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Training at the Chicago Maternity Center

Alumnus Tim Hunter, MD ’68, sent Ward Rounds journal entries from his training days as a fourth-year medical student, serving for two weeks at the Chicago Maternity Center. Here we share some excerpts and invite you to tell us about your experiences.

In addition, alumnus David Kerns, MD ’68, is writing a book about his experiences at the CMC that is due out in 2013. “Fortnight on Maxwell Street:  A Novel is “true fiction,” a medical student’s trial-by-fire delivering babies in Chicago’s housing projects and tenements in the early spring of 1968. It is a tale of fear and courage, choice and consequence, set amid extreme poverty and racial tension in the days immediately preceding and following the assassination of Martin Luther King.

The Chicago Maternity Center, January 1968

January 14, 1968


Getting off the “L” at Halsted was very weird – nobody around, fresh snow by the Circle campus, and a sinking feeling in my stomach. At 9:05 I arrived at the Maternity Center, a dump of a building at the corner of Newbury and Maxwell. Dr. Jack Casper oriented us as to our duties and then turned us over to Jane, a nurse who talked for 2-3 hours on the setups and equipment we would be using. About this time, I volunteered to go out with Jack and Betty Lou for a call concerning a para XIII, gr XII who was bleeding.

Her home was 9000 South and 3000 East in a marginal neighborhood. She had only a small room to herself… What an incredible experience. She had 12 children in foster homes, her husband was in Mexico (won’t return), goofy neighbors coming in asking for TV Guides.  Finally, we determined she was not in labor, but we had the police take her to Cook County, since she was evidently bleeding at least a small amount.

Fourth-year medical students Gary London, David Kerns, and Al Robbins

January 17, 1968


Wednesday morning showed up for clinic. Dr. Orion really raked me with questions. The afternoon was fun. Left at 4 pm for an unregistered case at 1300 North and 1300 West. Appalachians – the husband who had severe amblyopia of the left eye met us and was very excited. The woman was having mild contractions every 3 to 4 minutes cervix post and undilated. Donna and Tina were along. After one hour, I gave the patient two grains of Phenobarbital. Then examined her an hour later.  She was the same. It turns out she was scheduled to go to Wesley anyway, but the husband was broke and also didn’t think he had the time to take her there. We declared a false labor and instructed the husband and his mother to take his wife to Wesley via the police if any trouble or pains came up.

Came back to the Center at 8:30 pm. Donna and Karen fixed me an egg sandwich and fried potatoes. Very good.  Watched Johnson’s State of the Union Message. Argued about Vietnam for two hours with Dave Kerns. Went to bed.

The Booth House is where fourth-year medical students lived during their stints at the Chicago Maternity Center, 1968.

January 20, 1968


Got called at 3:50 this morning. Went out to see Mrs. Bootes – 26 year old gr III, para ? carrying twins transverse lie plus double footling breech. At first strong contractions every 2 to 3 minutes. Cervix undilated. Jack said to watch her for awhile and then give her Phenobarbital to rest her. Must be careful with this case – could lose the breech. She finally fell asleep without the Phenobarbital. We declared a false labor and left at 6:30 am. Later today Al Robbins went out with her and spent 5 to 6 hours before another false labor was declared.

Bob and I went over to the Center for dinner -mass confusion: dinner closed, many cases. Bob went out to see the primagravida again. (Third time today she has been seen.) Right now watching Jackie Gleason. First up waiting for a call.



A group of medical students who were doing a rotation at Evanston Memorial Hospital, circa 1968. Standing: Edward Ochsner, Theodore Ning, Jr, David Feldman, and Michael King. Seated middle row: Tim Hunter, William Burkhardt, III, and Jon Smucker. Front row: Gary London, Neil Stone, Arthur Feldman, and Raymond Hopkins.


January 22, 1968


I am now second up. Al has had three hours sleep in the last 48 hours – he is first up. So far, I have had only four deliveries, Al 10. He has had all the good cases, but has had to work for them. I will shower and go to bed. Got called at 2 am. Went out with Tina and a student nurse – a MUD on South side. The cord had snapped but no bleeding from the mother or the fetus. Child was 1.5 months premature but weighed 5.5 pounds. Had a tight foreskin. Good cry. No other problems.