University of Minnesota

“If It Isn’t Fun.” – Letters Home from Intership


July 4, 1947

Dear Folks;

I can hardly convey the many feelings I’ve had as a new intern since last Wednesday, ranging from utter terror, where I could hardly move or eat, to total disdain for medicine and everything about it, to pure joy from working with a team that’s truly helping patients.

Residents and visiting men, even the nurses, are now piling responsibilities on us that they’ve shouldered through this awful July “green period,” the annual changing of the intern guard.

I’ve not been outside the building since it all started. I get five hours sleep a night when all goes well. All day, I’m on my feet going about as hard and fast as one can possibly go. I’ve not unpacked my suitcases much less my books. I’m the only intern on a large medical service and no one with whom to alternate night duty. So I’ll be on duty every day and every night for six weeks. My resident is fine, but he’s married and lives outside the hospital.

Love to all, Henry, Jr.

July 8

A new intern encounters interesting problems of all varieties. Yesterday, it was a 22-year-old girl who weighs 85 pounds but who a year ago weighed 172. She is nearly psychotic with fear of being fat again and has been taking thyroid extract, cascara, and enemas, while smoking heavily and regurgitating her food.

Fear of fatness seems a tragic medical and psychological problem [apparently not yet labelled “anorexia nervosa”].

August 18

Dear Folks: I hope you will excuse the hubris of this letter. I felt that you might enjoy the evaluation of my first Wesley service, written by its chief, Dr. Goldsmith:

“Dr. Blackburn is by far the best intern I’ve ever had on my service. He does his work promptly and willingly. His clinical judgement is sound. The hospital should make every effort to secure this man for a residency.”

I had to tell somebody! Please don’t repeat it. ’Course, he might say this about all his interns. Love, Henry, Jr.

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