University of Minnesota

“If It Isn’t Fun.” – Sophomore Year Medicine, 1945-1946


January 1, 1946, New Orleans

This morning after the New Year, with only two hours’ sleep, I got up for a grueling six-hour stand on the switchboard of the Marine Hospital.

Our Navy days are almost over, and I shop for civilian clothes as we prepare for mustering out. Apparently my mother’s charitable donations have left little of my pre-war civvies wardrobe at home. Consequently, I have just bought a gray wool suit and an overcoat and expect to turn out a fairly well-outfitted civilian.

On test papers returned this week I got a “low pass” in bacty (bacteriology) and a “very good” in path (pathology). I seem to have caught the class jitters over the upcoming bacty final though my position is hardly precarious.

Today, in neuropsychiatry clinic, we had interesting case presentations of paranoia, catatonia, and luetic paresis. In clinical lab. I enjoyed making blood smears, but my left index finger is butchered from all the punctures. At the end of the morning I had an unexpected and brief tête-à-tête with Prof. Ochsner when I arrived late for his surgery class. I hope he won’t remember it, but they say he never forgets!

Navy Bulletin

We middies got the official word today: all members of our Navy V-12 Unit will be placed on inactive naval reserve at the Navy Separation Center next Tuesday and Wednesday. The war’s over for us. But we’re still obligated to serve during any future draft.

January 20

Today Tulane Medicine got its first taste of classes with all of us decked out in civvies after years in which uniforms were predominant. I felt comfortably well-dressed in blue slacks and tan sweater. But it gave one a start to look now at everyone through the eyes of a civilian — trying to divine who were veterans and who were civilians, or “slackers” as they had been called. Nobody can tell us apart now unless we wear a symbol; for us who were in Navy V-12 it’s a “ruptured duck” gold pin. We wear it proudly.

January 22

Phenomenally, Mayor Maestri, the “Ol’ Regular” head of boss rule in New Orleans, was upset in the mayoral election today by “Shep,” that is, De Lesseps Story Morrison, thirty-four-year old war veteran and candidate of the fancy “Uptown” folks.

Psychiatry course these days is interesting, traumatic, enlightening, and maybe even helpful — personally, that is.

I was ill at ease in a scholarship interview with Dean Kostmeyer today, being basically unprepared for his questions about my career plans. Then Prof. Smith threw us a curve on a quiz, asking us to review the toxicity of atropine. But I passed pathology and pharmacodynamics tests. Surgery lecture was particularly interesting this morning, but Dr. Ochsner became almost childish over Martin dozing in class and not taking notes. On the other hand, Martin was stupid to talk back. The Chief won’t take it. The rest of the day was generally bleak, the weather, the class in biostat., and the whole afternoon doing reticulocyte counts in lab. I spent the evening deep into “Boyd’s Pathology.”

I missed badly on the pathology practical today. This was hardly surprising considering the weird slides presented us: an adamantinoma, hepatic actinomycosis, and subacute glomerulonephritis.

February 2

I felt my first enlarged spleen and nodular goiter today. Later I splurged and bought a seer-sucker suit, the summer uniform of New Orleans. I’m now a very well-dressed civilian — and quite broke.

Yesterday, following the first excursion on a tennis court in a year and a half, Jane and I went to “Lost Weekend,” a remarkable film portrayal of the tribulations of an alcoholic, played by Ray Milland.

At Charity Hospital today I attended a case that on post-mortem showed atherosclerotic heart disease with heart failure and benign nephrosclerosis, par for the course in Charity patrons, it seems. In neuropsychiatry the case presentation was on a beautiful but extremely depressed young woman who had been drinking a quart of Scotch a day and had attempted suicide. Sad and lonely, she now hears voices and is probably a candidate for brutal electroshock therapy.

Tonight on late switchboard duty I’m reading “Who Walk Alone,” the intense life story of a leper. Jeanne called in with details of our costumes for the Ball of Osiris. Escorts will be dressed in green velvet as Merry Men of Sherwood Forest and we’ll be masked. Whoop-tee-doo!

February 16

In bacty today, since I was non-reactive earlier to the weak tuberculin skin test, I was administered the stronger dose. Again I was late to Dr. Ochsner’s lecture but slipped in unobserved, I think.

In the neuropsychiatry demonstration on thought disorders today, a highly educated young Negro woman lectured us scoldingly, in a torrential, schizoid word-salad. The Tongues of Babel!

Tropical medicine lab. today was on malaria and we tested ourselves, extending our bare forearms into a cage full of female anopheles mosquitos. I don’t remember the exact bite counts, but I scored the fewest of the group, purportedly because my skin either exudes some “natural repellent” or lacks some nutrient attractant.

This relative invulnerability to insect bites has amazed and sometimes annoyed my family ever since.

Detective Work

I divined today that I got a 93 on the biostatistics final exam. Even though we receive no numerical marks at Tulane, we are able occasionally to make out our actual test grades by a little detective work. The corner of the face page of our exam. bluebooks, which bears the grader’s mark, is cut off before the test is returned to us. By dusting the first page of the exam. book with pencil-lead shavings it is usually possible to bring out the penciled impression. High or low, we are usually pleased to be privy to the secret grade.­

February 24

Prof. Dunlap, Lincolnesque hero of our student body, defined a human for us today as, “A polyhybrid, heterozygous bastard of low fecundity.”

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