Since the founding of the medical school in 1859 the faculty, students, staff, and graduates have been ready to provide their medical and surgical expertise in times of strife and conflict.
Edmund Andrews, MD (1824-1904), one of the medical school’s founders, acquired notable battlefield experience as surgeon in the First Illinois Regiment of Light Artillery during the American Civil War (1861-1865) when he saw heavy action during Grant’s campaign in Tennessee.
Dr. Andrews’ letters were published in the Chicago Medical Examiner during 1862 which described his observations of surgeries, conditions of the camps and hospitals, and overall health of the troops.
Allen A. Wesley, MD (1856-1929), was a graduate of the class of 1887 and one of the founders of Provident Hospital. During the Spanish-American War (1898), Major Wesley was appointed to the medical examining board for all medical officers serving in Cuba, the first African American to hold such a position.
Major Wesley and other medical officers who were stationed in Cuba.
Nicholas Senn, MD (1844 to 1908), was a graduate of the medical school’s class of 1868. In 1884, he was appointed Brigadier General of the Wisconsin National Guard. He founded the Association of Military Surgeons in 1892 and was appointed the Surgeon General of the Illinois National Guard in 1893.
During the Spanish American War he was commissioned Lt. Colonel and Chief Surgeon of U.S. Volunteers.
Lucy Gaynor, MD, graduated with honors from Northwestern University Woman’s Medical School in 1891. Dr. Gaynor was endorsed by the Friend’s Missionary Board and in 1892 sailed to Nanking, China, to begin two decades of missionary work as the city’s first female physician. She established a hospital and a training school for nurses.
On December 6, 1911, Nanking fell to revolutionary forces; by December 10, Dr. Gaynor and her staff opened an emergency field hospital where she contracted typhus and died on April 22,1912.
World War I – France
In October 1916, Dr. Frederick Besley began organizing a general hospital unit to assist the Allied war effort in Europe. Medical officers were recruited from Northwestern University’s medical school with others from Rush Medical College and the University of Illinois College of Medicine. The nurses were recruited from Cook County, Mercy, Augustana, and Evanston hospitals. Many of the enlisted men had been students at Northwestern and other universities in the Chicago area. This unit was called the United States Army Base Hospital Number 12.
Dr. Besley, commissioned a major, became director and chief of surgical services for the unit. It left Chicago on May 16, 1917, landed at Boulogne, France, on June 11, and set up headquarters at Dannes-Camier. The unit replaced the British Expeditionary Force's Base Hospital No. 18, freeing the British staff for duty closer to the front line.Barracks at Dannes-Camier, France, 1917
For the next 22 months, the unit operated a 1,200- to 1,500-bed tent-and-hut hospital, treating some 60,000 patients, mostly British soldiers. Occasional German air raids in the area created dangers beyond the usual hazards of disease and accident. Most of the officers, nurses, and enlisted men returned to the United States in April, 1919.
World War II – Algeria and Italy
J. Roscoe Miller, MD '30, dean of the medical school, and Michael L. Mason, MD '24, PhD '31, were responsible for the re-activation of Base Hospital No. 12 as the 12th General Hospital in 1942.
Dr. Mason had served the unit in World War I as sergeant in charge of orderlies. Alumni and faculty were the nucleus of the 2,000-bed general hospital, which included eight operating rooms.
At home, the medical school curriculum was accelerated by scheduling continuous classes.
The Northwestern unit was stationed at Ain-El-Turck, Algeria, December 1942-December 1943; and in Italy, successively at Naples, Rome, and Livorno. The personnel worked in rehabilitation of casualties, infectious disease, and combat and war fatigue. The unit was inactivated September 15, 1945.
A letter from U.S. Army Surgeon General Kirk to university administrators sums up the role Northwestern faculty, students, and alumni played in World War I and II:
"I realize what a serious deprivation it has been for your University to meet its manifold responsibilities with so many of its ablest members in the 12th General Hospital...that your contribution has been of inestimable value to the Army Medical Service, particularly to our soldier patients.“
Unfortunately, the medical school has little or no history of the men and women who served in the Korean and Viet Nam conflicts or those who may have been involved in Operation Desert Storm, Iraq, or Afghanistan.
Anyone willing to share photographs, recollections or personal histories?
That's all for now,
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.
Submitted by James J. Monge’, MD ’55 (Excerpts from 4-page letter written April 5, 2012.)
We encourage other alums to share their recollections of Loyal Davis, MD, who was named chair of the Department of Surgery at Northwestern in 1933 and remained in that post until 1963. He inspired and trained many physicians and surgeons during his years at Northwestern. He achieved emeritus status in 1964.
My relationships with Dr. Loyal Davis tended to alternate with each year I was at Northwestern Medical Center, as you will gather from the following:
In the first quarter of school, all freshman students were required to arrive at the medical school at 8 a.m. dressed in jacket, shirt, and tie to meet with Dr. Davis. Students were asked to stand, introduce themselves, share where they had grown up and which college they had attended.
When I was called upon, I mentioned having graduated from the University of Chicago. Dr. Davis immediately launched into a long dismissal of the U of C based on the chancellor who had canceled football… . I with some temerity stated that I liked the University of Chicago and thought I had received an excellent education. Looking displeased, Dr. Davis brought out a notebook, asked me to spell my name, and wrote it down. Needless to say, I regretted saying anything, although, nothing ever came of it.
In the junior year, each medical student had to meet with Dr. Davis in his office. At the meeting that started out very pleasantly, Dr. Davis asked about my future plans, what internships I was interested in, and my plans for practice. I foolishly stated that I liked all types of practice and wanted to do general surgery and family practice. There was an immediate eruption: ‘How do you expect to be a competent surgeon as a general practitioner and not having had a surgery residency?!’
I at once stated that I intended to take a surgical residency and then do both. I was dismissed with a harrumph; as I left the office I could hear an irritated Dr. Davis dictating, “This student thinks he could do both general practice and surgery.’
Students were allowed to take an elective service for six weeks during the senior year. I requested anesthesia. The next day I was told to report to Dr. Davis at his office. Dr. Davis demanded to know why I wanted to be an anesthesiologist. The response: ‘Since I was going to be a surgeon, I wanted to know what was going on at the head of the table.’ A smiling Dr. Davis said, ‘Why didn’t you say so?’ He called Dr. Mary Karp at Wesley Hospital, explained the situation and asked her to take good care of me, put his arm around me as he walked me out of the office, cautioning that if I had a problem, to call him. Mary Karp was wonderful and I had a very good six weeks.
Dr. Davis took me with him as he made his special noon rounds on patients, giving instructions for when they would be dismissed and at home. He also discussed his fee with them. His standard fee, whether for a back operation or a craniotomy, was one month’s salary (of the patient). At the time few patients mentioned having health insurance. He would ask the patient how many children he had, was he paying any tuitions, and whether he was supporting anyone besides his family, such as his parents. If there were excessive expenses, the fee would be trimmed. The fee was never increased.
If the reader senses a great amount of respect and admiration that I had for Dr. Davis, even affection, he is correct.
Jim Monge’, MD ’55
Dr. Leslie B. Arey, PhD
Earlier this year, Michael Sawaya, MD ’68, sent a suggestion for a future topic for the Ward Rounds history blog.
“Would enjoy something of the career of Leslie B. Arey. Dr Arey taught embryology to first-year medical students when I was there (class 1968). He wrote of the history of the medical school but he has been gone a while and I think alumni would enjoy a recounting of his great career.”
We thank Dr. Sawaya for the opportunity to share this wonderful story about the Northwestern career of Dr. Leslie B. Arey, PhD, who touched the lives of so many people at the medical school over a career spanning more than seven decades. In some cases, he had taught three generations of students from the same family. Sadly, he passed away in 1988. There were two very nice Ward Rounds pieces written by editor Ellen Soo Hoo about Dr. Arey in the 1980s. Here are excerpts from those articles.
Dr. Arey joined the medical school faculty in 1915 as an instructor in anatomy, after receiving a PhD degree from Harvard University. The Maine native intended to stay just a couple of years and then find a job teaching zoology at a liberal arts college. But he quickly rose through the academic ranks to become a full professor in 1919 and five years later the department chairman, a post he held until his retirement. In 1925 he was named to one of two endowed professorships at the school – the Robert Laughlin Research Professor of Anatomy.
Due to rules for mandatory retirement at age 65, Dr. Arey became an emeritus professor in 1956. Coming into the office nearly every day, he continued to teach histology and human embryology on a voluntary basis. He started the embryology course in the early 1980s when he realized that few of the medical students had prior course work in human embryology.
Serving as a laboratory instructor was one of his greatest joys. “It’s fun getting to know the students in the laboratory and then talking to them in the hallways or on the street. It’s very gratifying to have this interaction with the students,” Dr. Arey said.
His Textbook of Embryology (published in 1917) and Development Anatomy (first published in 1924 and revised seven times) have become classics in the field.
Dr. Arey was an early proponent of women in medicine and also supported graduate education. In fact, the first PhD degree awarded by a professional school at Northwestern was in anatomy during the 1920s.
When the school opened in 1859, enrollment was all male. In 1868 three women were admitted on an experimental basis. But after that year, no women were admitted for 60 years. Faculty and administrators felt it was improper for men and women to study the human body together, especially during the dissection of cadavers in anatomy lab. This was a reflection of society’s Victorian ways, Dr. Arey said.
When women were admitted again in 1926, Dr. Arey arranged for them to form their own dissecting groups and to work only on female cadavers, to counter one argument against then.
For people with questions about the history of the medical school, Dr. Arey was an invaluable resource. Former dean, James E. Eckenhoff, MD, called Dr. Arey “my personal historian.” Dr. Arey researched and compiled the history for the school’s centennial in 1959 and updated it in 1979.
Upon his passing on March 23 1988, former dean James E. Eckenhoff, MD, commented, “There is not a faculty member today who can recall a time when Leslie Arey wasn’t a part of the Medical School scene. He’s like a pillar that matches the Montgomery Ward Building, and he will indeed be missed.”
We invite you to share your favorite stories about Dr. Leslie Arey.
Piece done by Amy Cross from Northwestern News Network – 10/05/11
Dr. Margaret Gerber graduated from Northwestern University in 1939 and from the medical school in 1944. Decades after her graduation, Gerber, who goes by the name “Mickey,” still calls Evanston home.
“I’ve lived here since basically 1937,” she says. “How many years is that?”
Growing up during the depression, Mickey and her family moved to where the work was – Utah, Iowa and finally to Evanston, where her brother Jay was acting as the new student director for Northwestern. Mickey enrolled at Northwestern as a senior and graduated in 1939 with degrees in math and chemistry.
Dr. Mickey Gerber celebrated her 95th birthday with her great-niece Kate Kennedy.
“I always kind of secretly wanted to be a doctor,” she says. “I never told my family that because I didn’t think it would be possible in the depression era time.”
She decided to pursue that dream after all when she applied to Northwestern University’s medical school.
“I was interviewed by the professor of anatomy,” she remembers. “This was in 1940. He said, ‘We know how to pick men, but we have no idea how to pick women.’”
She recalls his joke about her gender.
“When we pick women, we just throw the applications up in the air and the first four we take.”
She laughed, “At least I had the luck of the drop.”
After being accepted with a full-ride scholarship, the school’s dean gave Mickey a welcome of a similar sentiment.
Northwestern honored Dr. Gerber with a birthday celebration in November.
“He called me into the office and explained to me that I was taking the place of a man; that it was costing the university all this money to send me to medical school; that I would probably get there and never practice, and it would be a waste of money,” she recalls. “But I stayed anyway.”
Mickey would encounter much of the same in the upcoming years. Even her medical degree was noticeably altered to include an “S” before the “H” in “he.” She established her practice as an ophthalmologist in the Carlson Building in Evanston, but she says the public still wasn’t ready for females in medicine.
“When I introduced myself as Dr. Gerber, he looked at me and said, ‘I didn’t know I was going to see a woman.”
Mickey never let that response get her down.
“I think you just took it as being normal in those times,” she says. “You know, you didn’t fight it, you just adjusted to whatever way you could do it.”
It’s something she says all people should keep in mind.
“Time takes care of so many things, you know? The older people have their views, and at age 60, they’re not going to change,” she says. “So you wait for the next generation to come along.”
Despite her experiences, Mickey has remained close to the university. The school threw a party in November honoring her 95th birthday.
Dr. Gerber graduated from the medical school at Northwestern in 1944.
If you’d like to send birthday wishes to Mickey Gerber, please post a comment below.