University of Minnesota

“If It Isn’t Fun.” – More Letters Home From Medical School

March 7, 1946

Dear Folks: I trust that those putting on the pressure for socialized medicine realize what Wagner, Murray, and Dingell’s bill would do for the standards of care and for medical progress that have been so dramatic, as well as to physicians’ initiative, and eventually to our system of government. I hope also that you will express yourselves to Congressman Claude Pepper. I’m writing him.

I enclose a news write-up about our classmate Bobby Brown, who is a sensational rookie now working out with the Yankees in St. Pete. He just dropped out of medical school for a $45,000 bonus but plans to return next fall. He dates my friend Jane’s best friend. Watch for him. He’s something!

Golden Boy Bobby Brown came through big as the rookie who helped the Yankees win the World Series in 1946. He went on to graduate two years late from medical school, then practiced for years and ended his career as president of the American League. He regaled us with Yankee stories at our 50th class reunion in ‘98, when he appeared to be among the youngest and most vigorous survivors in our class.

Now, Folks, as for your health and for “keeping yourselves alkaline,” I fear that it just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Fruit juices are fine in a non-specific way. I would like to be able to explain it logically enough to break your deeply founded prejudice and without sounding radical. But doctors know that there is no specific therapy for the common cold and that juices and maybe their vitamin C content are useful in any illness where food and fluid intake and output are affected. As for adding “alkali” such as baking soda, I believe that should be taboo.

Soda stops gastric digestion until reflex excess stomach acid pours out, neutralizes, and then removes your alkaline dose. While doing this, the “alkali” remains only moments an antacid, then, liberating CO2 gas, it moves on to interfere with normal digestion in the small intestine. Eventually your dose of “alkali” causes an equivalent amount of base to be absorbed into the blood, putting the kidney to great effort to excrete the base rapidly in the urine in order to maintain the blood plasma within the narrow range of pH required for life. Ya’ see?

In general, for-run of-the-mill advice on the common afflictions such as colds and constipation and malaise, I lean toward informal physiological therapy, considering the way you eat, exercise, rest, and worry, letting the body recover without adding problems of irritants, cathartics, and remedies that upset acid-base and fluid balance. It’s really very simple, n’est-ce pas? Love, “Dr. Henry, Jr.”

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