“If It Isn’t Fun.” – A Golden Era at the VA Hospital
Our group of medical fellows was clearly well-off at the Minneapolis VA Hospital in the early to mid-1950s. At first we were concerned that the Golden Era was closing, with the departure of Richard Ebert as chief of medicine and his high-powered assistants in the fields of my greatest interest, Carleton Chapman in cardiology and Bill Stead in pulmonology. But we were quickly reassured by the gentle scholarship of the new chief, Edmund Flink, the quiet effectiveness of his assistant, Alvin Schultz, the brilliance of my attending physician, Ralph Smith, the excellence of Wendell Hall in infectious diseases and clinical labs, of Don Gleason in pathology (later of Gleason-Score fame), of Les Zieve in gastroenterology, and William Sheldon (of Sheldonian somatotyping fame) and his colleagues Frank MacDonald and Frank Martin in chest diseases. All were rich sources of learning and collegiality. They set our minds, and careers, at ease. Finally, I drew a thoughtful senior resident in Cyrus Brown, who was always encouraging and supportive even when I suspect he was exasperated. In short, the VA training ambience was superb.
Our crew of 1950s fellows was almost as exceptional as the faculty. When I described our fortunate service to my friend and Munich colleague, Tom Tamlyn, he was persuaded to join our staff in Minnesota for a year of training, tearing himself away from Manhattan’s Roosevelt Hospital and his natural environment as dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker. Jack Farquhar also joined us for a year or two, and, in fact, the cream of the internist crop of the Twin Cities passed through the VA program at one time or another. The grandest of local consultants sat at our sides weekly in conferences, Bell in pathology, Berman in cardiology, Watson in porphyrins and liver, Spink in infections, Simonson in electrocardiography, and on and on. These were awfully good days, medically and otherwise.