Interview with Thomas Maren, April 16, 1981

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Interview with Thomas Maren, April 16, 1981
Maren, Thomas ( Interviewee )
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University of Florida Health Science Center Oral History Collection ( local )
University of Florida -- History


This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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Dr. Thomas Maren is the chairman of the Department of Pharmacology in the
J. Hillis Miller Health Center at the University of Florida. He was
working at the Amerian Cyanamid Company in Stamford, Connecticut when he
was contacted by Dr. George Harrell in June of 1955.

After coming to Gainesville, meeting University officials, and inspecting
the partially-completed physical plant, Dr. Maren enjoyed one of the famous
dinners at Miss Bessie's Island Hotel in Cedar Key, Florida. His
impression of Gainesville was of a place that was "quiet, pleasant,
civilized and hot." For these reasons he accepted Dr. Harrell's offer and
became one of the faculty members at the Health Center.

The greater part of Dr. Maren's monologue concerns the establishment of the
medical school curriculum, the problems faced by the faculty of a new
facility, recollections of his colleagues and their departments, and the
spirit of comradery which pervaded the atmosphere of the close-knit group.
Dr. Maren mentions the appointments he made, those made by others, and the
excellent library facilities developed by Fred Bryant and Dr. Harrell. The
monologue concludes on a wistful note, as Dr. Maren laments the end of the
era of dedication to the common good of the Health Center which occurred
with the institution of the Health Center rebuilding plan. "We must make
certain," Dr. Maren writes, "we retain as much of the best of the past,
commensurate with our inevitable growth into the future."

UFHC 5A -' Page ]
JF c

The following is an account by Dr, Thomas H. Maren of the beginnings of the
University of Florida medical school, dictated on January 23, 1977.

I first heard of the University of Florida School of Medicine in June of
1955 when I was sitting rather peacefully in my laboratory at the American S a .,
Company in Stanford, ConnV I received a telephone call that June afternoon from a
man named George HarrelT of whom I had never heard. He said he was the dean of ac-C''-
qite-new medical school in Florida. And that A he had received some suggestions
that I might be a candidate for the chair of pharmacology at Florida. All of this
took me a bit offguard and rh' it turned ou that my attitude in this phone call was
one of suspicion more than interest. I remember that instead of Dr. Harrell asking
me about my qualifications I asked him about his. I remember clearly his telling
me that he was an internist but Ege in the tradition of Oscler uriete, he had
been careful to have a year of pathology. Thus having assured me that he was
reasonably well-trained, k I decided that I would go to Florida later in the summer
to see him about this job. At that time I was also in a rather weakened condition,
convalescing from .-/^^ an attack of infectious hepatitus. I tried to find out
something about the University of Florida Medical School but it was ip somewhat
difficult. Dr. Harrell had said that pe had made two appointments. One in anatomy
with a man named Jim Wilson, and another in Biochemistry with a man named Frank ,)\!Ih
Putnam. I couldn't find out anything about Wilson but some of my friends who were
biochemists convinced me that the appointment of Putman was an excellent one, and
that if Frank Putnam had taken this job there must be something to this place. Harrell
had also said they were negotiating with Horace Davenport for the chair in phys-
iology. Davenport was a most luminous figure, and so armed with that information and
not much more except some plans for buildings, I traveled to Florida in the end of
July of 1955 for the interview.
In Jacksonville I changed planes and4 got on a DC3 for Gainesville. There

UFHC 5A Page 2

was one other passenger on the plane, an attractive woman a few years older than me.
She sat in the back and I sat in the front. The plane landed in a dustfield, and I

got out into incredible blazing heat. A tall, skinny, well-dressed man 1 met me and

met the woman who was his wife. The man was the dean, George Harrell. I was taken
to the old Florida Union on the campus which was a very pleasant, comfortable place.

And later that evening was entertained by aAnglish professor, Dr. T. Walter Herbert

who was a distant relative of a good friend of mine, Herbert Langford. It seemed

quiet, pleasant, civilized and hot. The next day Dr. Harrell took me on a tour of the

building which was then ea the girder stage, and dizzy from both my disease and the

heat, we walked around the construction on the fifth floor of the building and I saw
where the pharmacology department was being built. That evening Dr. Harrell and

Mrs. Harrell and his son Bob, then about ten went down to the Island Hotel in Cedar
Key. A great storm came up and a palm leaves, palm trees blew in the wind ever the

hotel, sky turned dark i) a few people puttered around the hotel in shorts and 4&r

flowing shirts drinking rum. It seemed an ideal place for a medical school and I
decided to come. The meal was punctuated with Bobby Harrell kicking his father
rather gently and saying are you going to hire this guy?" So Dr. Harrell had no

alternative either.

I returned home to Connticut and A wound up my business in the next few months.

It was not like leaving an academic jobv, V my colleagues at the American Cyenamid

Company, at least some of them did not seem very friendly about my leaving. But
because of the large amount of work I hpd in progress I stayed at the job for almost

six months and came to Florida in the first week of January, 1956. As time went by
I became more and more anxious to leave Cyanamid and to get to Florida. During those

fall months of 1955, however, I did carry out some business for the University of

Florida. I got to know my new colleague, Dr. Joshua Edwards who was to take the chaOP;

inPathology, and who was then at the Rockefeller Institute in New Y rk. Dr. Harrell
had also asked me to talk to people in New York about a chairman for microbiology.

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And I visited Dr. Renny Dubose at the Rockefeller Institute. He made several. c`
recommendations including,r tg-' ;A.1idjlfi the name of Emanuel Suter. He told -' '"J
me something about Suter and, who was then at Harvard and said\ he's the best man

you could get but he'll never come. He's a European: too cosmopolitan and 4d would

never enjoy the South// At Dr. Harrell's suggestion I went to Boston and spent a
day with Manny Suter .6t talking about Florida and o found him far more interested
than Dubose had supposed. He was particularly concerned about the question of blacks.
But this did not seem to either of us a reasonable in, this did not seem to either

of us a compelling reason Lb to stay away from Florida

When I came to Gainesville in January of 1956 I was given an office in what was

called Building K which still exists. It is a white-framed )t two-story shack
directly opposite the athletic, the main athletic building, the gymnasium. In this

building were housed all four of the new professors. Frank Putnam in biochemistry,
and '-dim Wilson in anatomy were already there. I was the third appointee and

Josh Edwards who I have described before came a month or so later. Wilson was con-
cerned with getting his teaching material ready since he would have to teach a class
in September when the medical school building opened. He had a laboratory in this
building, !WtVaf Edwards was also preparing some slides for teaching but Putnam and

I did no laboratory work. It was the first time in my scientific life that I had been
away from a laboratory. But there was plenty to do in terms of correspondence reading,
planning and talking to these three colleagues, to Dr. Harrell and to the provost,0
Russell Poor.

The high command consisting of Dr. Poor and Dr. Harrell and Dr. Harrell's fine
secretary Jo* Potter ((ten years later to become Mrs. Manny Suter) were housed in

another frame building several hundred yards up the hill where the Hub now stands.
Two interviews with Dr. Poor stand out in my mind. The first is when he called the
four of us "boys" together and said that something rather remarkable had happened.
T|00, VO O
There was a hundcrd thhn,,landr- rs that 3SP was unaccounted for and he would like

to give tlwenty- five thoeusafnd--dlears to each of the four departments that we

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represented. I saw some message in this because those of us who had taken the job in
Florida had come on a gamble, and many people who were interviewed for the job, the
jobs here, stayed away because they were not satisfied with the h amount of money

that could be given to them for their departments or for the most part were unwilling
to take Dr. Harrell and Dr. Poo1rs) nq suggestions and promises on faith. That day

it seemed at least that the faithful, that those who bore faith were being rewarded.
The second meeting came one day when Dr. Poor, tlft we heard D Poor s0W say to

Dr. Harrell,1'well we ought to find out what the boys want to do1. It suddenly occurred
to me, it Arti suddenly occurred to me that although I had no objection to this
designation, in fact it was rather pleasing, that we were not really the boys, we
were the executive committee of the faculty. Appropriately then the four of us

marched up the hill the next day, and 'forganized ourselves with Dr. Harrell and
Df. Poor as the executive committee of the faculty of the medical school. That

spring there were many visitors, including men from the Commonwealth Fund, who came

town and were invariably taken to the Island Hotel in Cedar Key for theaft superb
cooking of Miss Bessie and A her husband, both now dead. Other business included
admission of the first class that would start in September and supervision of con-
struction and very importantly, ordering the furniture for our departments. A great
deal of time was spent with representatives of laboratory furniture supply houses

VA in this way. Finally of coursethe curriculum of the medical school had to be
established and the four of us *tdid this together. As is now well known the first

curriculum of the medical school was a traditional one and *y was the mode of operation

from 1956 to 1969. The first year courses were anatomy, biochemistry and phys-
iology. The second year courses were microbiology, pharmacology and pathology. The
package was old-fashioned but neat, simple and workable. In the third year some

students went on the wards, others went to clinics. Care was taken in that first

curriculum that there were two full afternoons a week of free time for all medical
students, and from the very beginning this school had during the second year a block
3b e- I /
of time of about two-4hunded hours for independent research by medical students, by all

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medical students, under faculty supervision. This was known as the experimental

medicine program and to the extent that it was an integral, nonelective part of the

curriculum, this was one of the few real innovations that was put forth at Florida.

For the rest, as I've said, it was a traditional but p rigorous and A^ entirely

curriculum. In the summer of 1956 the two other basic science chairmen arrived.

Dr. -Arthur Otis from John Hopkins and Suter, whom I have described before. That

summer I went to Europe and visited some 10 or 15 pharmacology departments there, and

got to the first time a feeling, the feeling of international, for the international

impact of my field and,,.

End of Side 1

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and administration and relation of pharmacology to clinical teaching. Back in
September and always ready to go, we moved into the building which was completed
on schedule in September, 1956, and the first class of 40 students 0 arrived at
the same time. Teaching was immed tely begun in anatomy and 4 biochemistry. The
building was *t still being furnished. This now I refer to the medical sciences
building: the hospital was still being built. The Y'edical science however, was
complete and housed just the ) students and perhaps some *i$ faculty of the
six departments that I have mentioned. In retrospect it seems as if tI it should
have been very peaceful and even somnolent in those days. But I remember being
amused at comments of a history professor on campus in late 1956 who was worried that
we down at the medical school weren't really having enough to do because there were
so few students and some of us (i didn't have classes.
Let me talk briefly about my colleagues and their departments. In anatomy)the
chairman was my great and good friend, Dr. James G. Wilson. He had been trained,
he was a southerner but had gone north for his doctorall training, and he had been
at Id Rochester, Brown, and Yale. He was a, he had become, he had already become one
of the leading territologists in the country)and this became an even, a much more
important field during his tenure at Florida, and he was # projected into some very
busyAtimes, both in his laboratory and on the national scene because of the growing
importance of, growing importance and threat of drugs when given to mothers. He ran
a very tight shop. He was very proud of his department. He was rather rigid but
extremely, 4i0,E extremely high standards in all his planning and activities. He was
responsible for gross anatomy, histology and i neuroanatomy. He had with him in
/ ^ ^a^G <:^l(^t<-^SJl^---1***t' PrcZqSS (-' O- (,,-o^,,,/
those early days Joseph Qwew, A, Louise Odr and a little later had the very good
fortune of bringing in Donald Goodman, who was a superb ne ro*anatomist and was r ,
later to succeed Wilson.
In biochemistry, Dr. Frank Putnam who had come from the University of Chicago
with an excellent reputation in protein chemistry and already an authority on multiple,
multiple myeloma) /e kI put together the best academic department in those early

UFHC 5A Page 7

days by recruiting three fine young biochemists, Arthur Coe, who also came from
Chicago; James Olson, who had been 4#v-abroad at that time and previously trained
__and finally Mel Freed who had -Preceived his
degree from Yale some years back and had recently been at Cambridge. These four
men were excellent teachers as well as researchers in biochemistry and d gave a
excellent program in both the medical and the graduate school.
In pathology, Dr. Joshua Edwards, who was also a southerner and was the only
one of us who had gone to the University of Florida then went to Tulane Medical
School and as I said before was at the Rockefeller Institute, started with a very-
small faculty. His first appointment was Dr. lan Hood, who is still here Also in
pathology was a brilliant biologist named Charles Crampton who was a Markel scholar
who tragically committed suicide a few years later. I might add at this time that
the ,uftaura of Markel scholarships was very much in evidence in the school. Markel's
scholars at that time were the, at least theoretically, the elite of American
medicine. The Markel Foundation appointed some()or( scholars each year: young
men who showed promise of taking place in the future as leaders of academic medicine.
fly Dr. Harrell was very much taken with this. Suter had been a Markel scholar, Putnam
was a Markel scholar, the clinittoms who came later, AfiMartinAand I believe Woodward
were also Markel scholars. / (rtc-
In microbiology I've already said something about Suter. He was *V Swiss and 4ei
educated in Switzerland;'had all his training, academic and medical, in his home-
town of bS\ where his father was a distinguished urologist. And his
family which was very large, very well known and successful in business and as
scholars. As I indicated before he was a protege of Renny Dubose, and W when he
came to Florida/had been for several years at Harvard as a Markel scholar. He was
basically interested in immune mechanisms in disease and although he was to become
dean of the medical school some ten or twelve years later, there was very little
evidence at this time that he was interested in administrative medicine. On his
early faculty were Dr. George Gifford, a virologist who e sstill here, and a man
/ s

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named Paul Ellner, and ht there were several young Swiss Wtphysicians working
with Suter. ^ ^ ^T
0(, Frec(U "
In physiology Arthur Otis was recM4ed from Johns Hopkins, A where he had

been doing physiological research in the department of surgery. His basic train-
ing was at the University of Rochester where he was a pupil of the very distinguished
physiologist j Wallace Fann. Otis immediately brought with him a group of young, P

physiologists, all of whom are still here, Wr Melvin Fr gloy in the first year, and
shortly thereafter, Sidney Cassyn and Wendell Stainsby .^4 r i ys o

My own situation was somewhat different from the others. I had very little

experience in academic medicine. At that time I was only out of medical school
four years, and those four years were spent in very intensive research at the

American Cyanamid Company in Stanford, Conneticut, where I was developing a new

series, a new 1 class of drugs, I knew nothing at all about the 1oimpact of

government in medicine or methods of obtaining grants and d' I did not have a great
many contacts in academic medicine. My first appointment was a most fortunate

one, Dr. Kenneth Libeman, who was recommended to me y Charles idelberger from
the University of Wisconsin. In his laboratory Libeman had worked as a post-

doctoral fellow. Lbeman was a biochemist but it was agreed that he would atlearn

pharmacology and become a, and become so to speak doubly specialized. My second
appointment was Dr. Bede Nechay, who was a veterinarian born in Czechoslovakia
but a graduate of the University of Minnesota Veterinarian School with a taste for

basic science. He represented a considerable gamble but he turned out in the next
ten years to be a first-rate renal physiologist and an excellent experimentalist.
I Lfe.-rw43Ss ocVfbi, In syc 'c+t]
Dr. Aaron Anton was recommended to me from his chief at Yale, Dr. Arnold Welsh.

Aaron had just gotten his Ph.D. at Yale. Dr. Lucy Birzis was the fourth appointee.
She was a neurophysiologist trained in California, and of course it was essential
t I
to have somebody in this field to teach central nervous system drugs. Thus by the

second year when we had to begin teaching pharmacology we were well staffed. By

that time our furniture had been installed. The teaching laboratory on the fifth

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floor was excellent. It was designed by Dr. Otis and me and W served both Yhys-

iology and pharmacology departments. The laboratories-vflW of the two courses were

given at different times and it was a very satisfactory arrangement.

For the first twelve years of our teaching, we took laboratory instruction very

seriously, in fact all departments did.

In the first few classes 1- the students had but modest academic backgrounds.
Virtually none of them could get into medical schools today. However, many of them

have turned out to be first-rate physicians and we frequently have the pleasure of

seeing them when they come back to reunions or when we meet them around the state.

In retrospect I believe that we gave a high quality medical education. And in very

large part this was made possible by the fact that there were only()in the first

class and not more than (64by 1967. Faculty and students knew each other well.

In the first classes there were, there was a faculty tutor for every student.

Even the lectures, as well as the lecture rooms, were intimate enough so that there

were constant questions and answers during uW the exercises. Dr. Harrell had

designed the building with this in mind. And if one looks at the lecture rooms,

one can see that they were built so that students were never far from the 4

instructor. The same was true of the laboratories. The student cubicles which

Harrell designed were planned so that the students could do all their studying in th e
medical school itself and would be available at any time for discussion either

with classmates or with faculty.

Another very farsighted move of Harrell's was with the library. Many of us

coming to a new school were naturally worried about books and particularly

journals from earlier years. Harrell had already gotten that under control, and
the year before I arrived he had already dispatched his librarian FredABryantto -

Europe to buy up back copies of journals and basic and clinical sciences as far

as the middle of the nineteenth century. As a result, when we came to work we

already had a first-rate library immediately at hand. This was a very significant

UFHC 5A Page 10

part of the aim for excellence that was so prevalent in those years. Beginning
in the spring of 1957)the major job at hand was the completion of the hospital
and the recruitment of clinical faculty. We basic scientists, who were the only
ones on hand, naturally had a major role tn the selection. The first clinical

professor was Dr. Samuel Martin, but this had been pretty well preconceived by
George Harrell beforehand. These two men had known each other at Duke and their
ideas At their fundamental ideas on medical education were rather similar although
later they clashed on certain operational matters. Martin made some very important
early appointments, the chief of which was Dr. J. Taylor who is still here, surely
one of the best cardiologists in the country. Another early appointment was Dr.

William Sted, a first-rate pulmonary physician who had an important role in early
A pumonary La r'-
planning. In neurology Dr. Ricard Sch idt joined the department of medicine. In
late 197 Dr. Edwar Woodwar as appointed professor of surgery. Woodward was a,
was also a Markel scholar, had done some excellent work in 'astric physiology and
was a pupil of Dr. Lester Dragstead. The other clinical appointments #i came
rapidly and were as follows, Dr. Peter Regan from Cornell University in y4aPyi ;
Dr. Richard Smith, who came from Minnesota) in pediatrics; Dr. John Reeves, who
came from Harvard, in radiology; Dr. Herbert Kaufman, who came from Harvard, in
dpthalmology,which was then a part of the department of surgery. And Dr. Harry
Pristowsky, who came from Johns Hopkins, in obstetrics and gynecology. All of these
appointments were completed by the spring, by the fall of 1958 when the students
completed their first two years and were ready for their clinical training. It is
hard to capture the spirit.of a school in retrospect, and tierr is a natural ten-
dency drto romanticize the past, even the past of TOyears. However, it is clear
that there was a spirit of, that there was a most pervasive spirit of unity in the
school. People were very concerned with their own departments. All of these men
were young, ambitious and most of them idealistic and were very proud of the excel-
lence or the potential of even their small departments which they usually ran, which

UFHC 5A Page 11

we all usually ran, single-handed. Benign, hopefully benign dictatorships. Yet
with that ambition for individual departments) there was still ambition for the

school itself. So that all twelve of these department heads and their colleagues
seemed to be pulling in the same direction. Those early years, also, all went

pretty well financially. The Markel, tfta rather.the Commonwealth Fund was generous
to the school. The quality of the men I've described and *r their junior associates

were such that there was no trouble getting NIH grants. It should also be recalled

that in the early s4*bes was the golden age of NIH disbursements. There was then
a feeling of success and accomplishment in, in those years.
Although the health center concept existed more or less on paper, it was scar-

cely a practicality. There was no, very little interaction if any with the pharmacy

school and basic scientists did almost no teaching in the nursing school. The entire
efforts of the faculty)then)was directed toward the medical students. Dr. Harrell
had the wisdom to select a young faculty so that the average age in 1960 surely did
not exceed 40 years even including the department heads. And some of the department

heads were under 35 years of age. Personalities flourished, and this was no place

better in evidence than at the annual student skits. A difficult experience for

some of the faculty and even more so for some of their wives. In general this era
came to an end when the rebuilding program began, and the school became greatly en-
larged when the dental school became an integral part of the teaching and when the

duties,tfor example, of the biochemistry department began to extend into the campus.

Everything was enormously expanded;-buildings, personnel, responsibilities. At
about the same time the curriculum changed, and the nature of the so-called"new"nquote

curriculum with phase A as a integrated program had the effect of reducing basic
science contact time with students greatly and diminishing the impact of an individual

departments character on the students.
There is no doubt that the University of Florida Kedical schooll could not remain
forever as it was in the s4txles in terms of its size when one considers the respon-

sibility that we :have to the state of Florida. On the other hand it is important

UFHC 5A Page 12

to look back to see what character we did have then so that we make as certain as

possible that we retain as much of the, that we retain as much of the best of the

past commensurate with our inevitable growth into the future,