up to
Berkeley to get her bachelor's degree. She liked going to Berkeley better than
P: What was her special area?
P: So she took a degree in psychology?
R: She got a degree in psychology. We graduated at the same time.
P: Did she come out of the same sort of religious family background that you had.
R: No. Her [family] was not really agnostic, but it was more toward the reformed
side of Judaism. She went to Sunday school. She was raised in a Jewish
family, but it was not a very religious family.
P: How did it happen that she was at Hillel?
R: Her roommate was entertaining at Hillel. Her roommate was a folk singer, and
was entertaining there. Lorna came just to watch her roommate entertain. I
was working there, washing dishes for the Seder. I was in the kitchen. I was
listening to the folk singing too, and I met her at that time.
P: And that started it?
R: That started it, yes, that was in the spring of 1952.
P: When were you married?
R: In the summer of 1953.
P: So you all went together for a year?
P: Were both families pleased with the relationship?
R: I think so. There was certainly no opposition.
P: I was going to say, did your family accept a reformer?
R: Yes. They were very happy that she was Jewish.
P: That was enough?
R: That was enough. The fact also [helped] that she was educated and her father
was a lawyer. Actually, he was eventually a long term mayor of the city of
P: Where were you all married?
R: We were married in Los Angeles at the Bel Air Hotel. That was just before I
started medical school, in June 1953. We had both graduated from college.
We had both turned twenty-one, and we got married, all within a week.
P: Has she practiced psychology?
R: No. She became a homemaker, though she did work as a medical secretary,
helping to support me through medical school, and later raised the kids.
P: She has now become a publisher.
R: That was almost twenty years later.
R: We are skipping a few things in between.
P: Let us not skip the children. I would like to get their full names, birth dates, if
they are married, and something about them.
R: My first child is Jan Gabrielle Rubin.
P: I wondered where that Jan came from?
R: She was named for my aunt, my father's sister, who had passed away by then.
P: In the write-up in Who's Who, the [name] Jan is not there. It only said Gabrielle.
R: Jan is her first name. She was named for Jenny, who is my father's sister.
We did not want Janice or Janine. It was simply Jan.
P: Where did the Gabrielle come from?
R: Gabrielle was her middle name, for Lorna's great grandfather, her grandmother's
father. He was named Gabriel, so we named her Gabrielle.
P: When is Jan's birthday?
R: September 14, 1955. Jan was eight when we moved to Gainesville. She went
to J. J. Finley, P. K. Yonge, Buchholz and Gainesville High School. She
received a Phi Beta Kappa and a BA at Washington University in St. Louis,
where she also earned three masters degrees and a Ph.D. in Clinical
Psychology. There she met her future husband. She is now married and has
an eight-year old son.
P: Give us the name of her husband.
R: Her husband's name is Jacques Israelievitch.
P: I understand he is French.
R: Yes, he is French. He was born in Cannes [southern France] and grew up in
Paris. He lived there until he was sixteen. He studied music (violin) at the
French Conservatory of Music. He was the protege of the [Baron Philippe]
Rothschild family. He also did not have any money. Madame Rothschild
became his benefactor, and promoted his coming to this country to study with
[Josef] Gingold at Indiana University.
P: Now Rothschild had the money.
R: Yes. It supported him at the time. He won a number of violin competition
prizes in France. The money supported his coming to this country to study
further at the University of Indiana with Gingold. Back in the 1940s, Gingold was
the concert master in New York for [Arturo] Toscanini [1867-1957, Italian
P: What is Gingold's full name?
R: Josef Gingold. He was a primary violinist and violin teacher at Indiana
P: Jacques is a professional musician today, is he not?
R: Yes he is. After he graduated from Indiana, he immediately became assistant
concert master for the Chicago Symphony [Orchestra]. He was there for several
years and then moved to St. Louis to become the concert master for the St.
Louis Symphony [Orchestra] under Slatkin. About seven years ago, he moved
to become the concert master for the Toronto Symphony [Orchestra]. So they
now live in Toronto [in the Province of Ontario, Canada].
P: I have one of his CDs and it is wonderful.
R: I am glad you enjoy it. I think he is going to play here in Gainesville in October
P: Oh, is he? On what occasion?
R: [He will perform] with the Gainesville Symphony Orchestra. He will give a
concert and teach some master classes.
P: We will have to put that on the calendar. That will be very nice.
R: Gabrielle and Jacques live in Toronto and they have just [obtained] dual
citizenship. I think they are taking the exam for their dual citizenship today.
P: Now, you said they have one child?
R: They have one child. Jacques has two children from a former marriage.
P: What is your grandchild's name?
R: My grandchild's name is Joshua Israelievitch.
P: Let us get the other two kids in there because you are their step-grandfather.
R: First, you asked about the name Gabrielle. Back when she was in college, she
had a thing about Jan. She wanted to separate her growing up years from her
college years, so she changed her name. She lived in Israel for a while, and
adopted her middle name, Gavi, which is the Hebrew for Gabrielle. When she
moved back to this country, she changed back to the English name Gabrielle.
So it is Jan Gabrielle, but she uses Gabrielle. Besides, it fits. Gabrielle is a
French name, and it fits with Jacques.
P: So she calls herself Gabrielle.
R: Yes, [so do] all her current friends. The kids who grew up with her in
Gainesville, the people who are around the college and are still here, still know
her as Jan.
P: Mark remembers her as Jan. I do not think he even knew her as Gabrielle.
R: I have some difficulty with Gabrielle. She is still Jan to me. She wonders why I
cannot make that extra effort. She is forty-one years old. I try, but it is difficult.
P: She grew up with Alan [Proctor] because he was born in 1954.
R: They were contemporaries at the time here in Gainesville.
P: Give me the two stepchildren.
R: David Israelievitch is one of them. The other one is Michael. I do not know
them very well. Michael lives with his mother. The older one, David, who is
sixteen now lives with their father and Gabrielle. We certainly know who they
are, but they were hardly ever there when they were young and we went to visit.
P: What is Daniel's full name?
R: Daniel Jay Rubin. He was born February 13, 1957, in San Francisco, but he
went through school here. Essentially, the children s entire schooling was in
Gainesville. I think Danny was five or six years old when we moved to
P: If you came in 1963 and he was born in 1957, he [was six and] would have gone
to school here.
R: Yes. He is now married. His wife's name is Louise.
P: Louise what?
R: I am not sure of her maiden name--Loman, I believe. They live in Santa Fe,
P: Do they have children?
R: They have two children, Maida and Asa. Asa was born a year and one-half ago.
Maida is seven years old.
P: What does Daniel do?
R: Daniel is a screen writer. After finishing at Gainesville High School, he went to
Brown University [Providence, Rhode Island]. Then he got a masters degree at
Northwestern [University in Evanston, Illinois] in writing and television production.
He was earning his living writing scripts for plays, television, and a number of
other media in the Chicago area. When he finished at Northwestern, he stayed
on and lived in Chicago. That was where he met his wife to be. Then he
realized that when writing screenplays, he needed to be in Hollywood. So they
moved to Hollywood, California, and lived there for three or four years. He
learned that was not where he wanted to raise his family. By then, he had
written several screenplays that made it to the screen, and one of them hit it big.
He wrote the movie Groundhog Day. He felt he had made good connections
and met all the people who were important enough and who recognized his
talent. He did not have to live in Hollywood anymore, so they looked for a new
location that offered a good quality of life. They chose Santa Fe, New Mexico.
They have been living for the last four or five years.
P: He continues to follow that profession?
R: Yes. He has a number of screenplays in various stages of development.
P: Is he still writing right now?
R: Writing is his career. That is how he makes his living. He also teaches screen
writing at the College of Santa Fe. He is also on several teaching staffs. He
teaches workshops at Sundance, the Robert Redford Foundation. They [the
foundation] put on a movie festival every year. Preceding that festival, they
have workshops dealing with screen writing, directing, acting, and things of that
type. He is one of their teachers.
P: What is the College of Santa Fe?
R: It is a four year college. I think it is a general college, but they have fine arts
divisions. They also have creative writing departments. He teaches screen
P: Are any of his screenplays in production now?
R: I do not think there is anything in production right now. They are in various
stages of getting written and adopted by studios.
P: So this looks like a continuing, successful career for him?
R: I hope so, and he hopes so too.
P: Well obviously.
R: My third child, Michael, is the only one who was born in Gainesville. He was
born after we moved here.
P: Does Michael have a middle name?
R: Hadley. Again, I think that was for [the sake of] grandparents. I think it was
[the name of] Lorna's mother s mother or some relative. In fact, I have trouble
coming up with where that came from. But my son's full name is Michael Hadley
P: What is Michael s birth date?
R: September 24, 1963.
P: Right. You got them all. Dr. Rubin, you passed the test on your kids birth
R: Do not ask me anything else so specific about kids.
P: Well, I am going to ask you if Michael is married.
R: Yes he is. Michael went through the school system in Gainesville. During high
school, he was selected for an internship program in his senior year when
students could leave their high school classrooms and spend time working in a
field they had an interest in. He was very seriously interested in paleontology.
We live adjacent to a creek bed. Rattlesnake Creek and Hogtown Creek come
together in our back yard. At the base of the creek are tremendous numbers of
sharks teeth, manatee bones, and things of that sort buried in the soil of the
riverbed. When he was a kid, he got interested and was digging up all sorts of
items. So throughout his growing-up years, he got interested in paleontology.
During that six month period of internship, during his last high school year, he
selected to work with the natural history museum [Florida Museum of Natural
History, University of Florida] here on campus. He loved it; he loved working
with the people. He also found that it was an intellectual career, but you could
not really make a reasonable living out of following only your intellectual pursuits.
He was turned off to the field by some of the people who were working there.
[They did] not actively discourage him, but he saw they were not really happy
doing what they were doing. He was interested in the job, but not for his own
long term career, [although it was] intellectually stimulating for him. It worked
out very well for him in that he discovered it was something he did not want to
pursue. He went on to college.
R: He went to Brown just as Danny did. Michael was very confident of getting in. I
do not know where such self-confidence came from, but he was very creative.
When Brown asked that he write an essay about himself as part of the
application process, he wrote an essay. They said if you want to, please submit
any other information that would give a more complete picture of yourself. He
submitted a nude photograph of himself--with a fig leaf appropriately
placed--which represented a more complete picture of himselfl. He was
admitted in Brown [University's] early acceptance program.
P: They decided they needed a creative person?
R: I do not know if that did it or what, but he is certainly a creative individual. He
went to Brown. By the way, this is backtracking, but it relates to Brown. When
he was here in high school, during the summers, he used to go to a summer
camp in Wisconsin. That camp was identified by some friends we have in the
Chicago area. Their kid, Jordan Grauer, also went to this summer camp called
Shewamegon, in the Shewamegon National Forest in Wisconsin. That was an
Indian name and a very wonderful camp in which self-growth and
self-development were very important, as opposed to highlighting team sports.
They did not go for physical prowess of an individual, rather they wanted
individuals to develop their personal skills, but not for competitive reasons; they
wanted to maximize an individual's growth. He went to that camp when he was
eleven, twelve, and thirteen, spending three summers up there. He was taught
all the skills of independence by going out into the wilderness, on camping trips
and canoeing. It was similar to wilderness training but in a more normal type of
camp environment. A wonderfully protective family ran the program. They had
five or six children. They had various forms of instruction.
Ten years later, when he was at Brown, he ran into the counselor he had at that
camp. That counselor, who was visiting Brown, was then one of the vice
presidents at LucasFilms in California. He talked to Michael. Michael was
again creative during college. He made a connection. He said to Michael, what
do you want to do in life? Michael had no career aspirations yet, so he said, for
a start, I want to be an intern at LucasFilms. They did not have interns. This
fellow, Steven Arnold, said, just come out and work free for a while, and see if
you can develop a niche there. He did, after Michael graduated, he went directly
to work for George Lucas. He became part of the film industry culture and was
fit into to an area called development of computerized editing machine for
editing movies. Editing there was done by computer instead of the old moveolas
where you cut and snip segments of film. He wound up doing this by computer
where you can move things around, phrases and words, as well as scenes.
Initially, Michael worked on the development of that process, which saved a lot of
effort and time for movie editors. Lucas was developing that particular area as
one of his main domains in his industries. Now, at that time, LucasFilms was
composed of three major divisions. It was composed of the film-making group,
of Industrial Light and Magic, which was the special effects group that still
contracts out their skills, and the third [division] was the Droid works, with the
EditDroid, the machine that did computerized editing.
P: That was the one Michael was associated with?
R: Yes, Michael was associated with that. There were only a few people who
worked in that area. So he got in on the ground floor of developing
computerized editing machines. Later he wrote a book, now in its third edition,
called Nonlinear. It was a book that explained how computerized editing was
done. It is currently being used as a textbook around the country.
P: It is kind of interesting that your oldest child is associated with music, and your
two boys are associated with film.
R: Yes, at that time Michael was. Michael is multi-faceted. He does all sorts of
things he is interested in. Are you really interested in all of this?
P: Of course. It is the story of Melvin Rubin is it not?
R: No, it is vicariously Melvin Rubin.
P: That is all right.
R: We are related by blood; aside from that, I did not have much to do with his
profession. Michael first worked with LucasFilms, but a couple years later, they
decided the Droid Works was not profitable enough for them. They sold it off or
closed it down, they just disbanded this whole area. Lucas decided to spend his
time and money on some of his other projects. But there were other companies
which were using some modification of computerized editing. In fact, Michael
went to work for the split-off; he moved to work for a while with the couple from
LucasFilms that created the EditDroid. They formed another new company,
called Sonic Solutions, and they do computerized cleaning of video and auditory
materials for movies or record makers. Their company is now listed on the stock
exchange; though Michael moved on, he s still good friends with Bob and Mary
P: Where does Michael live?
R: He now lives in Santa Cruz, California. When he worked for Lucas he lived in
San Rafael in northern California. Then he moved to San Francisco to work with
Sonic Solutions, the group that split off from LucasFilms. Then he was hired as
a consultant by another company which was developing a computerized editing
machine. He moved to Los Angeles and worked for them for three years until
they were bought out. In the meantime, while he was working with
computerized machines in Los Angeles, he met Jennifer. Then he and his
soon-to-be wife, Jennifer, moved up to Santa Cruz, where they were married.
His wife was interested in developing and marketing a craft connected to
producing pottery. They formed a company called Petroglyph. The company
bought pottery from a manufacturer of pottery greenware. This manufacturer
actually made the raw materials pottery was made from. Michael and Jennifer
buy the material and sell time in their shops for people to come and paint the
material. It is then fired, and becomes the individuals own creation. In their
craft-shop individuals come and make pottery, but they do not have to do the
spinning of the pots. They can make glasses, dishes, or fancy pots of various
sorts. People come and spend time there and pay so much an hour while
Michael and Jennifer provide design suggestion, instructions, the paint and do
the firing of those materials.
P: Both of them are in that business?
R: Yes. Now they are expanding. They now have two shops and Michael has
plans to build more. I assume it is a fairly profitable business.
P: What is his wife's full name?
R: His wife's name is Jennifer Kurz.
P: Do they have children?
R: No, not yet. They have been married only two years.
P: So you have family in Toronto, Ontario; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and in Santa
P: You have a lot of places to visit.
R: Yes we do. And very nice places too.
P: Absolutely wonderful. Let us get back to our main attraction here, Mel Rubin.
Let us find out what has happened to him now that we have all of his kids born
and obviously all becoming famous and wealthy.
R: These are all hopeful.
P: Well, I am sure everything will work out just fine. Now, you got out of medical
R: I finished medical school in 1957.
P: At that point you had your MD degree?
R: Yes. I then went on to my internship in medicine at the University of California.
I was still in San Francisco.
P: Before you get into your internship, let us go back to medical school and see if
there are any highlights there that need to be brought onto the tape. What was
life like in medical school? You were a married man now.
R: It was tough. We were married before I started medical school. In my class of
seventy students there were ten other couples who were married before starting
P: Did Lorna work?
R: Lorna worked. Remember the first year was in Berkeley and there she worked
for two ophthalmologists. This was fortuitous. I was not geared for
P: She was getting you ready.
R: She was getting me ready. She worked for them even after we moved to San
Francisco. We had an apartment in San Francisco and she commuted back and
forth to Berkeley, so she worked for the two ophthalmologists for another year
until Jan was born, two years after we were married. When we were in San
Francisco, she commuted, she worked, and she became a full-time mother. I
too had to work to help support the family.
P: What work did you do?
R: In San Francisco, I worked on eye research, mounting slides for projection. We
could earn $20 to $50 a month at that time. Lorna could do the job too. We
could do it together because it did not have to be done in an office; one could do
it at home. Our spare time was filled tape mounting, cleaning glass, and
mounting the slides for slide projection. In those days we did not have any such
thing as computers for creating slides. So we worked on that as the kids were
growing up. But medical school was a full-time occupation.
P: You did not have much time for a social life?
R: We had not much time for a lot of things, except for some social life. We started
to play bridge with our classmates, and then started playing competitive bridge.
That took a little time. That blended over into the residency. In fact, when we
moved here, we were playing bridge too. But we had to keep down the level of
that activity, especially during medical school, as it could consume a lot of time.
Plus, I spent some time singing. We had a chorus and a barbershop quartet in
my class at medical school.
P: I did not know that you had another accomplishment--singing.
R: I enjoy doing it.
P: But there was no violin playing?
R: At this point violin playing had to take a back seat. We used to sing at various
functions at the college, at medical school.
P: Did you just suddenly get an inspiration to sing?
R: No. Back when I was in Hebrew school, I became sort of a cantor. I learned
how to sing at that time. I had a reasonable voice and during the fifteen years in
the Hebrew school singing became part of our growing up. We just learned all
of the liturgy. My father earned a part of his living as a baal kreah, which meant
that he sang and read the Torah every Saturday. They heard about him in many
local synagogues, that was how well he performed the service.
P: What was a baal kreah?
R: It is Hebrew; the word baal means owner and kreah means the reader of
the Torah. I learned to sing in the choir of the Hebrew school, and I enjoyed
singing. I was a soprano until my voice cracked at age thirteen or fourteen. I
still maintain a tenor to baritone range. I sang as second tenor in a barbershop
P: So while you were enrolled in medical school, life was not easy, but it was
R: It was very pleasant. I did well in medical school, and I [received] honors, which
helped win scholarships, that is how I paid my way through school.
P: Of course, even if one were poor, living in San Francisco was fun.
R: It was fun. You could walk all over the city. It was a big city, but it was not so
vast that you cannot get anywhere easily. The public transportation was very
good in San Francisco. When I lived at home, before I married, my parents
never had a car. We walked or took public transportation everywhere.
P: By this time, in medical school, did you have a car?
R: Yes, I did. Lorna had to have a car to commute. During college, I bought a
Model-A Ford. That was my first car, but after we married, we bought a more
upscale used Ford.
P: Of course, you were still close to the family?
R: Yes. My parents both lived in San Francisco at the time. My father died during
my internship, after our first two children were born, in 1957. At least he had a
chance to meet two grandchildren.
P: What about your mother?
R: My mother lived until 1980. She lived to see me through my career and even
becoming chairman of the department at UF.
P: Did she continue to live in San Francisco?
R: She lived in San Francisco. She remarried about 1970, and continued to live in
San Francisco. She moved to Miami Beach when her [second] husband died.
P: Tell me about your work conditions while you were going to medical school--your
hours and all the details.
R: Everything had to be squeezed in. I did not have to work on anything at any
given time. That was the beauty of mounting slides, which job was almost a gift
to me. Since I was working for the eye department, I received fellowships over
the summers to help work in the science lab of that department in ophthalmology.
I did some science projects and published a few papers during medical school.
The fellowships were granted by outside agencies. I won a Fight For Sight
Fellowship back then, one of the first fellowships given for medical students
work in a laboratory.
During medical school, I became known among my peer medical students as an
expert. In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Knowing a little
bit more than the rest of your classmates makes you, as compared to them,
super-knowledgeable. [It did not matter that] you only knew a little bit more than
they. I knew about the eye because I was in optometry before I came to
medicine. I knew a little bit more about the eye than my classmates in medical
school. They always deferred to me when they needed answers about eye
questions. That made me even more knowledgeable because I had to learn
more in order to supply information to them. All the way through medical school
and on into my internship, I spent time learning more about the eye and working
in the eye department in various research functions. That gave me the side job
of mounting slides for the department throughout the years.
P: Was there any particular person at the medical school who became a role model
R: Yes, his name was Michael Hogan. He was then the director of the Proctor Eye
Foundation when I met him.
P: The Proctor Eye Foundation?
R: The Proctor Eye Foundation; and Sam, it was not named for you! You had
nothing to do with that one.
P: I wanted to keep it anonymous. I really did.
R: Well, Michael Hogan was the director of that foundation. He was instrumental in
my career afterwards. He took me under his wing. He thought it was nice to
have a protege, someone who followed him around and gobbled up all the
information he dropped. He was awfully nice to me. He became chairman of
the UC department, later on. At the time, as director of the eye foundation, he
arranged for these jobs for me, to help me along.
P: So he was your major mentor?
R: At that point he was my major mentor. My other major mentor was a Lowell
High School math teacher, Ivan Barker. [He was the person] who got me
interested in vision, and persuaded me to apply to the Westinghouse Foundation
when they conducted the science talent search. I entered it doing
stereography. Remember, I mentioned that I entered the [science talent search]
with some work on stereography. That high school teacher was instrumental in
my career and steered me [to optics]. My professor in optometry, Gordon Walls,
steered me into medicine, and Michael Hogan did the same with eye work in
medical school and with the eye foundation.
P: Are these people still around so you can consult with them?
R: No, they are all gone. I wish I could [consult with them]. They were wonderful
P: Did you have a good academic record at medical school?
R: Yes, I was fortunate.
P: I noticed that you had the highest scholastic standing award of the class of 1957.
P: Did that carry with it a huge check?
R: The check was really just a plaque recognition, but one I am very proud of. After
finishing medical school, I stayed on for internship in San Francisco. During that
internship year, as I was becoming a physician, I started to adopt some
responsibility for taking care of people.
P: I wanted to ask you about two other awards before we go on to that. One was
the Merck Award that you received in 1957. What was that given for?
R: It was given for scholastic achievement or academic leadership. And there was
another award, when I received some books and another plaque.
P: The Merck Award in 1957 was for academic leadership. Then you also received
the Mosby Award.
R: Yes, that was marked in the form of books; they gave me a series of books for
that scholastic achievement.
P: So you received three recognition right closely together? Were you at the top of
the class in medical school?
R: Yes. I thought no one here knew that, but now somebody is going to know it.
P: When you arrange your internship, how does that work? Do you apply for
something or do they come looking for you?
R: You apply to the place you would like to go. There are internships in every
hospital in this country. I figured I would live the rest of my life in San Francisco,
so I picked an internship that was involved with less inconvenience and moving.
It was a very high quality internship at the University of California. So in effect, I
stayed on at the same school. I applied and very shortly after that they let you
know whether you will be accepted or not. I was accepted into that program.
P: And so you stayed on in San Francisco?
R: And at the same hospital; I did not move.
P: Did you stay at the same apartment?
R: We actually moved into a larger apartment around the corner, but we now had
P: How long was the internship?
R: For one year. That was an extremely momentous year. My father died during
P: Just suddenly?
R: Yes. He was not ill before he died of a coronary. I was at home in the fall, in
October 1957. I had started the internship in July, and I was home the following
October. While I was there, one day he called me and said as he was walking
downtown he had some chest pains. I told him to stay where he was and I
would come get him; I took him to the hospital. I checked him into the hospital,
and they said they would check him over. By the time I got back home, the
message was already there, he had died. I had no real preparation, as I would
have had if he had been ill. It was a blow for me. That was just one thing that
happened to me during that year in internship. During that same period of time I
was sick with pneumonia. I had never really been sick before; during my
growing-up years I had asthma, but I was never really ill. But I was severely sick
with pneumonia, stemming from an asthma attack, just about the same time my
father died, and then yet another calamity hit me.
I had applied for an eye residency only at that one place, at the University of
California. I could have applied to any number of places, but I decided I wanted
to stay in San Francisco. I was rejected. Now you have to understand, I had
never been rejected for anything. I had a fine academic record--first in my class,
and I was already working with the Proctor Foundation, which was the research
arm for the department of ophthalmology. I could not understand why I was
rejected. On top of that, the rejection message came when every faculty
member was at the annual academy meeting in Chicago, so I had nobody to talk
to. Finally, when Dr. Hogan came back, although he was director of the Proctor
Foundation and not then chairman of the department--therefore not in charge of
appointing residents--I asked him what had happened. He said he could not
understand it either. So he talked to the boss man named Frederick Cordes,
who was the chairman of ophthalmology at that time. Cordes simply told Hogan
that I had not been in the service yet and I was subject to the doctor draft.
When you have someone drafted during the middle of a residency year, that
really fouled up the training program. Cordes had experienced someone being
drafted out of his department [during the residency year] and felt he could not run
a program that way. So he wanted all residents to be finished with the service.
I told him I had a firm deferment; I had a written deferment [stating] I was
deferred through training. But Cordes said he did not want to take any chances.
Perhaps somewhat paranoid, I felt there may have been unstated motives. He
was known as being anti-Semitic and before that time, there was never a Jewish
eye resident accepted at the University of California. I felt convinced that must
have had something to do with it, but there was no proof. In any case, since I
had not applied anywhere else, I did not have a residency position lined up. I
was not really sure what to do. I went to Hogan and asked him what I should
do. I explained I wanted to stay in the San Francisco area; I did not want to
move; my mother was there; my sister was there; my wife's family was on the
West Coast. I was a native San Franciscan. Hogan said not to worry, he will
find something for me. So he called the chief at Stanford, who interviewed me
and offered me a residency position there. I could start [the position] in six
months, since they appointed one resident every six months and the one for July
1958 was already appointed.
I really did not want to wait six months, because, again, I needed the income
($60 a month) to help support my [family]. My wife was not working anymore
and I did not want to ask my in-laws to support us, although they did give us a
few hundred [dollars] whenever they could, but this was not regular support. So
I went back to Dr. Hogan and asked what else he could do. He asked, would
you like to go to UCLA? I thought it over and agreed to go to UCLA if he could
get me in there. By now, all of the appointments to these programs had already
been made and it was a matter of trying to fit me in. He called up his cohort,
Rodman S. Irvine, at UCLA, who suggested I send in an application. I sent an
application. I did not hear anything right away, but a couple of weeks later, he
called me back and said, I am not going to give you that residency. This was
another blow. I said, there must be something wrong. Has Mike Hogan talked
to you? He said, yes, indeed. He told me that you had been accepted at Iowa.
I said, what is at Iowa? I had not even dreamed of going to Iowa; I did not know
anything about Iowa. How could Mike Hogan do that to me, how could he say I
had been accepted to Iowa when I want to go to UCLA? Dr. Irvine said, no, I do
not have the heart to take you away from Iowa. I said, that sounds like an
excuse. I would much prefer to go to UCLA. He said, no, one day you will thank
So I stormed back to Hogan, and asked, how could you do this to me? I thought
you were my friend and you were helping me? He said, I called my cohort,
Alson Braley, at Iowa and I think that is the best place for you to go. Later, I
found out about the quality of the program at Iowa, that it was probably the
second or third best program in the United States, even better than the one at
UCSF. Hogan knew that and had connections with the person who was running
the program in Iowa.
Twenty years later, when I was already here, that same Rod Irvine s son became
a fellow of [Herbert] Herb Kaufman [professor of surgery; Chief, Division of
Ophthalmology] here at the University of Florida. Rodman came to Gainesville
to visit his son. He came up to me, and reminded me what he said in 1957,
about not having the heart to take me away from Iowa-- Was I wrong? Did
Iowa not turn out well for you? I had to admit that it was a wonderful
experience and one of the best things that ever happened to me. Certain things
that look strange at the time [have a way of] turning out for the best. It turned
out that my career path was superbly well-directed, not by my choice, but by
P: So it was healthy for you to leave California?
R: It was healthy. Another thing Hogan told me at the time was that if I did not
leave then, I would never leave. I could always come back. This was a way to
find out what the rest of the world was like.
P: As an intern, how much did they pay you at the time?
R: I think it was $60 a month.
P: Big time.
R: Big time. It was that plus mounting slides. I had a fellowship, but not during the
internship. It was a struggle, but it was okay. When we moved to Iowa, there
was a whole change in life. The move uprooted the family--moved the kids and
Lorna--we went to a strange city where we did not know anybody. We found out
that it was a really outstanding training program.
P: Now this was the State University of Iowa?
R: Yes, the State University of Iowa in Iowa City, that had an excellent medical
P: What about Iowa City? Was it a city the size of Gainesville, or much larger?
R: It was about half the size of Gainesville. It was the location of the main state
university. I can honestly say that I came to Gainesville because I liked Iowa City.
I liked life in a smaller town. I liked the idea of a state university in the middle of
nowhere. You have to say that Gainesville, at the time we came in the 1960s,
was in the middle of nowhere. Although you have been here much longer. In
Iowa City you had a state university, which was associated with a VA hospital
located nearby. It had the culture of a university and a campus life.
P: But the winters were cold?
R: Yes. That I must admit. That was something that I did expect. I knew it could
get cold, but I did not expect that heat and humidity in the summer. [At least that]
got me ready for Gainesville.
P: You made this major uprooting from San Francisco to Iowa City, and you left
your mother behind?
R: Yes, I left my mother. At that time she was still not remarried. My sister was
still in California. I did not feel that we were that far away.
P: Even if it was half a continent away?
R: Half a continent, but there were planes and trains.
P: So you loaded up all the furniture in a U-Haul and hauled yourself over to Iowa
R: We had that shipped. Really, we did not have much in the way of material
things, just some household furnishings.
P: Two kids.
R: And two kids. We did not even drive. We took the train from San Francisco to
Iowa City and got off in Marion, Iowa. Somebody drove our car out and met us
with it. We then drove the forty miles to Iowa City.
P: What kind of housing did you have?
R: We lived in a Quonset hut, the available university housing, for three or four
months. Then we bought a small, 900-square foot home in a suburb of Iowa
City, if you can believe there is a suburb of a town of 30,000 [inhabitants], called
Coralville. That served our need. I think the house cost $13,000.
P: How long did your residency last?
R: It was a three-year residency. Some of the other residents stayed on a little bit
longer. I had another opportunity later on, I will explain to you what that was.
During the three years, it was wonderful.
P: What did you do?
R: I learned how to be an ophthalmologist.
P: I know, but how did all of this go? Did you walk around with an ophthalmologist
and learn by seeing?
R: I learned by seeing and doing. There were a certain number of formal lectures
that I had to have. I modeled this UF training program based on what we had in
training at Iowa.
P: Was this a teaching hospital?
R: This was a teaching hospital.
P: Did you teach?
R: I taught medical students. We were mostly in the training program of a
residency, in the specialty of ophthalmology, that really [involved] learning it
yourself first. We were also the ones who were taught.
P: But you had patients?
R: Oh yes, we had patients as part of a very socialized medical system. They had
a wonderful system of bringing eye patients from all over the state by ambulance.
They called it an ambulance system but it was really just a taxi service, bringing
patients to the university hospital. The level of care was wonderful. There was
a terrific full-time faculty. It was the same as here. All were salaried and did
not earn more for seeing more patients. The residents were from all over the
country, not just from Iowa. The attitude for training people in academics,
research, and taking good care of patients was part of the nature of growing up in
an academic environment that really fostered my interests in staying on in
P: How large was the university?
R: The university at that time had probably 25,000 or 30,000 [students].
P: So it was a big school.
It was a big ten school. It was the first time I was exposed to really good sports
at the college level--intercollegiate sports. Although the University of California
had a pretty good football team and basketball team when I was there.
How large was the hospital?
The hospital had 1,000 beds.
So it was bigger than this [than Shands in Gainesville]?
About twice the size of this one. But again, it was the only state hospital for
specialty care for the entire state of Iowa.
So everybody came to you, unlike this operation.
That was only a recent [change]. Back when I started here, everybody came to
you here as well. It was similar there. The attitude promoted education,
produced research, and fostered involvement in community activities.
As a resident, how much were you paid?
Because we were part of a special national training program, I think my salary
was extra special. I think it was $3,000 a year.
So you moved up a little bit.
I moved from $50 or $60 a month to $3,000 a year.
You could eat a little better?
Well, when you break $3,000 a year down into months, it was not much. It was
about $250 a month.
But things were improving?
They were improving. The cost of living was going up too. The cost of living ir
Iowa City was much less than living in San Francisco, so I could live pretty well.
We could afford to buy a home. We did not have the down payment for the
home, but the university helped us.
P: Lorna was still not working? She was a full time homemaker?
R: She was a full time homemaker all the way until after the kids all finished high
P: Now what about your children?
R: Jan was three years old. Danny was a one-year-old when we were there.
Lorna was busy with them. She started a nursery school. Lorna started a
Montessori school in Iowa City, because the children were her major interest.
She wanted to do the best for the children.
P: And Lorna is ingenious.
R: She was a very organized individual. She saw what needed to be done, good
for the community, and good for the children.
P: Could you maintain a religious life in Iowa City?
R: It was pretty difficult. They had a nice Jewish community, but it was small. No,
I found it difficult even during the time I was in medical school. There was just
no time at all. I was so obligated to be at a given place, at times that were so
crazy, I could not go to services regularly, though we went some times.
P: But there was a Jewish community in Iowa?
R: In Iowa City there was a Jewish community, yes. It was a nice friendly
community. We started to make friends with the people in town and wondered
why it was so difficult. They were frank. They said they were reticent to make
close friends with students and residents--people who are constantly moving on.
People come to Iowa City, work there for a while during training or medical
school, and then they go away. So the townspeople were not very enamored
with the constant turnover that was taking place. It was hard to get close to
anybody. It took a while to get to know anybody. We met a few [people]
through the synagogue there, but we met most of them through bridge. We
played bridge during residency. We got to know the people who played bridge,
and we were social with them. We were also social with some of the residents
who played bridge as well. I guess, that was our main social life. It was an
escape from the kids. We had to get away from them some time. It was pretty
hard, although I was rarely home, it was Lorna who had the main burden of
caring for them and raising them. I tried to spend time with them but it was very
hard when you were a resident. At work I started some projects and worked
with certain faculty. The chairman took a liking to me and late in the residency,
helped me arrange for my next position.
P: What were the dates you were a resident in Iowa City?
R: From July 1958 to June 1961.
P: And then you stayed on at the University of Iowa?
R: No, I did not. I earned a Masters Degree while I was a resident. I decided I
was interested in the sciences, so I did a thesis and went to some classes in
sciences, which led to the master s degree.
P: Was this an MA in physiology?
R: An MS, I was dealing with the physiology of color vision and my thesis dealt
with that as well.
P: Can you explain that so a lay person, like me, would understand what it was?
R: I wanted to determine where in the spectrum individuals saw the purest colors,
by presenting a spectrum of colors. If you used a prism, it spread out the
wavelengths of white light. If you spread them out, you would see a series of
colors like a rainbow. I tried to determine what were the specific wavelengths at
which somebody saw the purest hues of green, yellow, blue, or red. What the
numerical wavelengths of those spots were. I also wanted to find out whether or
not everybody saw pure green at the same wavelength. I sat down at the
machine and found out what wavelength signified pure green, and if that was the
same one at which somebody else saw pure green. I learned that there were
two classes of individuals, both were color normals, even though they saw
pure green at different areas of the spectrum. That was not known before.
That fit into a new theory of color vision of how we see colors. It was fascinating
to me. I designed the instrument that tested for this, among other projects.
That was the work I used for my thesis.
P: You said earlier that you did have some papers published. When did your
R: It started in medical school when I was working with Hogan in areas he was
interested in. The first paper I wrote was on toxoplasmosis, which was a
P: A published paper?
P: And you continued your research activities?
R: I did a variety of research projects. You can see from my CV all the papers that
started back then. Whenever I stumbled on something I was interested in, I
wrote it up. I began to learn how to write, to do expository writing, to explain
things to people, though I was not very good at this at the start.
P: Research, then, has intrigued you right from the very beginning?
P: And it continues to do so?
R: It continues. Research is not a project. It is an intellectual attitude. It leads to
encouraging an inquisitive environment. You learn to ask why about things that
happen. When you follow things up, you follow them up to answer questions
P: Is it usual or unusual for a resident to work on another academic degree, in your
case, a masters in science?
R: It is not unheard of, but it is not usual at all. Most of the time a resident is too
busy learning what one must learn about medicine.
P: That was what I meant to ask you. Where did you find time to work on a master
R: I squeezed it in between bridge and sleep.
P: How long did it take you to get this master s degree?
R: Two years.
P: So you had another diploma then.
R: Big deal. I have another diploma on the wall.
P: Well, obviously it was not a wasted effort.
R: True, but the diploma does not mean anything. The diploma itself has not
enhanced my life any. It was just nice to have made a step to where I wanted to
get to. Graduation was a step. This was a step to a formalized way of getting
additional information and learning new things. It was just another step.
P: You were spending all of your time in the sciences. Obviously, bridge was a
social activity. What about other things? Is your interest in music continuing?
R: It is, only not from the participatory end, but from the observant end. We went to
whatever concerts we could that were performed in the community.
P: Iowa offered some artistic things?
R: Yes, just as Florida does here. There were various music series one could go
to. They would bring chamber groups. I always enjoyed chamber music.
P: Where there any family problems? Were the children all well?
R: Aside from a few cuts and bruises and having the kids tonsils removed, we
were very fortunate.
P: There was nothing traumatic that happened there.
R: No, the children and Lorna's health was good all along.
P: As a resident were you going around the clock? Were you able to get away
during the summers?
R: When I was a resident, there were no summers. The summers were spent
P: A twenty-four hour [day]?
R: We knew we had a week off periodically, so we vacationed. We would go back
to California. We went on the train because again it would take too long to drive.
We did not have enough money to fly. So we took the kids and [went on] the
train. I think we took the train back two times, during the time I was resident. It
P: Would that take a couple of days?
R: It takes a day and one-half to go from Iowa City to the west coast; thirty-six
hours. It was not an enormous trip. We slept on the train in the sitting up cars.
It was tolerable. We would go visit Lorna's parents or visit my mother and sister.
P: I would like to get on record more about this U.S. Army Reserve unit you were in.
Talk about that.
R: I want to go back a little bit because I skipped that. I did ROTC in high school and
that introduced me to a rather rigid culture. I participated in Junior ROTC during
all of my four high school years.
R: That is a good question. Number one, it meant I did not have to participate in
gym class and sports. You could do ROTC instead of gym. I had never been
very good in gym activities. Number two, there was visibility. I wore a uniform.
I was part of a group. You became friends with the group that you worked with.
It was close-knit group, like a club. Number three, it was more of an intellectual
stimulation because there were things that you did that you did not learn in
sports. We had classes in military tactics, construction, engineering and all sorts
of things that I would have never been exposed to otherwise. It was quite broad
training. By the time I finished, I advanced to become leader of the entire San
Francisco Brigade, [which included] all the ROTCs in all the high schools in San
Francisco. That made it easier for me when I went to college, where I joined the
advanced ROTC. I also joined the Army reserves. In order to join ROTC in
college, you became part of the reserves. It was a chance of earning extra
dollars in the active reserve.
P: You did not have to go off for summer encampments?
R: Well, you did except that I got excused from doing some of that because the
encampments counted the time I spent in ROTC classes in college. Those were
different than the high school ones.
P: You did not have to go off for drill or things like that on a weekly or monthly
R: No. On campus, we had to do some of that weekly, but it was not an inordinate
chore. For me, it was a matter of doing it only when necessary, but it came very
easily for me because I was one of very few people who came from high school
ROTC. I had this background of four years of it in high school, so I knew all the
drill procedures. I was a full colonel in the ROTC. You do not get any higher in
high school. Before starting college, I had the choice of considering whether I
wanted to try to go to West Point. That was one alternative I had strongly
considered because, again, my college education would have been paid for if I
got into West Point. But I could not pass the vision test for West Point. In fact,
after I finished by first year of college, I could not take the senior advanced
ROTC even in college, because my vision was not good enough. You have to
have 20/20 uncorrected vision. I had good vision when it was corrected with
glasses, but that was not good enough for becoming an officer and getting to be
an officer in the reserves. So I dropped it. After my junior year, when I went to
optometry school, I decided I would no more continue with anything military for a
career. I received an educational draft deferment, otherwise, I could get drafted
out of college or later, medical school. Even in medical school, I could have
gotten drafted to go into the service anytime they wanted a doctor, unless I was
P: And the Korean War was earlier?
R: The Korean War was early 1950s, during the time I was in ROTC. I did receive
an educational deferment as long as I was in college, but in order to stay
deferred, I had to stay in the reserves. I had to be a reserve officer to be
deferred. That was the reason I joined the reserves initially. I just stayed on in
the reserves because I was deferred through medical school and residency with
the idea that I would eventually go in when I finished my training, but I would go
in as an ophthalmologist not as a general medical officer. I was deferred all the
P: Did you carry a rank with you?
R: I was a lieutenant in the reserves. At the time I finished my residency, back at
Iowa, came the time to pay the piper. I had to go active--out of the reserves and
into active duty in the army [in the spring of 1961]. I was already an officer in the
army reserve. Just before I finished in July, the Army notified me saying, we no
longer had need for any ophthalmologists. The quotas for ophthalmologists had
been filled. I said, okay then release me from my obligation. The officer said,
well, they could not do that. I could choose to do one of three things: I could
go into the Indian service and serve on Indian reservations doing ophthalmology;
I could be a missionary-type (not a religious missionary), doing work in a third
world country; or I could go to NIH (the National Institute of Health), which was
part of the Public Health Service. I did not know which one I wanted to do. I
wanted the practice of ophthalmology and I loved the social end of doing
something, but I did not want to go to South Africa or a third world country
because I had kids. I was still interested in research and I was interested in
patients. I had to decide between the Indian Service, the Public Health Service
in Washington, or go to NIH.
I talked to my chairman, Alson Braley, and he strongly encouraged me to go take
the NIH job. He said, primarily they wanted an ophthalmologist performing an
administrative role, such as leading a major program for grants to train other
ophthalmologists in research. This program involved a granting agency of the
federal government that had to do with training, grants just as I had received
myself when I was in training. My chair urged me to take this route. He said,
number one, you will be in Washington and learn what it is like to live in the
beehive of activities surrounding Washington. You will never have a better
opportunity than this. Number two, you will be closely involved with some of the
highest people in all of academic ophthalmology in the country. Number three, it
is only for two years. It was only a two year obligation and it would satisfy my
commitment to the service. To take that job I had to give up my army reserve
[status]. They released me, as long as I accepted the Public Health Service
commission. So I did that, and we moved to Washington.
P: I was going to say, that turned out to be a pleasant thing, I am sure, once you
R: Each time I look back at something that happened to me, it turned out to be for
the best, and it was serendipitous. The Washington NIH opportunity just
happened to open up at the time I was available. The army did not have to say
just then that it had no need for ophthalmologists. So it all continued to work out
in a wonderful way. I always heard that discoveries and good things happen to
the prepared mind. I was open-minded enough to accept this. Lorna was
interested in accepting this responsibility with me. We moved to Washington
with the kids.
P: Where did you live in Washington?
R: We lived just off Old Georgetown Road, not in Washington but in the suburb of
Bethesda [Maryland], where the NIH is [located]. Before I took the job, they
invited me there to actually look it over to see if that was what I wanted. Up to
the time I took over that position, it was run by a career service administrator, a
non-physician, within the Public Health Service, somebody who was a full-time
career scientist, working at NIH. Now they wanted to have an ophthalmologist.
They had never had one to run an ophthalmologic program. It was a very
flattering thing for me to be offered this. It also meant that I could help design
what I was doing. It was not a new job, but one never held by an
P: So you helped set it up?
R: I set it up. That was the good part of it. Plus, I had some bargaining power, I
told them I could not accept a full-time administrative job, unless they allowed me
some free time to do my clinical specialty at a hospital. I would lose those skills
if I spent two years doing nothing clinical. They understood that. They allowed
me to become affiliated with one of the local hospitals. That was the
Georgetown University Service.
P: I wanted to ask you to explain what exactly was the National Institute of Health?
R: The National Institutes of Health was, at that time, a series of ten institutes, each
one categorical, for an area of medicine that has to do with research. NIH is the
research arm of the Public Health Service.
P: Federally funded?
R: Totally federally funded. Some of the institutes included were for heart, cancer,
and immunologic diseases.
P: Does this mean that each one of the special areas had its own building and staff?
R: Not necessarily. Sometimes they physically overlapped, but the staffing was
always separate. Several institutes were sometimes in one building. The
Institutes were administratively separate.
P: It was set up for research purposes?
R: It was all research. The clinical end was for clinical research for which they had
a large clinical research building--the Clinical Center.
P: By doing the administrative work itself, you did not see patients? You looked at
R: As part of my official job, I neither saw patients or looked at test tubes. They
had some clinical research where some doctors actually saw patients, on the
campus there. The campus was called the Reservation and was part of the
Public Health Service, but that was not my job.
P: Could I go there as a private patient?
R: No, you could not go there unless you had some specific disease that they were
researching, for example, if you had a peculiar kind of tumor they were looking
at, then you [could be a patient on the Reservation].
P: How would you know, as a research scientist, that I was a logical patient for your
kind of research?
R: Because the word would go out from NIH to the outside hospitals saying we are
doing research on this particular area. [We would ask]--Do you have any patients
that have this? They would answer, we have one, or more [then]; they would
refer patients to us.
P: It was done on a referral basis?
R: Yes. There was no cost for the care there because the work was done by a
research unit of the specific institute.
P: Are they learning here from you?
R: Yes. Now that was NIH s intramural program that had a hospital, called the
Building Ten, which was the Clinical Center. They also had intramural research
units that worked there, which meant that the Cancer Institute or the Heart
Institute had projects that were actually test tube projects. There were
laboratories, all part of the buildings and research going on there; that was the
intramural program. By far the biggest proportion of the dollars that went to the
NIH were for supporting outside, extramural programs. They were used for
programs supporting research around the country. When you were in a
university program and Dr. X had an interesting project, he might design a
research grant application and apply to the NIH for funding support. NIH
categorically assigned the request to one of the institutes where it might be
appropriately reviewed. Then they had it gone over by a peer-review study
section, and let you know whether they would fund it or not. There was an
elaborate process for evaluation and funding.
P: When you came into this program, were you setting up the ophthalmology
R: Much of the program existed already. It was already in place, but it had never
been administered by an ophthalmologist. It was administered by staff people,
who did not have the slant on what was clinically relevant, and what was really
important and what was going on in academic training programs in
ophthalmology around the country. Since I had been a recipient of a granted
program, I knew the receiving end as well as the giving end.
P: So you took on an administrative position?
R: Totally, I took on the administrative position with the stipulation that they allow
me separate time to regularly attend Georgetown one day a week to work at the
hospital. [I also taught the] residents, saw patients in the clinics, and helped in
the operating rooms. I was given another half-day to attend weekly rounds of
the intramural clinical research program, run by Dr. Ludwig von Sallman. He
was the chief clinician for the eye group within the National Institutes of Health.
P: When you came in as an administrator, did you have to hire a staff or were they
R: They were already there. I did not have to hire anybody. I was the only
member of the staff they hired. My title was Executive Secretary of the Training
Grants Committee for Ophthalmology. My committee was composed of people
from around the country who were scientists, trainers, and teachers. They made
up the grant committee. I was the administrator, the executive secretary. I did
not have an official yes or no say-so about the grants. But I organized the
grants and helped process the paperwork.
P: So grant applications came in?
R: Grant applications came to me that were dealing with training, not with research.
They came to me, and I assigned members of my committee to review those
grants applications. They then presented the application to the others at a
regular meeting. Sometimes we would make site visits. Much [of my] time, out
of my two years there, was spent on site visits, going around the country, looking
at programs, along with several members of my training grants committee.
P: Who made the decision about what research areas you were to work on?
R: Now, remember, I worked on training grants. I worked only on the training part.
P: I was just wondering if you brought a particular research interest into the
program, that you carried with you from Iowa.
R: I just used my general knowledge. I understood the process. I also understood
how research was done and how much time residents have to do research. All
of that helped me to guide and evaluate a program, to make sure it was really a
program that encouraged, endorsed, or supported research training for the
residents--while they were training to be ophthalmologists. Otherwise the grant
could be used as a gimmick to just help support the clinical training of
ophthalmologists, which was not the purpose of NIH.
P: Let me ask this question then. When do you get to the point in your career, or
have you already reached it, when you know what area of ophthalmology you
want to specialize in?
R: I learned that during residency.
P: So by this time you had already made that decision?
R: Yes. In fact, I had decided pretty well that I was interested in the clinical
sub-speciality of retina.
P: Which was the special area you have been known for ever since.
R: Right, plus optics. I was also interested in refraction, spectacles, and contact
lenses, because of my background in optometry. That was a basic knowledge I
had but I could carry it through and improve on it in addition to my interest in the
retina. So I always had an interest in teaching optics and working with optics,
although my primary clinical interest led me to become a specialist in retinal
diseases; there were not very many in the country at the time. There are now,
but there were not then.
P: It was like medicine. There were a giant number of areas. You could be a
specialist in one particular area.
R: You do that primarily or only by being there and seeing more of those patients.
That is how you learn and become a specialist.
P: I am jumping a little bit ahead here, but they brought you here to this University
because of your retina interest, so you could develop a program here.
R: That is correct.
P: You have already fine-tuned yourself in terms of service and research to know,
years before, that this was what you were going to specialize in?
R: I knew during my training that retina was the area that I wanted to do. It was
again fortuitous and serendipitous that I fell into the retina. I was interested in
many areas of ophthalmology, just like many medical students are interested in
many areas of medicine. Once I got into ophthalmology, I was interested in
each area when I was on that service and learned more about it. One of the
people who was on the retina service when I was rotating through that area
chose to spend his time pursuing other interests. He was not interested in
retina, so I sort of got the spillover from his work in addition to my own. So I had
a double dose of retina during that period of time. So I wound up especially
well-trained in that area, much more than I would have been as an average
resident. The more I learned about retina, the more exciting it got, more
interesting, more questions were raised and I wanted to learn more.
P: Now this hospital in which you did one day a week in Georgetown, what kind of a
hospital was that?
R: It was a teaching hospital.
P: The Georgetown University Hospital?
R: There were two teaching hospitals in the Washington area at that time, both
university related. One was part of George Washington University and the other
belonged to Georgetown University. Georgetown was more academically
oriented than the other one.
P: Was it a private school?
R: It was a private school but it took care of D.C. General Hospital and the indigent
patients in the whole Washington area. It ran the D.C. General Hospital.
P: Was it a big hospital?
R: It was a huge hospital.
P: Bigger than Shands?
P: Where was it located?
R: It was located in downtown Washington.
P: So you commuted there from home?
R: I commuted from Bethesda. At that time there was no Beltway, which meant
you had to go straight down Wisconsin Avenue and along Massachusetts
P: Lots of red lights?
R: Lots of red lights and the traffic was enormous because many who worked in
Washington lived in the suburbs. I was going with the traffic.
P: Going and coming?
R: Going and coming is right.
P: Was this an 8:00 to 5:00 job?
R: No. Well, which part? The teaching part?
P: The hospital part.
R: The hospital part started at 7:00 a.m. I tried to avoid the traffic by leaving before
5:30, but it was almost impossible to avoid the traffic. There were many eye
patients. I was a guide--a mentor to the residents. I was not the only attending;
but I was the only one on who attended on Thursdays from the outside.
P: Were you dealing only with indigent patients?
R: No, there were also some private patients. I helped the faculty take care of
some of their patients because there were no retina experts in Washington at the
time. The closest [alternative] was [Johns] Hopkins [Hospital] at Baltimore,
which was thirty-five miles away, but the people in Washington did not want to go
up there. They wanted to stay in their own area.
P: And you saw a variety of patients?
R: Yes, but almost all were retina patients. I had limited myself to retina except for
the general training of the residents. I was training them in elementary surgical
procedures, how to do cataracts, and things of that sort too.
P: You were obviously already doing surgery?
R: Yes and I worked with the residents. I had a formal clinical appointment at that
hospital. They gave me a title as an attending surgeon. One has to have
privileges at a hospital wherever you work as a physician. I was signed on as a
physician helping the residents. That was for one day every week.
P: And the other six days? I assume this was a seven-day-week business?
R: We are not quite done yet. I also had one half-day a week I spent doing rounds
at the clinical center with Dr. von Sallman. The specialty cases were brought to
the clinical center. There I could always add my little bit of expertise to the
discussions. They had clinical associates, other doctors, who were there
spending their two years in the Public Health Service working with Dr. von
Sallman on the clinical end.
P: He was a big name?
R: He was a big name, yes. He was from Columbia University. He was retired
from there. Originally, he was from Germany and made a name in eye research
there and at Columbia. He was mainly a research-oriented clinician.
P: Did he become your mentor there?
R: He was actually a friend more than a mentor. My mentor was still Hogan and
Braley, who was my chief at Iowa.
P: But they were away from Washington.
R: There was nobody else; I was the only retinal ophthalmologist in this area. All
the others I worked with, except von Sallman, were administrators. The
interesting part of this was that I spent one-half a day there, and one day a week
at D.C. General Hospital. There was one other doctor who alternated with me.
So one day a week I went to the D.C. General Hospital at Georgetown. Half a
day a week I spent at the clinical center. Those were my clinical outlets. The
other days, I had to devote to the job I was hired for, which was to run the
administrative programs and go on site visits.
P: Was this a seven-day-a-week job?
R: No, it was five days a week, though I did frequently have to travel on weekends
for site visits. My boss could not understand how the earlier administrator
needed the full five days to discharge his administrative responsibility of running
the training committee while I needed only three and a half. Furthermore the
actual job of processing grants had grown much greater because there were
more and more grant applications coming through, and I was still doing it in only
three and one-half days a week. They could not understand how I managed.
P: You had Lorna.
R: I had Lorna, but I also had something else. A strong work ethic. I was used to
medical work. I was a clinician. When I had a job to do, I went out and did it.
Many career administrators had good intentions, but they were not very efficient.
They wasted a lot of time. Spun a lot of wheels.
P: Does this mean you had your weekends free to do things?
R: I was traveling a lot on weekends. I had to do an awful lot of site visits. I put in
300,000 miles in the two years I was in the service, just flying around the country
doing site visits.
P: So you saw the United States for the first time?
R: I saw the United States for the first time. Plus, I saw training programs in a way
that I could never have otherwise. I was being courted by the people who were
applying for grants, so they treated me very well. I would go on every site visit
with two members from the training committee, and those site visitors were big
names in ophthalmology. Picture this--I was just out of my residency, wet
behind the ears, not known to anybody, and had not really done anything
recognizable except to the few people I had worked with. Here, in this job, I
was rubbing elbows with the most prominent and highest level of academic
ophthalmology in the country. [I was with] Ed Norton, chief at Miami; [with] Brad
Straatsma, UCLA chairman, [with] a series of twelve or so other prominent,
high-level [ophthalmologists]. This included Bernie Becker at Washington
University in St. Louis, who was the chairman of my committee. These were the
top names, and here I was, their servant, but on a first name basis with them,
asking them to come on site visits. Actually, I was in charge of assigning site
visits and going with them. I became very close and friendly with them. I am
sure that helped foster my career, [helped me] to do the many things I never
would have been able to do. [It happened] because I had known them, not
because I had curried favors with them.
P: I am curious. At this time in your career, had you heard of Gainesville, the
University of Florida, or Shands?
R: No, not yet.
P: But you knew of Miami?
R: Oh yes. Miami was one of the strong programs in the country, even at that time.
P: In eyes?
R: In ophthalmology. [Other strong programs existed at] UCLA [University of
California at Los Angeles], State University of Iowa [Iowa City], Washington
University [at St. Louis, Missouri], and [Johns] Hopkins [University in Baltimore,
Maryland], those were the big programs. Massachusetts Eye and Ear [at
Harvard University s Medical facility in Boston], which was a Harvard program,
was a good program as well.
P: So you are traveling around seeing and meeting people and making contacts?
R: Meeting people, making contacts. During a site visit to Harvard, I met [Herbert
E.] Herb Kaufman [not yet UF Associate Professor of Surgery and Chief of the
Division of Ophthalmology]. He was a resident there at the time. I had already
completed my residency. He was still a resident up there. Actually, Herb was
older than I was, but he had completed his Public Health Service obligation
before his residency--working coincidentally in Dr. von Sallman s lab at NIH.
P: So a lot of these things helped your career, but the fact that you knew these
people must have also helped the University of Florida's medical program?
R: Yes, indirectly, that was true of anybody who came here. [All new faculty came]
with the baggage and the glories of what preceded him or her. So when you
have a faculty member in urology or cardiac surgery, you know they came with
all sorts of connections. They did not just come. They came with everything
they could bring with them, not physically, but in the way of contacts. The aura,
the contacts, the communication skills, and the networking that occurred, were all
brought into the University or into any university where people of note come to
[join] a program. You were never just hiring an individual, but all that he brought
P: Was life more comfortable for the Rubins in Washington? I presume you were
being paid more?
R: I was in the service. My salary in the service, instead of $3,000 a year as a
resident, had moved up to $6,000 a year.
P: With PX privileges?
R: And PX privileges, correct. Because I was with the Public Health Service, I was
entitled to use the air force PX.
P: But you did not have to wear a uniform?
R: No, I did not.
P: Did you have any drill assignments or anything like that?
R: No, there was nothing military about the assignment.
P: You did not make anybody salute you when you came in the office?
R: No, I did not.
P: Or [did you] order anyone to shine your shoes?
R: No. The world in Washington was amazing. You were up on everything that
was going on. You knew the granting process. You learned who did the
granting. You learned the maneuvering, what happened to grant applications,
and how people barter for those they want. You learned an awful lot about the
whole process by being up there. When I came to Gainesville, I brought all that
information with me.
P: Now in the meantime, from a personal point of view, you sold the house in Iowa
when you came to Washington?
R: Yes, and I lost money on it too.
P: Did you live in an apartment in Washington?
R: No, we rented a house for two years.
P: Your kids are a little older now.
R: Jan already started grammar school in Washington, in Montgomery County,
which included Bethesda [Maryland].
P: Now there was a whole wonderful creative world in Washington, a world of
music, art, museums, and all of those great things. Were you able to take
advantage of that?
R: Unfortunately not as much as I would have liked. In fact, I was sort of ill about
that because there was no performing arts center there.
P: The Kennedy Center was not there?
R: It was not there, that came much later. There was very difficult transportation.
There was no subway. There was no beltway. So everything depended on
driving and traffic. I was home so little. I was traveling. The job required me
to be away a lot. Lorna was very frustrated that I was gone all the time. The
time I did spend there, we would spend with friends in Bethesda, socializing.
We lived right next to a synagogue, but we never really had time to partake. We
went to a few things, that was all.
P: They say that in those early years, the 1950s and 1960s, particularly in the
1950s, Washington was really a cultural desert.
R: I would not know because I just did not partake of anything cultural. I do not
know whether it was there or not. I assumed that something was there.
P: I was just reading an article about that. Many of the diplomats who came in from
England and France were not very thrilled about being in Washington because
they could not go to the ballet, do this, or do that.
R: We went out to some of the parks, to some of the beautiful sights and national
monuments that were there to see.
P: You did it as a family?
R: As a family, yes. We went to Mount Vernon. We went to the sights around
Washington. There was an enormous number of wonderful little things to do.
P: And you were still with two children, but little children.
R: That is right. They were quite little, and really not old enough to understand
much, although Jan was now in first grade. We went to the parks, and to [see]
the fall foliage. Everything was just beautiful there.
Now, about how I got to Florida and what brought me here. On one of the site
visits, I met [Herb] Kaufman. He was a resident at Massachusetts Eye and Ear
in Boston. He was trying to promote his program there. He was presented, on
our site visits, as one of the model trainees in their program, since he was doing
research. He was their example of the productivity of their program which
produced people interested in research. Remember, the idea of this whole
training program, the granting agency I was with, was to support training for
research in clinical training programs, such as I had when I was a resident. He
was one of the participants in his program.
P: Now was he at Harvard or was he at Massachusetts [Institute of Technology]?
R: Massachusetts Eye and Ear was the Harvard program--the clinical end.
P: The Massachusetts Eye Institute?
R: Yes, well, the full name was The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.
P: Was it on the campus at Harvard or in another location in town?
R: Now it is in another area of town. It was near the Massachusetts General
Hospital, which was [the location of] one of the three Harvard training programs.
The eye program was there. As Kaufman was showing me his laboratory, he
casually said, I am moving down to Gainesville next year.
P: He had already accepted the program?
R: He had already accepted the position. This was a brand new program for
ophthalmology. He was interested in applying for a grant for his program
because he had in mind training residents in research.
P: In Gainesville?
R: Yes, at UF in Gainesville. So he was talking to me about his prospective
program while we were interviewing them, about support of their program, the
site visit. It was not a conflict of interest. It was merely a convenient
coincidence for him. He asked, would you be interested in coming down [to
Florida]? He wanted to apply for a grant and wanted to know the mechanism--
how you apply for a grant to support a new training program. Eventually, I
arranged for a site visit to UF. This was in 1962. But it was in 1961 when I first
met him up there, during my first year with NIH. So I came down to UF on an
official site visit in February 1962. His recruitment of me to the faculty began
P: Kaufman was already on the scene here in February 1962?
R: I am trying to remember if it was February 1963. Anyway, he was on the scene
here, and I came down on a site visit and he was already here. So it must have
been in 1963.
P: So he became your ticket to Gainesville?
R: He did not originally invite me as a faculty person, he invited me to come down
for a site visit so he could apply for a grant. Two people and I came down to
look at the possibility of making a grant. He had residents. We had to see what
his ideas were for setting up a training program, how he wanted to do it. Our
Institute had small grants available that were given to get programs started. I
think it was a $20,000 yearly grant to the program to help hire a part-time faculty
person, and to pay a few salaries of the trainees in the program. He applied for
it and received the grant. The training-grant money was very generously given
at the time. NIH wanted to encourage programs to produce research people, so
they gave out the grants very readily. There were not very many programs
turned down. Kaufman had the brains and potential for developing the program
the way NIH wished. There was no greasing necessary to give him funds to
start the program. He was able to partake because he was starting a new
program and fulfilled the grant s stipulations.
At the same time when I came down here, he invited me. He said, now you know
what I am interested in. What about you? What are you going to do? He
wondered if I planned to stay on with the Public Health Service and work on this
P: Were you intrigued about doing that?
P: In other words, you were looking to just complete your two years.
R: More than that, I was looking at what I was going to do at the end of the two
years. I did not make any big bones about it. Many of the people on the
training committee were offering me jobs, saying--come and work in our program.
When you are interested in academic medicine, you have plenty of job offers.
But in every single place, there was somebody already there who could do what I
could do, only better, somebody more senior or more advanced. When I looked
at the Gainesville potential, when Herb offered me a position to come down here,
I saw that I could really add something here. They had nobody here who could
do what I could do.
P: You could set up a program?
R: I could set it up the way it would be helpful. I could actually contribute
something. At the other places I would have simply been an add-on; here I felt I
could contribute something novel, interesting, and help develop the program from
the ground up.
P: Before you get to Gainesville, let me ask you a couple of things here that I am
not sure about. What was this Vision Research Training Committee?
R: That was the government entity of which I was the executive secretary. That was
the title that I had there. The committee consisted of ten to twelve members of
the advisory committee, myself, and the staff at NIH.
P: What does NINDB stand for?
R: As I said, there were eight, or ten National Institutes. There was the NCI
[National Cancer Institute], the National Heart Institute [the NHI], and the NINDB
[the National Institute for Neurologic Diseases and Blindness]. My title was
executive secretary for the Vision Research Training Grants Committee at
NINDB, which was one of the institutes of NIH.
P: Was there anything else that we need to say about that part of your career in
Washington that we have not touched upon?
R: No. I gained more clinical skills and experience by working with the Georgetown
service. I got very knowledgeable and friendly with the training grants people. I
had a chance to see how other people around the country [worked]. I am sure I
went on 100 site visits in the two years I was there. One other great thing about
NIH was that I was allowed, in fact I was encouraged, to go to scientific
meetings. They would send me to scientific meetings to meet other potential
grantees, people who might be applying. I went to many scientific meetings, the
AMA scientific sessions, the Association for Research in Ophthalmology scientific
sessions, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology scientific sessions.
There were a lot of scientific meetings, including the American Ophthalmologic
Society scientific meeting, and I was encouraged to go to all of those. I would
come back and give a synopsis of some of the highlights to the Clinical Science
Center when I went that half-day a week to participate in their grand rounds. I
would not only hear discussions about patients, I was [also] able to bring
information from outside [concerning] what was currently going on in the country,
clinically and research wise. Many of those people had no chance to go to
scientific meetings, so I was actually bringing back something important. Von
Sallman was very happy about that. He thought I was a great contributor to his
training program and to the people who were there.
P: Were any of these scientific meetings you attended outside of the United States?
R: No, none at all.
P: So you were still isolated to stay this country. You had not gone to Europe or
R: No. My first international meeting was done after I was here, at the University of
P: Now we need to get you to Gainesville. You have already talked about your
contacts with Herbert Kaufman when he was working at Harvard.
R: Of course, he is here now.
P: Before he got here, though, your first contact with him was in Massachusetts.
You related to him there and he related to you. Somewhere along the line, while
he was still in Massachusetts, he began to talk to you about Gainesville. Or was
this when you made the site visit here?
R: He did not talk to me about Gainesville until I came down here.
P: On that site visit?
P: Let me ask you a little bit about Kaufman. This is not an interview with
Kaufman, but obviously your two careers overlapped. Did you get along well
R: Very well. He was very bright and innovative. He actually discovered the
usefulness of the first antiviral to treat viral diseases. That was when he was still
a resident at Harvard. When he came down here, he brought the technology of
how to develop antivirals as chemotherapeutic agents to treat the viral disease,
herpes of the cornea, which is a serious eye infection. It was the first treatment
of a viral disease with a chemical that would not destroy tissue but would treat
only the virus. It was like an antibiotic for viruses. He became known for that.
That was [written up] in Time Magazine.
P: Would you describe him as a first class scientist?
R: Yes, I think so. He was well-known for that. He was well-known for his
innovative areas of research, and for always thinking of new things.
P: Was he also a skilled administrator?
R: He learned, just as all of us learned, by the seat of his pants. He had never
been responsible for any organization before, and then here, he was given the
charge of running a training program. At that time, we were a part of the
department of surgery. Ophthalmology was not an independent department, it
was a division of surgery.
P: When it was first set up, it was part of the College of Medicine?
R: It still is. The College of Medicine had surgery, medicine, obstetrics, and
pediatrics. Within each department in the college, there were several divisions.
In surgery, there would be urology, plastic surgery, heart surgery, neurosurgery,
ENT, orthopedics, and ophthalmology. It was only later that we formed a
separate department for ophthalmology.
P: You came here in July 1963, with an appointment as assistant professor of
surgery, in the Division of Ophthalmology.
P: That was the way it was set up on the theater of operations chart at that time.
P: Where were you? Were you in this building?
R: We were on the fifth floor, in an office now occupied by psychiatry. [It was] a
very small office and a small department.
P: Before we get there, let us talk a little bit about the history of the department. It
was established in 1956.
R: The entire College of Medicine was established in 1956.
P: This was the first year, the opening?
R: The first class was admitted in 1956 and graduated in 1960.
P: Now by the time you got here in 1963, the center core of this building was
already here. The college had moved out of the temporaries?
R: Yes, this was already here. In other words, what was here was the old Shands
Hospital, the area that was called the Basic Science Wing, and the pharmacy
building was already built, as was Pharmacy, Nursing, and the College of Health
P: Pharmacy was already up. Dentistry was not here yet?
R: Dentistry was here but not as a building.
P: I know. I remember they were over in that little building over near the surgery
R: That was all that was here. Now, by the time I got here, there were four classes
that had graduated. The graduation of 1963 occurred just before I came in July.
P: There had to be ophthalmology students who were graduated before you got
R: No, there were no ophthalmology students, but here were medical students who
learned a little about ophthalmology. Officially the program in ophthalmology, to
teach residents, did not start until a full time chairman was appointed, until
Kaufman came in 1962.
P: What job did Dr. Ernest [R.] Casey [clinical associate in surgery] do? Who was
R: He was an ophthalmologist who practiced in Gainesville, one of the three or four
[doctors] who were practicing ophthalmology in town. He had accepted the
administrative responsibilities for teaching medical students. He would come in
and teach the medical students by giving a few lectures in ophthalmology as part
of their education. If there was a private patient, or if a patient had to be sent
from here who needed consultation, Casey would be involved in that. There
was no ophthalmology except for what he would do.
P: They really did not accept ophthalmology patients then, did they?
R: No we could not [accept any] because there was nobody here to take care of
them. Ophthalmology problems occurred in patients who had other problems.
Anyone who was sick with liver disease and developed an eye problem had to be
referred to somebody. So Casey would come in and see those patients.
P: I see.
R: Casey and the other local ophthalmologists (Pinkoson, van Arnam, and one
other) were very loyal. The people in town were very happy to have an
ophthalmology department set up here so they could send us their problems.
When Herb [Kaufman] came and became the first division chairman in 1962, he
had to start building a program pretty quickly. He started with his research staff.
He brought two or three research people with him.
P: I have names of three people he brought. One of them is your name. Dr.
[Richard] Copenhaver [assistant professor of Surgery] was another.
R: Copenhaver was a friend of his, whom [Kaufman] had met when he was in
research training with von Sallman. Copenhaver trained in ophthalmology at
Columbia; Herb trained at Harvard. Dick Copenhaver trained at Columbia and
was interested in pediatrics and neurology. Those are two areas of
ophthalmology Herb was not especially interested in. Those were not his
expertise. [Kaufman] was interested in the front of the eye and viral diseases,
and in surgery of the anterior segment, including corneal transplants. He
needed to have the rest of the eye covered by someone who could expertly
cover those in an educational domain. So he hired Copenhaver, I think, a few
months after he came here. Then he hired me. I was the third one on the
faculty. My interest was in the retina and optics, also areas in which
ophthalmology needed coverage.
P: Now when you came here, he made you a firm offer. You were on the site visit,
and he said to you, would you be interested in coming here?
R: Yes. He asked if I would be interested in coming here. Then in my mind I went
through all the things such as: do we really want to live in a small southern town?
There was not much air conditioning. It was hotter than blazes in the long
summer. But academically, it was a growing university. The medical school
was growing. I met [George Thomas] Harrell, who was the first dean. He was
excited as all get out about the programs here. He was not very interested in
specialty training, but he was interested in promoting the concept of good
medical care. He understood that required specialists here to do that. Overall,
though, he felt that the UF medical school ought to be for training primary care
physicians, people who would go out into general practice and care for the
P: You came in July, the hottest time of the year?
R: I did. It was awful. I was very hot.
P: I bet you were.
R: I was hot when I first went to Iowa in July too. It was a very similar experience.
As I say, I was attracted here [for various] reasons. Number one, it was a state
university. Number two, it was in the middle of nowhere, so it was similar to
Iowa City--that was an attraction because I liked Iowa city. You did more of the
things that were here to do. Now, back then, truly, there were not a lot of things
to do in town. There were enough, but it was not like San Francisco or a big
city, which I was used to. There, you could do almost anything you wanted to at
the moment you decided to do it. Here, you had to wait until it came to you.
But percentage-wise, you actually wound up doing more and participating more
in the activities here. So on balance you wound up doing more in a small town
than you did in a big city.
P: Now the challenge was here. Talking in lay terms, what could you do? I know
you set up a program.
R: I set up a formal training program. There was no one who did my specialty,
which was to take care of the specialized needs in my area of retinal disease, in
all of north Florida. [Before I arrived] the closest [specialist in retina] was in
Miami. The next closest one was in Atlanta.
P: So you were fulfilling an important [role].
R: First of all, I was fulfilling a clinical need, but retina was terribly time-consuming.
I was spending half my life in the operating room. The patient backlog was
great; patients demanded and wanted care in an area that I was interested in.
Secondly, I met the interests of new residents coming into training and Herb did
attract some good residents. They were interested in coming to work for him in
his area. I was involved, then and to the current date, in the training of every
resident who has ever been trained in this program, as well as all the fellows.
P: Mel, were there any special problems because the population was poor? It had
not had any eye care because of the rural population. Did this fact evolve into
new problems here that you had not encountered elsewhere? Did the
environment or the geography have anything to do with it?
R: I am not sure that they did. I think we were here before de facto integration was
enacted by the legislatures. I was surprised to walk into a place where the eye
clinic had two drinking faucets and two separate bathrooms, one for the colored
[folks]. I could not believe it, because nowhere I had been before--certainly not
in San Francisco, Iowa, or Washington--had any of that. It was my first
introduction to segregation. All our patients were given the same quality of care.
I did not notice anything different in the treatment.
P: What I am really asking is, were there any special health problems, eye health
R: That we saw here?
P: That you saw here that you would not have seen in Iowa or that you would not
have encountered in a large urban area like San Francisco or Washington.
R: Not really. I think that in the large urban areas there was a little more trauma
where a lot of beatings and fights [occurred]. They were called knife and gun
P: But nothing as a result of malnutrition, living in rural areas, or anything like that.
R: No, not really. Not that I recall. I do not believe so.
P: You know that there had been diseases that seemed peculiar to the south,
hookworm and that sort of thing. I wondered if there were any eye diseases of
R: The only eye disease that was more common here than any place else, that I
saw, was fungus disease of the cornea. In other words, from tree branch
injuries to the eye, fungi that were present on the tree leaves or in the fruit would
cause a low grade infection that could be very serious to the eye. You did not
see much of that elsewhere. That was peculiar though. It was [due to the]
climate, which is more tropical. Therefore, we could become experts--we
meaning me, but Herb particularly--by seeing a lot of patients with a peculiar
thing that was not present elsewhere. That was the only thing unusual that I
P: The moss on trees did not create any bacteria or anything like that?
R: Not that we know of or that we recognized as separate diseases that were
P: As I say, I know that there were diseases that have been associated with the
South, but you are saying there were no eye diseases that were peculiar to this
R: I may think of some afterwards, but right now I do not recall any.
P: So you were seeing the same kinds of patients with the same kinds of problems
that you had already dealt with in other places.
R: Yes, a lot of the same diseases, but sometimes more advanced. One thing I
can say is that the eye care in the area was not as well done as I have seen in
the major cities, where there were more specialists present and where they took
care of the problems before they got to the advanced stages. So we saw a lot of
things that were more advanced, but not anything more than that.
P: Let me ask you about something I am curious about. There were both black and
white patients here. They were not segregated as far as wards and so on were
R: Nothing was segregated about medical care. Every patient, bank presidents,
faculty, or indigent patients that were seen here, were all seen in exactly the
P: And the black patients were in beds next to the white patients?
R: Absolutely, yes.
P: So the only segregation was with the bathrooms and the drinking fountains?
R: Yes, that was all I saw. It was right downstairs in the eye clinic. I was shocked
each time I saw that, but we accepted it as part of the local culture. We
managed to change it as soon as we could. When I moved down here, I was
very surprised to see it.
P: You did not see any blacks included in the medical staff?
R: I think there may have been some black staff members.
P: Not that early, I do not think.
R: I just do not recall seeing them, no.
P: Do you remember any black residents? I am talking about the early days now.
R: No. Ophthalmology s first black resident was brought in six or seven years after
P: We did not even integrate football.
R: For ophthalmology, it was not a matter of discrimination. It was simply the fact
that not many blacks who went through medical school were interested in
ophthalmology. There were very few medical schools that trained black
students, so the black pool for resident selection was very small.
P: So the blacks who were employed here were once again in the traditional jobs of
cleaning up and in the kitchens.
R: Yes, I think so.
P: One of the earliest black students on campus was a woman who was in medical
school. She was among the first two or three black students on this campus, in
R: There were not very many women in medical school either back then.
P: The first black student here was [enrolled] in 1958, over in the law school
[George H. Starke, Jr. from Orlando]. In 1959, there were two black women
students. One [Daphne Duval of Gainesville] was in English, and the other
[Ester M. Langstan] was in medicine. So that process began very early here,
even before you arrived on the scene. It really did not develop until the end of
the 1960s and on into the 1970s. So your first office in the building was up on
the fifth floor, you said?
R: Yes. I had an office around the corner from Dr. Kaufman's. He had his labs on
that floor. We had very few offices upstairs plus [we had] a small eye clinic
downstairs that consisted of five rooms.
P: Were you happy with the lab facilities, since you were always interested in
R: Though I was interested in the lab, my research was really clinical research. I
had a lab down here that was in a corner on the first floor. I shared it with
[Richard] Copenhaver. He was developing an electronic instrument for mapping
visual fields automatically.
P: Now you began adding staff here, and among the ones you added was Barbara
R: Interestingly, she was here as a wife of a faculty member [Sidney Cassin,
Assistant Professor of Physiology] who came when the medical school was
opened. Barbara Cassin was gone the year I came. I think they were on
sabbatical that year. After that, the first year she came back and worked part
time for the department was 1964.
P: So in what area of Shands was Sidney?
R: Sidney was a physiologist in the Department of Physiology. I think he was a
faculty member when the medical school opened. Barbara was here, obviously,
at the same time but she did not work in ophthalmology.
P: She came with [Thomas H.] Maren [professor of pharmacology and therapeutics]
at the same time, in 1956. Barbara was not a doctor though.
R: She was an orthoptist.
P: What does that mean?
R: That deals with children whose eyes do not work together, such as when they
are cross-eyed. Opthoptics also deals with children who have poor eyesight due
to childhood strabismus.
P: So that was a new area she was moving into?
R: It was similar to a physician's assistant in ophthalmology but dealing specifically
with children with poorly coordinated eye movements.
P: Now, who was Norman Ballin?
R: Norm Ballin had finished a residency in Miami and was trained in glaucoma and
retinal diseases. Herb and I hired him to start helping me with retina because I
was the only retina person here. I was living in the operating room. As you
know, retinal detachments or that field of eye tend to occur acutely, suddenly.
When a problem happens, you have to take care of it. That means being
available to operate day, night, weekends, or whenever you can get into the
operating room, to take care of things as quickly as possible.
P: Is he still on the staff?
R: No. He left after two years. I think he took part of his training on the West
Coast, on his fellowship, and loved it out there. [He] decided to devote himself
and pursue his career in the Palo Alto clinic, in the Stanford [California] area.
P: What about William [W.] Dawson [associate professor of surgery and
R: Bill Dawson was hired as a physiologist to work with [Nathan W.] Nate Perry
[assistant professor of clinical psychology, College of Health Related Services]
and Copenhaver dealing with the area of electrophysiology of vision. That
deals with electrical tests, comparable to electrocardiograms, where you do
electrical tests of the function of the heart. He was an electrophysiologist who
worked on the structure and development of the electrical responses of the eye.
In general, all of them were working together. Bill Dawson was hired as a
psychologist; his training was in experimental psychology.
P: Where is he?
R: He is still here. He is a professor on the staff as a non-physician. He is a
P: You mentioned Nate Perry. I do not have that name down here. Who was he?
R: Nate Perry was hired as a clinical psychologist, working with Copenhaver on a
job in the department developing this test that I described as an automated visual
field, which they mapped objectively using electrical tests. He was hired, I think,
back in 1963 or 1964, and worked with Copenhaver for the year or two that he
was here. He then went on into clinical psychology. He is now chairman of
clinical psychology at the College of Medicine and the Department of Health
P: I do not understand the relationship between psychology and ophthalmology.
R: This is the psychology of perception. There is more than just clinical
psychology. It is not so much just dealing with clinical and mental problems. It
is dealing with the experimental end of nerve tissue functions and perceptual
psychology. A lot of people who do superb vision work in the scientific field have
Ph.D's in physiological optics, physiology, or psychological optics, namely
P: But they would not come under the Department of Psychology at the College of
Liberal Arts and Sciences?
R: It is strange. The ones who are more aligned with the clinical application of
things will come through the College of Health Related Professions. That was
Nate Perry. Bill Dawson's background was really in physiology. He was
interested in the physiology of workings of tissue and nerve tissue, and the
electrical responses of nerve tissue. He was spending more time in our
department. Actually, when he first came, he had a joint appointment in
physiology and ophthalmology.
P: What did Louis [David] Cohen [professor of psychology and chairman,
Department of Clinical Psychology] do, when he came here from Duke? I
thought he was a clinical psychologist?
R: Yes, I think he was in clinical psychology.
P: He was.
R: I think Nate Perry was also in Louis Cohen s department, working with him.
Anyway, Lou incorporated Nate into his department.
P: I have never heard of this relationship.
R: A lot of departments have people with joint appointments.
P: I understand that. I did not understand the relationship between ophthalmology
R: That has to do with vision and perception. That is the relationship as far as I
understand. I am not sure how it is between clinical psychology and the
Department of Psychology. One requires a graduate degree, but I think there
were graduate degrees in both. I do not know why clinical psychologists are
here as part of the health- related professions and others are part of psychology,
up on campus. I guess I am just as confused as you are.
P: Now [Sid] Cassin, [Norm] Ballin, and [Bill] Dawson were not medical doctors,
R: Norm Ballin was; he was a physician and an ophthalmologist.
P: Was this the first expansion of ophthalmology after you arrived on the scene?
R: When Copenhaver left, we hired somebody who was supposed to replace him.
[We hired] Jorge Ferrer, a pediatric ophthalmologist.
P: Barbara Cassin stayed on for a long time, did she not?
R: She stayed until last year, when she retired, but she was not a physician.
P: I understand that.
R: She could not do the surgery. She could not do the medical clinical evaluations.
However, she was extremely valuable. She helped in the education process.
She helped with training programs that she developed parallel to the
ophthalmologists. Those were the Orthoptic Training Program and the
Ophthalmic Technologist Program, to train assistants to the physicians in
ophthalmology. She developed both training programs and has, in fact, been
the mother of those programs, if you will, parallel with the development of our
residency training program. She trained expert helpers for the ophthalmologists.
P: This may be jumping a little ahead in terms of time, but ophthalmology, as I
understand it, was the first part of the medical school program set up outside of
Gainesville, and this one was in Jacksonville?
R: That is correct.
P: With Ron Fishman?
R: Ronald Fishman was our first resident to go through that.
P: Tell me what was going on there. Explain that. Do you have a date on this?
R: Roughly I do. It was within two or three years of my starting at UF. Let me say
there was already a hospital in Jacksonville called the University Hospital that at
the time had no relationship with the University of Florida. It was an
independent hospital. It was a county hospital. It took care of the many
indigent patients in the Jacksonville area, and had contracts to care for the city
employees. There was a staff [which consisted of] internists, cardiologists, and
P: Its original name was the County Hospital. It actually had that name, but to
make it more gentile, they changed it to University Hospital.
R: I did not know that. When I came, it was called University Hospital. They had
training programs in surgery, anesthesia, and pediatrics. Whoever was in
charge hired their own residents and faculty. It was totally independent from
here. They had no programs or residents in ophthalmology. When Herb and I
we went there as consultants, we learned that they needed to have continuity in
their eye care. There was nobody doing eye care there except some of the eye
doctors in town. We had Dr. Casey to send UF patients to at Shands. They
had no staff ophthalmologist at the hospital. Then they hired a local Jacksonville
ophthalmologist, Tom Edwards, to do the ophthalmology there--but he dropped
off, and went into practice. Again, they had no ophthalmologist as part of their
program, yet there was a lot of ophthalmologic work that needed to be done. So
we sent one of our senior eye residents, who was already well trained, to go over
there, stationed in Jacksonville.
P: This was Ronald?
R: This was Ron Fishman, who was to open up that program and take care of it.
He was the first one who actually rotated through there, and he spent a year
there. He started the pattern. He set it up for the next resident to come up.
Pretty soon we started having residents rotate through there and hired our own
faculty to run the program there. The first one was one of our own finishing
residents, Dr. David Brown, who is now in practice in Fort Myers. He was
followed by Dr. Yechiel Wind.
P: Where is he now?
R: He is now in practice in Jacksonville.
P: I am going to get to Shaler Richardson [clinical associate in surgery], but we are
not there yet.
R: Richardson actually preceded all this.
P: Of course, I am from Jacksonville, so Shaler Richardson's name was well known
R: There were Shaler Richardson, Charles McCrory, and Charles Boyd.
P: I guess Shaler Richardson was the best?
R: He was great. Incidentally, I think that either Shaler or [Charles W.] Charlie
Boyd [clinical associate in ophthalmology] was the first ophthalmologist in the
state. Back to Jacksonville s University Hospital, as I explained, we started the
P: Did you go up at all? Did you visit?
R: We occasionally had rounds there and we sometimes went up to review the
program. But not on a regular basis.
P: Was it on the same site the University Hospital is on now?
R: It was the same site, but they have built other buildings around it.
P: University Hospital was right next door to what was St. Luke s Hospital, where I
was born. The start of life was there.
R: Our residents started going there. We recruited faculty to monitor them, to
watch them, and go over patients with them. That was part of their training.
We started a regular rotation of our residents through that program. One of the
senior residents would go up there, and now two go up there. They share part
of their third year training.
P: The patients are not just indigents any more?
R: No. It is still primarily an indigent hospital, but private patients of the faculty are
seen there, in their own building next door.
P: Do they do eye surgery there?
R: Oh sure.
P: So they no longer send patients to Gainesville?
R: No, they do not any more. We used to get all the spillover of complex eye
problems from Jacksonville, but there are so many good ophthalmologists in
Jacksonville now. We have a faculty at the hospital there, so nobody is sent this
way now unless there is something very unusual.
P: Do the people over there consult with you?
R: Yes, the faculty there do [consult us] on the phone or if they want to send a
patient over. It is not a regular thing. We do not go up there regularly to take
care of their patients and they do not come down to visit us, except to our grand
rounds, or for some joint function. About ten years ago, the University Hospital
program became part of the University of Florida System. All of the resident
rotations there are no longer done independently. Our rotations continue up
there. But now, the University of Florida residents in surgery, medicine, and
pediatrics are also appointed here but assigned there. No longer do the
Jacksonville departments do their own selecting and appointing of residents.
The quality level of the residents who now working there has been upgraded
tremendously, because of the attractiveness of the University of Florida
P: So all of this comes under the jurisdiction of [David R.] Challoner [vice president
of Health Affairs, J. Hillis Miller Health Center]?
P: I did not realize that.
R: When we started, we were the first UF departments to go there and rotate our
residents through there.
P: Who initiated that? You and Herb [Kaufman]?
P: How did you know there was a need for it?
R: As I said, they did not have any full-time ophthalmologists there on the staff.
P: But how did you become aware of that? You were here in Gainesville.
R: We talked; there were telephones; they were anxious to actually have a presence
of ophthalmology there. Again, our level of residents was of really high quality.
Let me describe to you the pool we have--right now we have 300 to 400
applications a year from the best medical students in the country. We only
appoint five a year. We have a big pool to choose from. On their own,
Jacksonville University Hospital did not.
P: The others have to go to Miami or some place else.
R: Miami is probably one of the top two or three in the country. UF is in the top five
or ten. Now it is getting more difficult, because there is a problem in funding the
training programs. Aside from that, we still have a very large applicant pool.
P: Where is [Ronald] Fishman now?
R: He is in practice in Washington.
P: Does he still stay in touch?
R: Oh yes. He is a good friend. In fact, that was how he came down here,
because he knew me. He came down as a second year resident. He already
had his first year of residency, which was at the University of Illinois, but his boss
[Peter Kronfeld] left or retired. Ron then decided to go into service. He went
into the Public Health Service, and he was one of the administrative people in
neurology. Recall that back then, neurology was in the same institute as
ophthalmology, that is, it was part of NINDB, the Neurologic Diseases of
Blindness. His desk was next to mine. He had not finished his residency yet,
having had only one year. He wanted to finish his residency after his NINDB
tour, and we needed a second-year resident at UF. When I came down here, I
invited him to come and finish his residency with us. I knew the superb quality
of the individual. He was first-rate. After he finished his residency here, he
stayed on as a fellow with Dr. Copenhaver, and then went to Jacksonville to help
form the program there.
P: Now when you arrive here Mel, once again, tell me the relationship of the
department. You were not a separate department.
R: No, we were part of Surgery. Our faculty went to all the surgery meetings when
they had their staff meetings every week. I was very close to [Edward R.]
Woodward [professor of surgery and chair]. Woodward actually was my boss.
Herb was my intermediary boss, though obviously he was my everyday boss.
Woodward was my paper boss. Anyway, I got very close to him. He was a
very good friend. In fact, he and I held a men s pair bridge championship for
Gainesville for the first three years we played together.
P: So when you came all of this was part of surgery.
P: Tell me again Herb's title?
R: He came as an associate professor. He skipped the rank of assistant professor
when he was hired, since he was still a resident then. They just could not make
him a full professor.
P: Was the department in surgery at the time?
R: We were a division of surgery, on paper. All of our University administrative
functions were through the chairman of surgery. It was the chairman of surgery
had to argue for us with the dean for space, dollars, or equipment. Everything
had to go through him, rather than directly from Herb to the Dean.
P: So that structure stayed in place until 1965.
R: Yes. Then we composed as many arguments as we could, to let my people
go, to let us break free, and become a separate department.
P: Was that a big battle?
R: It could have been but, it was not a battle with [Ed] Woodward. Woodward was
supportive. The battle was with the Dean Harrell, who did not want to deal with
yet another department on the executive committee. He had to deal with
enough chairmen of departments and did not want to start the splintering process
because the same argument that might hold for departmental status for us could
hold for orthopedics, which it did; for anesthesia, which it did; and for neurology,
which it did; for neurosurgery, which it did, for ENT, too. They all eventually
became separate departments.
P: With the growth of the institution, it was bound to happen.
R: It was, except that there were arguments for keeping us in.
P: For keeping ophthalmology within surgery?
R: Yes, keeping it under surgery. It was interesting, you see, ophthalmology was
a general specialty that included some surgery, but it was not really a surgical
[discipline]. Though we used the operating room, 90 percent of an
ophthalmologist's time was not in an operating room. It was in seeing patients in
an out-patient setting. In surgery, it was the other way around. Most of a
surgeon s time was spent in the operating room, with only minimal time spent in
clinics. It was so with the basic surgical specialties. Ophthalmology did
surgery, had surgical tools, but also did a tremendous amount of medicine, just
general outpatient medicine.
P: So you and Herb carried the fight for a separate department, with the support of
R: Yes. We had to have his support or it would not go through.
P: But dean Harrell is no longer on the scene?
R: He was still on the scene in 1965.
P: I thought he had left the year before.
R: He was here for a couple of years when I was here. Maybe he was in transition.
The arguments for a separate department were, firstly, that none of the great
eye departments in the country are divisions of surgery. Number two, the
staffing, functions, size, and productivity of the departments were geared to their
being separate departments. But unless you control your own finances, you
cannot actually be in the league of the greats.
P: Now the area you had on the fifth floor, when you arrived, was obviously too
small for this expansion of staff.
R: When we became a separate department, there was no tremendous spirit of
immediate growth. No, it was a gradual increase of faculty as we needed them.
There were no flashes that occurred, with everything happening at once. Jorge
Ferrer was the first faculty person hired to replace Copenhaver when he left in
1965 or 1966.
P: Where is he now?
R: He was from Uruguay and he now is in Barcelona, Spain, I think.
P: Now what was his specialty?
R: Pediatric ophthalmology. He was here only for a few years. Following him we
had Norm Levy who came on the faculty for a couple of years, and then left.
Matthew Rabinowicz, followed him, and then Paul [E.] Romano [professor of
ophthalmology] came on board. These were the pediatric ophthalmologists.
Now [we have] Latif Hammed, a brilliant man, who does our pediatric
ophthalmology and is trained in both pediatric ophthalmology and neurology.
P: How large is the faculty now?
R: I believe there are ten clinical physicians. There are at least six basic scientists
in the department.
P: And residents?
R: There are five each year, for three years, so there are fifteen residents. There
are seven or eight ophthalmic technologists. Then there are all the nurses,
technicians, secretaries, and health personnel. The department includes about
P: So the department has grown immensely since you first arrived on the scene.
R: Yes, since the four or five people who were here when I came.
P: Did you have a secretary back then?
R: I did not have a secretary. I dealt with Herb's secretary, and one of the people,
who is still here, served partially as my secretary.
P: Who is that?
R: Her name is Mabel Wilson now. It was Mabel Durden then.
P: Maybe I ought to interview her. I would get more behind the scenes information.
R: Oh you would get a lot.
P: So you, Lorna, and two of your children arrived in Gainesville, in 1963.
R: Yes. Michael was born in September.
P: Lorna was pregnant when she came to Gainesville.
P: How did you get here? By train? By car?
R: I am trying to remember. I think we actually drove down from Washington.
P: Did you come down to visit ahead of time? I know you were on the site visit, but
after you decided to accept the job?
R: We came down once. It was a delightful place.
P: You and Lorna?
R: Yes. Ellie was very helpful in our search for a rental.
P: Ellie is who?
R: Eleanor Kaufman, Herb's first wife.
P: They were already established in their house?
R: No, they were still living in a rented house in the Littlewood area. They were
building their house, the one she still lives in right now.
P: Now you had seen Gainesville once before?
R: Yes, and once in between. I came down to look for a place.
P: The first time you came on the site visit.
R: Then we came down when I was an interviewee.
P: And Lorna came with you then?
R: Lorna came with me at the time. In fact, we brought the children too. One of
the first things we were shown was Lake Wauburg. This was in February 1963.
This was after our site visit. This time we came down to be interviewed. We
looked at the facility. We looked at Wauburg and could not understand why no
one was in the water, since it was seventy-two or seventy-three degrees,
wonderful weather outside. We had left in a snowstorm in Washington. Herb
said, you have to understand, for us this is winter.
P: [Laughter]. We do not go swimming until Flag Day, June 14.
R: So that was our introduction to the town.
P: Did Lorna like it?
P: Seeing Florida in February was a nice time to see it.
R: It was a nice time to see it although we had seen it before.
P: She did not see it before. This was the first time for her?
R: This was her first time, yes.
P: It was my understanding from Dean Harrell that potential candidates they were
trying to lure to Gainesville were always taken to Cedar Key.
R: We were, too. We were taken to Cedar Key as part of the tour.
P: You saw Cedar Key?
R: They took us to the hotel there and put out a nicely spread meal. I remember
the peanut butter dressing on the salad and the fish plates. It was delightful.
That was a good recruiting tool.
P: He said it worked every time. He said if anybody was reluctant, one would just
be left at Cedar Key. So they used that on you too.
R: Of course!
P: Now what did you expect to find and do here in Gainesville? You were leaving
Washington. You had not planned to stay there permanently of course, but you
could have gone to other places in the United States.
P: Why was this something that you were interested in?
R: As I explained, the primary motivation was that I could contribute something
here. I thought there was something missing in the very area where I could
make a significant contribution, rather than just add on to what was already here.
There was nobody who could do what I could do, so I felt needed. That was a
very great driving force. Plus, I honestly felt I would probably stay here for
maybe five years or so and then go back to San Francisco. I did not know if I
really liked living in a small town, as I did when I was a resident in Iowa City. I
thought I would like it, but I was not really sure. I did not know if I would like the
South, and Gainesville was deep South. I was more cosmopolitan, at least in
environment, and the deep South might not have suited me. I did not know
whether it would be a place where I wanted to raise my children. I just did not
know. Once we got here, we hesitated before we decided to build a house. We
were not here for very long before I realized that this was a very nice place.
Again, I was only planning to try it temporarily. I had one foot on the running
board, but I would keep my options open. [I thought] maybe I could contribute
here for a while and then move somewhere else.
P: How old were you when you came?
P: Harrell told me, and Sam Martin told me this too, that he was anxious to bring
young people to the campus, not people who were already preeminent, but those
who were at the cutting edge of preeminence and who, as a result of the
research that they would do here, would bring luster to themselves and also to
R: Although that was not stated to me, I think that was pretty obvious by what they
tried to do with other faculty that they were recruiting. I did not know what they
saw in me, except the fact that I could fill a need in an area, and I was interested
in training residents. They needed help in that. Herb was not interested in the
areas that I was interested in clinically. I felt that I could contribute something
and be, as I said, in a nice area to live.
P: Harrell also told me that his intention was for students and faculty in the Health
Center to play a real role, as far as the whole University was concerned. The
medical students would take classes in history, English, and all of those things,
and the faculty would serve on University-wide committees. They would be on
the Library Committee or the Discipline Committee. Now, by the time you
arrived, in the 1960s, much of that had disappeared, had it not?
R: Yes, it had. There was no time for students to take anything else. Harrell
incorporated some of those concepts into a human development idea he had.
He wanted a breadth of humanity in the medical school, so he brought in this
humanist psychiatrist or psychologist, Pattishal I think his name was, into the
College of Medicine, to help educate medical students in the humane and human
aspects of medical care, sickness, and illness.
P: So he had already backed away.
R: He backed away from us going up on campus. There was no time to do that. It
might have been ideal, even wonderful, had it happened.
P: For the first couple of years, I think it did happen.
R: It was before my time, and I was not among them. The opportunity was never
given to us, although it was a tease. As a faculty member on campus you could
always take something up there.
P: Have you ever served on any University-wide committees?
R: Yes. I was in the senate. I was also on some search-committees, for example,
the vice president for research search. We have almost a hundred committees
here in the College of Medicine alone, and it would be impossible to participate in
everything. Also it was hard to park, even back then. If you had to drive on
campus, you could not park there. You could not park when you came back.
Parking has always been a great nuisance.
P: So medicine and the rest of the University are almost two separate institutions
R: It really is that way. We have an allegiance to the University, and we are part of
the University of Florida, certainly on paper. But it is hard for us to do a lot on
campus. At a small college you can do that, because it is physically easy to go
back and forth. Here, even though the other part is right up there on the hill, you
have to walk there and sometimes further than just up the hill. When you
consider the heat in the summertime and that I might have to go to Tigert [Hall], it
turns into a long, hot and steamy walk. I am not afraid of the walk, but it could
be so oppressively hot that if I go, I wind up being drenched and soaking wet; it is
that hot most of the year. Still, there were a number of things, such as advisory
committees we served on. Although I must say, I did not serve on main campus
things very often.
P: One of the arguments made when they located the medical school here was that
there would be this relationship between the two. It was more than a thought.
It was one of the arguments made, when the other areas wanted the institution
located in their midst, that this would be part of an integrated campus. But after
the first couple of years, that did not happen.
R: It is probably more true in the basic sciences. I just remembered, there used to
be a Department of Biochemistry up on campus and one down here so that
people would circulate back and forth into the various areas. I feel that the
integrated campus idea worked pretty well in the sciences, yes; but in the clinical
end, I think the only thing we were called on to do, aside from occasional
committees and searches, was to give lectures to students. We tried to give a
course on what was going on here to college students, some by from the
Eminent Scholars on campus. It was very hard to get students interested,
though the lectures were wonderful. You do not hit people on the head with
such a program when there is no true demand for it from the student side.
P: Of course, pharmacy was completely located on the main campus, before they
built the operation down here. Now, it too is part of a separated situation.
Socially, was there much mingling between the faculty?
R: Usually, only if you see people that have common interests outside, such as in
the arts or music.
P: Religion or church?
R: Religion. Exactly. You have another bond, not necessarily through the
P: But not much mingling on University matters?
R: No, not much. That is unfortunate, that is missing on the medical side.
P: When you came here, was the library adequate?
R: We had our own medical library here. We could use the library on campus, of
P: I am talking about the medical library. Was it adequate for your needs?
R: No. In ophthalmology, we typically had to buy for ourselves every book we
needed. We developed a pretty good medical library for ophthalmology.
Gradually, it has become in general a very good medical library.
P: When it first started, there was adequate money for [Fred David] Bryant, the first
librarian. I do not know whether he was still aboard when you came here or not,
but he had money to travel around, to go to Europe, and to buy up all the
periodicals he wanted.
R: That happened before my time. When I came, the medical books were down at
the end of the big building, down here. But I remember going to the library on
campus to look for books and journals.
P: That were not there?
R: Many were not there. No, they did not have enough subscriptions. They could
always get journals on loan, because the National Library of Medicine was just
being created. When I left the NIH, they were just starting to build it. The
National Library of Medicine is on the NIH campus reservation.
P: Did you know Peter Ulch, the librarian [director of the National Library of
Medicine in Washington D.C.]?
R: No, I knew the name, but I did not know him.
P: He was a good friend of mine, because we worked together in the Oral History
Program. He is now dead but he was one of the pioneers in that operation.
What about the physical operations of the building. You had cramped
headquarters, but I know this whole architectural plan was drawn up by Harrell.
Were your students adequately taken care of? Did they have enough study
R: Part of Harrell's idea was to have study carrels for all the medical students. For
each to have a place. You are now sitting where the study carrels were, where
medical students once used to study. In other words, this whole area here has
now been remodeled, used for a different purpose. They found that the study-
carrel concept was, I will not say wasted space, but space not as efficiently used
as it might have been. Space needs were so heavy for the College of Medicine
and for its growth that they just responded to a higher priority and study-carrels
were made into office space and lab space and given to different departments.
With Herb s maneuvering, we inherited this space for the expansion of
ophthalmology and as a reward for the productivity of the faculty. That was how
this area became ophthalmology s.
P: So several of Dean Harrell's early concepts have gone by the wayside?
R: They have, but they were right at the time. A concept that was good at one time
may not be good ten years down the line.
P: How large was the medical school when you came?
R: There were eighty faculty members.
P: How large is it today?
R: I think there are something like 500 or 600 [faculty members].
P: So it has grown to giant size, looking at percentage of growth?
R: It is almost ten times as large as it was then.
P: Talk about your settlement in Gainesville now, your family's settlement. You
came to Gainesville. Where did you live?
R: We lived in a rental house on Seventh Avenue near Eighteenth Street, near
[Louis] Hubener [clinical associate in medicine]. He was a dermatologist. We
lived there for a year and one-half. Michael was born. We decided then that
we were probably going to stay in Gainesville and made the commitment to build
a house. We liked the area around J. J. Finley, in the Florida Park area. We
looked for a lot. We looked for a house first of all, but all the houses were fairly
old. I wanted a more modern home. We found a nice building-lot, bought it,
and built a house there.
P: What was your salary when you came to the University?
R: $16,000 per year.
P: That was a big boost from what you had before.
R: It was. My salary before was $6,000. So I moved from NIH, at $6,000 to the
University, at $16,000. Even then, though, that was pretty hard to live on. It
was a big boost for me, but it was not a munificent salary.
P: You were not living in the lap of luxury yet?
R: We wanted to see if it would work. I was certainly better off than I was. None
of the salaries were really very high at the time.
P: Although by comparison with the campus, they were considered high.
R: I guess they were. I do not know what an assistant professor, a starting faculty
position, would have been worth on campus.
P: Not $16,000.
R: It may have been less.
P: I was going to say, it was not many years earlier than that, when we paid that to
the football coach and to the president of the University.
R: All of the funds that came in were funds generated from grants and patients.
You know how that works. I was billing and bringing in hundreds of thousands
of dollars, even at that time, doing a lot of surgery with residents. That was
going to support of the department, to the growth, to the college, and to the
dean's office. I did not resent that, I received such a small percentage of what I
brought in, but that was fine with me.
P: One of the things that has always been part of your existence has been your
religious life. How did it fare in Gainesville?
R: Because the kids were growing up and we wanted them to partake of it, we
started attending services. There was not much of a Jewish atmosphere here in
Gainesville. There was a small synagogue on Southeast Second Avenue.
They had just built or were about to build the Community Center just off N.W.
Sixteenth Avenue, near 34th Street. There was not enough money for a
synagogue there, but the new building would serve well and was much larger
than the other site. The kids would go to Sunday school there and have
part-time school during the week. When we came, there was no rabbi, no
center-leader or teacher. But Jack Zucker was here. If you remember he was
sort of a hired cantor, ran services and taught most of the people how to prepare
for and conduct bar mitzvahs and things. He was a nice young man, but he was
not a leader of the community. Still, we enjoyed going to services. At that time,
I helped out by performing some of the services for holidays and with some
Saturday services, but I did not help regularly. I do not know why that popped
into my head. I have not thought about Jack for thirty years. I wonder whatever
happened to him. This was thirty-three years ago.
P: You had left a community in Washington, D.C., where you lived next door to a
R: Yes, but we did not do much with that. We sort of became distant. My own
orthodox background actually caused a rebellion after high school, a desire to
escape to the freedom that was offered in terms of time. When I was growing
up, my time allocation to religion was so enormous. The freedom to do other
things was so limited and misplaced, that I built up an amount of--I will not say
resentment--but an escape, a release. Religion did not seem to occupy that
much of a role afterwards in my life. I am sorry that it did not. As a result, my
kids did not grow up with a strong religious background. My wife did not have it.
Most of the religious training in a family comes from the mother, at least I have
always felt that. Since Lorna was not reared with that type of background, it was
not a great loss for her. We went to the services for holidays. We went to
assorted celebrations with our Jewish friends who were in Gainesville, but formal
religion never played a huge role in our lives here.
P: And you did not have a family close by.
R: That is correct. My sister was still in California, and then moved to New York.
The kids were just growing up with us. We had no other relatives in this area.
P: What about your social life? How did that go?
R: Much social life revolved around the people in the college and the departments,
but we worked on meeting people outside [the College of Medicine]. We
socialized with many non-medical people in the other colleges, people we met
through outside educational and cultural interests. I wanted to know and meet
and be friendly with other families of the faculty who had kids the age of our
children. Most people that we knew were faculty, people in English,
mathematics, and law. We developed some close friends. Again, it was an
evanescent society. They were here for a while, and then they went off. You
lost touch and then you made new friendships. It was not the same as having a
few friends you really were close to all the time. There were a few we had that
way, but not many. We socialized mostly with college people. There were
many occasions to get together socially with people in our college, because I was
recruiting, somebody was departing, or there were birthdays of children of people
who worked with me--in every department as well as my own department. In
surgery, for example, when they hired a new plastic surgeon or did new things,
everybody was involved. [With] things changing constantly, with the growth of
medical school, and with celebrations in the medical school itself, there was a lot
going on here.
We tried to involve ourselves with the community in other ways. It started out
with the public school system. The fall we came to Gainesville, there was a
bond issue on the ballot to support building new schools in Gainesville. This
was in 1963. The bond issue failed by fifty-eight votes. I could not understand
that. There was a $16,000,000 bond issue to build ten or eleven schools, and it
failed by a meager number of fewer than sixty votes apparently people were so
sure it would pass, they just did not go to vote. So we formed a city-wide group
called Citizens for Public Schools [CPS]. This included several people, including
me, from the medical center, who are still here: Parker Small, [William] Jape
Taylor [distinguished service professor of medicine], an others--Ben Samuels
[local dentist], Sidney Knight, Beth Cluff, Henry Barber, and local businessman,
Bob Saunders. We formed this group and obtained the interest of many others
who would support the public schools, push for a school board that was really
interested in the schools, and get an appointed school superintendent instead of
an elected one. Tiny Talbot was the elected school superintendent at the time.
He was a former football coach from GHS. He was not a real educator. I am
sure he had interest in education, but his responsibility was to the voters who
elected him and would get him elected again.
We felt that the best governance system for public education would be one that
had a good schoolboard which appointed the school superintendent; they would
search for him and have him stay beholden to the schoolboard, not simply up for
public vote. The superintendent would answer indirectly to the public, but
directly to the school board, which was primarily responsible for education.
Then we should elect a good school board. We got Ben Samuels to agree to
run. We had Bill Enneking also to join the race. We received excellent support
and finally got our slate through, and we actually were successful in passing the
bond issue for the same schools that went down to defeat three years earlier. It
took that long. Inflation had boosted the cost to $22,000,000 instead of
$16,000,000. We could have gotten away with so much less, so much easier,
had the people all voted originally.
[We were] involved in that and involved in starting other community activities.
Lorna and I helped initiate the Pro Arte Musica [a program held in the College of
P: Hold that. I want to get to that as a separate item. What kind of a role have
you played in raising money for your department and for the college?
R: I considered that to be my main responsibility, especially when I became
P: In the college, you have an endowed professorship and three eminent scholars.
Did you raise all the money to support these positions? Who is the endowed
professor? Is that you?
R: No. Let me give you the background. I took care of a patient back in 1972,
who had been examined in several other prominent places. I guess I told him
what he wanted to hear. I took care of him, but I could not treat his specific
problem--heredomacular degeneration. He wanted to understand what it was,
and wanted to understand the principles of what was going on. I explained it all
to him. He actually looked like an impoverished patient, not indigent, but he was
not someone who appeared affluent.
P: He was not driving a Porsche?
R: I did not know what he was driving because I did not see him outside. I just saw
him when he came into the office. I took care of him, and I think I saw him one
more time afterwards, just to follow up and see how things were going. This
was about 1972.
P: What was his name?
R: You should not have asked that. I will tell you in a moment [Francis Bullard]. In
1982 he died and left me most of his money, $2,800,000--he left the money to
me and the College of Medicine.
P: You had no contact with him since 1972?
R: None. Zero. I had to look up his chart to find out who he was.
P: Where was he from?
P: That came as a surprise?
R: Yes it did.
P: So the chair is in his name?
R: He left $2,800,000 with the stipulation that it be used to support ophthalmology.
So I talked to [William] Bill Deal [dean of the College of Medicine] and to [David
R.] Challoner [vice president for Health Affairs] to learn the options I had and
found out how I could best maximize the use of this money. I said, I would like
to keep it secure so that it would be available for the department forever. They
suggested I could break it up and use some to endow a chair. Just that year,
our legislature had set up an eminent scholar program in which one needed
$600,000 donation to name an endowed eminent scholar chair. I said, ghee, I
have enough for three chairs, still keeping $1,000,000. Thus, I could have three
eminent scholar chairs. I would take $600,000 from the bequest, get $400,000
matching money from the state and have a $1,000,000 chair. That way one
could create three $1,000,000 chairs using only $1,800,000 out of the
$2,800,000 bequest. My bosses jumped at the chance. They said, that is
wonderful. I said, in trade for doing that, I want to be given space for the super
scientists I would recruit to these chairs. These were eminent scholars. We
were talking about people well-known all over the world, top quality
individuals--space for them was absolutely necessary. Drs. Deal and Challoner
promised that space for us in the new research building being planned. That
would not be a problem, I was told. It later turned out it was a major problem.
Anyway, we went through the arduous national search process because that
process was mandated. That was then, this is now. Now a donor needs to
specify that he is donating Eminent Scholar money, and that he wants it matched
with his bequest coming at the beginning of the new state matching program.
The rules were not yet rigid. I was permitted to designate the allocation to chairs
and the naming of them. I recruited the first basic scientist, Paul [A.] Hargrave
[professor and Eminent Scholar], to the first chair.
P: What was his area?
R: His area was biochemistry of the retina. We are skipping a little bit. We are
skipping all of my career until the time I became chairman.
P: I know. We are going to pick that up.
R: At the time I had the choice to recruit for the department, I wanted to build
concentrating in the area of retinal diseases. That was my area of interest. I
thought that the level of knowledge in the world at this date was now sufficient to
know that we could work with genes, and that genetic diseases could now be
attacked. We could fragment genes and learn about the genetic diseases and
try to cure various genetic diseases by replacing pieces of the gene that were
abnormal. I knew enough about it that I felt that molecular biology was the
coming field. I wanted to build the department in that area, so I recruited people
who filled that particular need. Paul Hargrave was then chairman of
biochemistry at the Southern Illinois University [at Carbondale, Illinois]. I
recruited him with his entourage of associates. He brought five scientists with
him. Some have since become independently known and all were really solid
people. Last year, Hargrave won the faculty award for the most significant
basic science research, an annual award given to faculty. He is a terrific man.
P: So he was your first recruit?
R: My first Eminent Scholar. I was chairman for four years when I got this money.
While we were recruiting, the money was compounding. Earnings that were not
spent were plowed back into the principal. So the next one became a
$1,200,000 chair and the following a $1,300,000 chair.
P: Is Hargrave still here?
R: Oh yes. As I said, he won the faculty award last year. He is still here and doing
outstanding work and holds the Francis Bullard Chair.
P: And who was your second Eminent Scholar?
R: My second chair went to [William W.] Bill Hauswirth [professor and
Rybaczki-Bullard Chair of ophthalmic molecular genetics], who was already a
faculty member here.
P: William Hauswirth?
R: Yes, William Hauswirth, another basic scientist--let me tell you how I learned
about Bill. I was sitting on a college executive committee discussing a faculty
member in immunology who was being actively recruited to go up to Cornell, by
one of our former colleagues, Ken Berns who was previously chairman of
immunology here. He had gone up to be chairman there [at Cornell] and he
wanted to take some of his strong faculty people with him. Bill was one of the
faculty persons he chose, but our executive committee wanted to try to keep him
here. The discussion elucidated that this guy was of Nobel Prize caliber. I
heard that and I wondered if I could help keep him here. One way I might do so
was to recruit him for an Eminent Scholar chair.
His research was already in an area that dealt with molecular biology and
genetics of the eye. So what if it happened to be cow eyes. It was still very
much related to the eye and perhaps retina. I felt his work was close enough to
ophthalmology. If I could help keep a basic scientist here, the whole college
would be helped. We could begin to build our nucleus of individuals who were
very much on the cutting-edge, high-powered, and yet closely related to
ophthalmology and vision research. We were successful in awarding Hauswirth,
our second chair, a couple of years after Hargrave.
P: Is he still here?
R: Yes. He is still here in the department. I want to tell you a side story that deals
with the Hauswirth chair, but I will get to that in a minute. The third Eminent
Scholar chair went unfilled because we could not find an individual that matched
our needs and resources. We found other scientists but some were awfully
expensive for the department. You see, even though we had eminent scholar
chairs to support the person s salary, we only had income from the chair s
endowment to spend--on the order of about $60,000 a year. That was not
enough to recruit a basic scientist whose caliber was the level we were talking
about. The rest of the money, the remainder of that scientist s salary had to be
subsidized by the department or by personal research grants. So every basic
scientist we got would actually wind up costing the department a hefty subsidy, at
In terms of science, we were doing really well. But financially, we were having to
subsidize much of the research work and basic science salaries and we were
starting to feel the pinch, we did not have enough dollars. Every time we added
a basic scientist, we had to worry about how to support the position. Even
though the chair would support much of the salary between $60,000 and
$80,000, that was just the salary. Then there were fringe benefits, which
amounted to an additional 25 percent more. The scientist needed help in the
laboratory, needed an assistant. So, it was quite expensive to support a basic
scientist in a clinical department. Some of them of course were partially
supported by their grants. We needed to be very careful about adding too much
to our costs.
We thought that maybe we should search for an Eminent Scholar Chair to be
filled by a clinician, who is able to supplement his own salary. Yes, he would get
some salary from the Eminent Scholar Chair, but he would also be able to earn
the rest of his keep and would not cost the department. We went on the lookout
for a clinician in retina. We found we could not attract such an individual since
the salary demand of a retinal specialist at this time was extraordinary. We just
could not afford it. A retina person in an academic position was not like one in a
private practice where one can spend all of one s time doing retina and
generating income. One can generate a tremendous number of dollars. In an
academic department like ours, one is limited--limited in operating room time,
limited in how much time one spends in clinic. One was limited by the fact he
just spend time for the demands of residents and student education. One was
limited to how much time he could spend in the laboratory. In an academic
position, one just cannot spend his time earning income like one can on the
outside in private full-time practice. The dollars available from the Eminent
Scholar Chair, including any amounts generated by seeing patients, still could not
support the demands of a nationally known retina person.
Out of the clear blue, Lee [J.] Dockery [professor of obstetrics and gynecology
and executive associate dean] called me one day and said the search committee
asked if I would agree to accept the third eminent scholar chair. They felt I was
worthy. Also, it would permit us to use the money already allocated, instead of
just letting it pile up in our Foundation account. Now the income would be an
additional source of support for me. I thought it was a wonderful honor. I said,
do you really want to do this? He said he and [Robert] Bryan wanted to do that.
So I got appointed to the Eminent Scholar Chair.
P: So you are the third recipient?
R: I am the third Eminent Scholar Chair.
P: Was it named the Melvin Rubin Chair?
R: No. That was totally another story. Do you want to get into the naming of the
chairs? The first was named for the individual who donated it, Francis Bullard.
That was Paul Hargrave s chair. You cannot have all three chairs named for
the same individual. Since I actually created the chairs by subdividing the
bequest, I was entitled to name the chairs. I wanted the second chair named for
my parents. I said, I am not naming it for me. The public is not going to
recognize that it was for my parents. But I will know who it is for. I named it the
Rybaczki Chair. You may recall that was my father's Polish name.
P: You did not give it any first name, you just called it the Rybaczki Chair?
R: No. It was the Maida and Morris Rybaczki Chair.
P: In what?
R: In ophthalmic sciences. No one knew that was my parents name except
P: Francis Bullard was the guy who came in as the patient in the early 1970s? Let
me get this straight, you had no knowledge of his wealth or of a potential gift?
Suddenly out of the blue, you learn from his lawyers that the money had been left
to you and the ophthalmology department.
P: Not a personal gift to you but to the ophthalmology department.
R: For support of ophthalmology, research of ophthalmology, and training.
P: Then you decided to create three Eminent Scholar Chairs.
R: That was an agreement between [David] Challoner, [William] Deal, and me. I
would create the chairs and trade for space. The names would go on forever.
P: With the matching gifts from the state you would have three $1,000,000 Eminent
R: Yes. The first one I recruited was Paul Hargrave. As I explained, he was a
biochemist with a basic interest in retinal diseases, the genetic structure and
function of the retina, and the molecular biology of the retina. [He was] well
known throughout the world and at that time was chairman of biochemistry at
Southern Illinois University. I recruited him here. That was the first chair.
P: Where was Mr. Bullard's name going?
R: It was called the Bullard Chair in Ophthalmic Research.
P: So Hargrave has that number one chair? He occupied the Francis Bullard Chair
in Ophthalmic Research.
R: Yes. Since the chair was created by me, I was privileged to name it for the
P: Let us go to the number two chair.
R: The second one was occupied by Bill Hauswirth. He was a professor of
molecular biology in the immunology department here at the College of Medicine.
He was doing some exceedingly fine work in the genetics of retinal functioning
and mitochondrial genetics. We went through the search process. We looked
for people. The search committee helped me to appoint him. I felt he was an
ideal candidate who would meet our needs. It was a national search, but he
happened to be here and fulfilled the requirements of what I was looking for. He
was appointed to the second chair.
P: You made the decision to name the second chair for your parents.
R: Yes. It was the Maida and Morris Rybaczki Chair.
P: So your mother's name is first and your father's name is second.
R: Yes. If you recall, my son named his new daughter Maida, after his
P: Now are these chairs identified with plaques or anything anywhere?
R: Yes. There are plaques, in the corridor of the Academic Research Building, that
have a list of all the chairs in the College of Medicine.
P: Are the chairs identified? For instance, if I came along and saw that name,
would I know who the Rybaczkis were?
R: No you would not.
P: I would not know they were from San Francisco?
P: Just the name is there.
P: It is a good thing we have the history added now, in this interview.
R: My father changed his name from Rybaczki to Rubin when he first came to this
country in 1928. So no one would know that the chair is listed for him.
P: And how did you name the third chair, the one you occupy?
R: For a period of time the third chair went unnamed. Back in 1965 the college had
made an obligation to name our clinic for Shaler Richardson, who was the first
ophthalmologist in Florida. He was not only a very prominent ophthalmologist,
he encouraged the formation of the Department of Ophthalmology here.
P: So he played a role in it.
R: It was not a financial role, but he played a role in helping the department get
started. When he died, there was a commitment made, that we would name the
eye clinic the Shaler Richardson Clinic with the quid pro quo promise that there
would be some funds from the family later on, that would help support the clinic.
Many years later, the dean's office found that did not happen, so the clinic was
not actually named after him. On the other hand, I felt a strong commitment to
the Richardson family to honor a man we all felt strongly about, who was very
good for Florida, for Florida ophthalmology, and for the College of Medicine. I
decided to name the third Eminent Scholar Chair for Shaler Richardson. It now
goes by that name. That was at the time it was still an empty chair, not yet
awarded. The search process was going on. As I explained, later, the
president of the University, through Dockery, called me and asked if I would
agree to accept the chair as an honor. I certainly did. It felt great to occupy the
Shaler Richardson chair. This came about in the summer of 1988.
P: And since that time, you deservedly occupied the Richardson Chair of
ophthalmology. That finishes that. What happened to the rest of the money?
R: The rest of the money is sitting there generating interest. It is in the UF
Foundation s consolidated account for Ophthalmology. Interest is coming from
that. We used some of it to help build and remodel the Eye Center. We used
some of it for support of research in various ways. It is not consumed at this
P: Are there any scholarships made available to students who come in to
R: No, not through these funds or not from any funds that we have. There are no
scholarships that we have. People have to apply through national organizations
and win fellowships to support their training here, if they wish.
P: I noticed Dr. Richardson's portrait is up on the first floor.
R: Yes, it is. That was another part of the agreement we had with the family, we
would put his portrait in the clinic along with several other individuals who were
helpful in forming and contributing to the department and the college. There is
one more chair though.
P: Oh is there?
R: Yes. It is not an Eminent Scholar Chair; it is an endowed professorship. That
came from another bequest to the Department of Ophthalmology that was
received from a well-wisher, in the order of $2,500,000.
P: Who was that well-wisher?
R: Her name was Dorothy Daniels. I do not think she was even a patient here. I
could not track her down. That money came to us as an unsolicited donation.
P: I do not understand why we cannot attract any such donors to the history
R: All of the good samaritans are no longer alive.
P: We are saving history. You are just saving eyes.
R: I cannot take any credit for this one except that we decided again to use the
same principle of getting matching funds from the state and making this a large
endowed professorship. It is now the Stuart and Dorothy Daniels Professorship.
P: Who occupies that?
R: There is no individual occupying it at this moment. The funds can be used to
support any ophthalmology faculty member. The stipulations were not discrete.
We created the chair and obtained the agreement of the estate, that when it was
given to us by the estate, the money would be combined with matching state
P: Now I want to get back to Melvin Rubin who came here in July 1963 as the
assistant professor of surgery in the division of ophthalmology. There was no
department yet. You occupied that rank for three years?
R: Yes, until July 1966.
P: Then you were promoted to associate professor?
P: You held that rank for one year?
R: Yes, one year. I do not think that could possibly happen anymore, the kind of
circumstance where one held the rank of associate professor for one year and
then got promoted to full professor.
P: What happened?
R: I do not know. Something fortuitous.
P: They had a slot and said, "Let us give this to Mel?"
R: I do not know. I am one of those lucky people. Someone thought I should be a
full professor at that stage.
P: So that happened in July 1967?
R: Yes, at that time I was being recruited to the directorship of a new institute at the
National Institutes of Health. They were splitting the National Institute of
Neurological Diseases and Blindness and one part became the new National Eye
Institute. The National Institute for Neurological Diseases stayed the same, but
the Eye Institute was formed by Congress. They needed a director. The
person who was doing the recruiting and the person who offered me the job was
none other than Robert [Q] Marston [later president, University of Florida,
1974-1984]. Robert Marston was the director of the National Institute of Health
(NIH) at the time, and as such the director of all the institutes. He offered me
P: How did he know you?
R: I had worked there for two years, remember? I guess I left some sort of trail that
was not just blood.
P: But he had not been there with you, had he?
R: No, that is true, but when they looked for nominees, I guess the people I had
worked with were still there and remembered how I performed when I was there.
He thought enough of their opinion I guess to at least look at me. In any case, I
looked at the offer. It was a very flattering experience, to be looked at by
congressional people and NIH director as a potential candidate. I am positive
that I was not their first choice, but we knew that some of the other prominent
people they considered did not want to become full time administrators. I was
offered the job and I had to wrestle with it over a few months, [to decide] whether
I really wanted to move there and become a full-time administrator. I had
worked as an administrator when I was executive secretary there, but this was a
far cry from the job of a full-time director of the Eye Institute. The job meant an
involvement in the politics of appealing to Congress for funds. It was a
wonderful opportunity to direct the country's research in ophthalmology, but I did
not think that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
P: Research would have gone by the board there?
R: Research, patient care, and everything else would have gone by the [board].
They tried to convince me that I had more control over research in the country
than I could ever have in my whole lifetime as a practitioner here. They were
right. I just could not conceive of myself waking up in the morning and being
excited about going to a desk with piles of paper on it. I had been there already,
and I knew what it was like.
P: Although when you came here, you thought you might stay only about five years
and move on.
R: I did, but I liked very much what I was doing here. I really enjoyed the kind of
professional lifestyle I had in terms of acquisition of knowledge and in terms of
having a large group of very nice patients, and also my educational role. In the
meantime, I had also created another project, a national exam. We can get to
that later. That was probably one of my largest accomplishments in
ophthalmology. That was already on the way when the offer from NIH came.
Although it was a lofty job, it was still the job of an administrator.
P: Was the full professorship that came your way part of the effort to keep you
R: It could have been. I honestly do not know. I had just recently been promoted
to associate professor and at that time, there were only a few full professor slots
open. I know I must have received that professorial slot over someone else. I
felt maybe another person deserved it more. Some people had been around
longer and done more. But it happened, and I just accepted it.
P: When Marston arrived here, in 1973, did he remember you?
R: Oh yes. I told you about his sixtieth birthday, but I guess this was before the
tape started. He spotted me at a large university gatherings. We were at a
game or something. He told me and Lorna to come on over to his house. I did
not know what for. I thought it was to sit and talk. He later said, I wanted some
friends to help me celebrate my sixtieth birthday.
P: Do you stay in touch with Marston?
R: Not much. I saw him as a patient a couple of times. I did not operate in his
high circles. He was president of the University and I had no contact, really, with
the president of the University.
P: I want to get back to your coming here. Would you say that it was Herb who
R: Sure. If he did not want me, I would not have come here. I did not come on my
own; somebody had to ask me to come down here.
P: Can you talk about him at all?
R: Yes, I can talk about him. He is a hard, driving, brilliant, and very goal-directed
individual. He is not given to any self-doubts. He knows what he wants. He
may be fickle, in terms of changing his mind very quickly on things. He has little
allegiance to people who have worked with him for a long time. I find, as I get
older, that too many treat allegiance as tenuous at best. People you think are
close to you and are current friends may no longer feel that way when you are no
longer in a position to help them. I am not bitter or cynical, but I find such
people tend to drop away. Herb is somewhat like that. He went on to do other
things and curry favor with other people.
This often goes for institutional memory too, whether it is an academic institution
or a private company. You hear of people on the outside who have built major
companies. [They] have wonderful, productive ideas. They build a company,
and then move on. Who knows them anymore? It is the same here. I think
once you have done your thing, the collective memory grows short. Perhaps
that is life and that is just the way it is. It is not that I harbor any resentment. I
think that Herb was my first real example of how short a memory could be. We
did not become enemies. I have my path and he goes along his [path]. His
attitude was if you did not do exactly what he wanted, your allegiance was
elsewhere and you were no longer his friend. That did not make sense to me.
P: Now, did you have any problems while he was here?
R: When he was here, things were wonderful. We got along well. I had no
problems with him. I just had to turn the other cheek sometime when I saw
some of the things he did to others. My feeling was that he was very productive
and also very aggressive at getting things done.
P: Getting things done for the department?
R: Yes, for the department.
P: As well as for himself?
R: Yes, that was true, but the fact was he was truly productive. He would make
things happen. He was almost cruel sometimes, but I do not think that was part
of his [nature]. He was just so goal-directed that if things got in his way, they
just got pushed aside. I liked him. I liked the fact that he did accomplish things.
I could not stand the way he did some of the things, but I think he paved the way
for me. I call him a snow plow. He made things easier for me. I could not
have done most of the things I did unless I had his support to do them. I
probably could have done more, if I had more support from him, but the fact was
that he let me do my thing, which was education, retina, teaching, and working in
national organizations. He did not overburden me with things to do. That made
it easier for me to do the things I thought were important. He taught me that.
I learned one other lesson too. He taught me facilitation. You try to help the
faculty to do things, but do not get in their way. Let them do things and make
things easier for them to do. You do not have to do it for them. I called myself
a facilitator instead of a scientist. That was what I was, as a chairman. Back in
1967 or 1968, he let me do the one thing I felt strongest about, which was
creating a national examination for ophthalmology.
P: In the 1960s and 1970s, did you lose out at all as far as your research interests
R: I lost out on the ability to promote one of my laboratory projects because I did not
have the facilities to do it. I did not have control of dollars to be able to support a
technician, or [to support] an extra laboratory. I needed it for the project we
were working with. My small team won a major award (the Fight for Sight
Research Award) for the greatest contribution to visual science in the year 1970,
for this particular project. But I could not expand it because we had no assigned
space to grow. Any extra departmental space Herb absorbed for his own work.
He was the chairman and he was entitled to it. Unfortunately, I could not go on
with our project without having additional help. There was no space to carve out
for me, and other the space did not exist. It would have been robbing Peter to
pay Paul. You could only get space if you took it from somebody else.
P: Has this stymied your reputation as a research scientist?
R: No, not really. I was never really a research scientist. I recognized when
something was good, and I could teach somebody else. I recognized what I
could do best, which was to teach my area of interest to other people. I consider
myself best known, in this country, for improving the educational process, for
examination assessment, for education, and for writing. I am not best known for
producing basic, cutting edge research.
P: I notice you are the author of several books and over 100 articles and you have
given myriads of lectures everywhere.
R: Those were all connected to education with a little science thrown in. There was
always an idea to teach somebody something, rather than to create my own new
things. I strongly facilitated those new things. I could report new things when
they were done by my team, but I did not sit personally in a laboratory and create
a bunch of new things.
P: Was Herb a creative laboratory person?
R: Yes, he was. His ideas were almost always research-oriented. His ideas
produced new things and he was much more of a laboratory person than I was.
He was able to direct his laboratory and he told the people what to do; he had the
wherewithal to be able to do that. As chairman, he could commandeer space
and he could tell people, you do this, this is the project. In addition, he was
gifted in being able to write proposals to obtain grants. So he did not need to be
able to do the work himself, though he could have, and he was good at directing
P: If you were evaluating him, at the end of his career, and I know that he is not at
the end of his career, is this how you would talk about him as a teacher, an
educator, that he was good at directing academic thought?
R: Not only that. He did teach too.
P: But teaching and educating were not his strong part?
R: It was not primarily his field. He was also a superb clinician. He was an
innovative thinker who was able to see the clinical potential of a new research
thing, to which others may have missed the connection. He could project a
connection between that new thing and the clinical application. Many times, he
was interested in promotion for Kaufman, but he saw the good idea, he saw its
potential and then he promoted it.
P: Were your family and Herb's family close socially?
R: Oh, not socially.
P: I mean, you saw each other?
R: Oh yes, of course. It was a small town. We saw each other at various
P: But it was not the kind of friendship where you called him up and went out to
R: No. I do not think I have ever gone out to dinner with him unless it was an
official function. But there was no effort at avoidance there.
P: It was not like you went to Morrison's with them, like we go with the Lowensteins
to Morrison s or Shoney's?
R: No. There were a lot of other people we did that with, but not with Herb.
P: He was rather an aloof person, if I remember correctly.
R: He did not do things for the community that I felt were important to do for the
community. I felt there was a lot more to do here and we tried to help
Gainesville be a better place to live rather than just striving to build a name for
myself or anyone else.
P: So he left here in the 1970s?
R: He wanted me to go with him. That was 1977. He left to assume the
chairmanship at Louisiana State University.
P: Before we get to that, what were you doing between 1967 and the time you took
over as chairman here?
R: I did lots of things. I mentioned the exam that I created.
P: Tell me about that.
R: I wanted to find out, among my own residents, what they knew. These were
very clever, bright people that we had accepted to train in our program.
However, I felt it was very difficult to find out just what they were learning. If you
were sitting in grand rounds and you asked residents a question, which was part
of our tutorial and Socratic method of teaching-- you asked questions and heard
what the answers were--they could really baffle you with bull-dung. They could
cover up a tremendous lack of knowledge and they could get away with
circuitous answers even if they really did not know the specific answers to
questions asked. I thought, maybe we ought to create an exam I could give to
them, but not in any way penalize them, grade them, put it on a record, or to
judge them for promotion. I wanted just to give them an idea of what they knew
as compared to other residents in their position.
P: And what they did or did not know?
R: That would become very obvious and could serve as an educational prod. So I
created an exam to give our own residents, and then I decided this was such a
good idea and would be even better if we knew what other people in the country
did at the same level. Our residents could compare their knowledge with
somebody else's knowledge, at the same level, and say ghee, the people in this
program were below or above the ranking of those in other programs, where they
P: Did your group here resent it, at the beginning?
R: No, not at all. Well, I guess that residents always resent any kind of exam.
They do not want to be examined any more than students. The fact was there
was no penalty attached to this exam. I created the exam and gave it to the
residents here. Then, later, I decided to try it on a national audience.
P: If you had a lot of resentment, you probably would not have carried it to the next
R: I had to overlook some resentment to start with. What they liked was that it was
not public information. Nobody knew who they were. They knew, but nobody
else knew how they did, aside from themselves and their program faculty.
P: And they trusted you.
R: They trusted me with respect to the idea. But I had to find some national
program that would accept it and sponsor it. I needed a national sponsor of
some sort. You cannot just go nationwide and say, we are going to give an
exam, do you want to take it? I had to sell it, sell the idea of how it would work.
I struggled to identify the right organization. The correct organization was
probably the American Board of Ophthalmology, the certifying board, which
already was giving an exam to all the candidates. I suggested to them, why not
go countrywide and give their exam to the residents too. They would not agree
to do that. I wrote a whole paper on this called The OKAP Exam, [OKAP =
the Ophthalmic Knowledge Assessment Program] which gave its whole history.
I did find a sponsoring organization, the Association of University Professors of
Ophthalmology [AUPO], which consisted of the chairmen of all the departments
for the country. They were just forming a national organization, to hammer out
the commonalities of training programs in ophthalmology. I went to the
organizational meeting and proposed my project. I had people from Harvard
saying, Who the hell are you wanting to examine my residents? I finally sold
them on my skill and ability to create good questions. I studied the ways
examinations were constructed. Our department was willing to offer the exam
free as a trial--no cost to them. They said, okay, but we want to only make it
voluntary to the individuals residents Those who want to take it can, others do
not need to take the exam. That sounded reasonable, but I felt, that would not
give us fair comparisons. The whole idea was to give the residents who took it a
chance to compare their knowledge with the level across the whole country, not
just the level of only those who wanted to take the exam. Do you understand?
The statistics would then be biased in favor of those who want to and are likely to
do well on exams would likely be the ones who would want to take this exam.
Others more fearful, would not be included to register. I finally agreed to make it
voluntary, but for program directors only. A program director could decide
whether the residents in his program would participate or not participate. But if
the director wanted them to participate, all residents in the program had to do it.
The first exam was given in 1968, and 90 percent of all training programs agreed
to take it the first year. It worked so well, that just about 100 percent agreed to
partake in the exam the second year. Since then, it has been going 100 percent
for all of the programs.
P: And these exams take place all over the country?
R: All over the country. We shifted from the AUPO sponsorship, because they did
not have the dollars to support it and we could not continue giving it free to all
programs in the country anymore. I talked Herb into covering the cost for the
first year. The first year the exam was administered, it cost $13,000. It was not
a great sum of money but it meant a lot in those days. I got the American
Academy of Ophthalmology to sponsor the exam after that and to administer it
under their auspices as part of their new educational ventures with me in charge.
The American Academy, whose members (10,000 board-certified
ophthalmologists practice all across the country), were always interested in
P: So it is a continuing thing?
R: It has been going on continuously, yes. Further, I asked, why should we
continue to have two national exams in ophthalmology? The American Board of
Ophthalmology is the certifying board. When you finish your residency, you take
your board exams. It is like the bar exam for lawyers, except the bar exam is
administered to license lawyers to practice. But our board certification says, if
you pass the board exam, you are certified to have passed the minimum level of
knowledge in your specialty and can advertise that fact. But that certification is
voluntary--not a requirement for practice.
P: Will you continue to update this examination?
R: Of course. It is updated every year. But another thing, I wanted the Board to
give the same exam as the residents had. It was stupid to go through the effort
of creating two fully separate exams, separately administered and constructed.
It was crazy--labor intensive and expensive. My whole mission from the
beginning concentrated on getting the board to give the same exam to everyone
who wanted to be in ophthalmology. I was eventually given an opportunity to try
this amalgamation, because in 1978 I became a member, a director of the
American Board of Ophthalmology. That was how I got a chance to meld the
two exams. This was an eight-year term for me. During the first two years on
the American Board of Ophthalmology, the national certifying board, I molded the
OKAP and ABO into one national exam across the country. My dream was
fulfilled. I later became chairman of the American Board of Ophthalmology.
P: You were in the driver's seat then.
R: I was in the driver's seat. But I had really accomplished my mission earlier, back
when I was a member of the Board s written exam committee, when I sold them
on the idea that it was better to do it this way.
P: They did not call it the Rubin Test?
R: No, they did not. It was the OKAP--the Ophthalmic Knowledge Assessment
Program. I became chairman of the Board later, in 1984.
P: How many colleges or programs are a part of this now?
R: One-hundred-sixty-seven in all.
P: One-hundred-sixty-seven from all fifty states?
R: And Canada.
P: Is it likely to expand beyond that?
R: No. Let me go into that because there is now a wind-down--a back step. After
the exams had been combined, given on the same date every year to both
groups, about five years ago, the Board decided that they wanted the questions
for the residents OKAP to be different from the Board questions. They wanted
the questions for residents to be more basic and demanding. The questions for
those who had finished residency and were now in clinical practice were to be
more practically oriented. I had always felt the questions to both groups should
be the same.
But my program had now passed into new hands. When you give up
responsibility, you transfer the program to somebody else, and you are governed
by a new boss or a new committee which decides all over on what they want to
do. Their philosophy was what should count, not what mine was when I first
began the project, because the needs may now well be different. The needs
perceived at this point indeed were different than when I made the decisions. I
made some decisions when I created the thing. Other decisions were made
when I combined the exam for both groups. Now there are different motivations
and thought processes in play. So now the exams are being split again. Last
year was the first year they actually went back. They again have two exams, but
they are different for each group, for the residents and for the practitioners,
though they are still well coordinated.
P: You considered it a successful activity?
R: I considered it one of the greatest things, because what happened was that the
residents continue to find out how they do in every area, topic by topic, compared
with other residents in the country. They do not learn what the specifics result
are of any given program, but only the national averages.
P: Do they know the names of the other schools?
R: No. There might be a way they could find out, I suppose, but that is not the
point. The OKAP still has only an educational mission, an assessment as part of
an educational process, an educational prod.
P: I suppose knowing the results program by individual program would add nothing
to the real value of the exam.
R: Correct. It would do nothing except embarrass somebody. Somebody has to
be at the bottom. Why should there be any embarrassment? The exam should
help, not embarrass. If a program finds out that it is in the five (lowest)
percentile level, then that should tell that program that it should do something to
boost or train its residents better. Its residents knowledge is lacking compared
to other departments. But that should not be public information.
P: No institution has gotten mad and said, we shall not participate in this program if
we find ourselves at the bottom?
R: No, you cannot identify those at the bottom because only they themselves know.
P: They might think, however, that you have that power?
R: That is correct. You cannot stop the people from [thinking that].
R: It has led to a wonderful experience for me, which I did not plan ahead of time,
but my origination of the OKAP exam got me involved in the educational system
of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, which has been the greatest
educational role in my life. When I was president in 1988, that had to be the
prime glory in my life. Fifteen thousand ophthalmologists, and I ran the national
meeting. This happened to be one of the largest scientific meetings in the world.
P: It meets at various places around the country?
R: It meets only in cities which can absorb the size of such a meeting. The
meetings usually vary between Chicago or San Francisco.
P: New York?
R: New York is not one of the places selected. It is too expensive to meet there.
But there are also New Orleans and Atlanta to choose from.
P: How about Washington?
R: No. But we met in Las Vegas once or twice.
P: I did not think there was anything more expensive than San Francisco.
R: It is not as expensive for them, because the main academy offices are in San
P: The cheapest must be in Las Vegas?
R: The cheapest is Las Vegas, except that you do not get as big a turnout there.
[Laughter] People do not like to go to Las Vegas. It is not a good scientific
P: I know it is not. The atmosphere is different, even if the big hotels are set
up with meeting rooms and so on.
R: It does have wonderful facilities. It really does. In any case, they rotate it
around. This fall is the 100th anniversary of the American Academy of
P: And where will the Academy meet this year?
R: In Chicago, which was where it started. I look forward to that.