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P&S Journal

P&S Journal: Spring 1997, Vol.17, No.2
Alumni News and Notes
Profile: Paul J. Bilka

Retired Rheumatologist Eases Financial Pinch for Students


 More than 50 years after the fact, retired rheumatologist Paul J. Bilka'43D still vividly recalls his medical school interview with legendary Dean Willard Rappleye.

Paul J. Bilka'43D  As eager as hemedical school interview with legendary Dean Willard Rappleye.

 As eager as he was to attend P&S, Dr. Bilka confessed that he could not do so without financial aid. Dean Rappleye, who studied the application and satisfied himself as to the applicant's qualifications, looked up and simply said, "OK, I think we can take care of you." And finding that his secretary was out to lunch, the dean, who had recently suffered a broken leg, hobbled off to fetch the necessary forms himself.

 The beneficiary of a full scholarship, Dr. Bilka has established a scholarship fund in his name and that of his late wife, Madge, to lend a helping hand to today's debt-ridden students.

 By opting for a charitable remainder annuity trust as the financial vehicle of his kindness, Dr. Bilka has done both his school and himself a good turn, allowing Columbia to invest the principle while establishing a resource from which he will earn a regular quarterly return for the rest of his life.

 "Education has to be the salvation of our societies," says Dr. Bilka. "I can't think of a better way to use monies than to educate people. It isn't so much a duty, in the sense of an onerous task, but rather a strong heartfelt desire to play a part and do what I can to help."

 A Master of the American College of Rheumatology, Dr. Bilka has enjoyed a distinguished career in medicine. Training under Nobel laureate Phil Hench at the Mayo Clinic, he subsequently served as a consultant in rheumatology to the Minneapolis VA Hospital and joined the clinical faculty at the University of Minnesota. He was the first rheumatologist to practice in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

 "I never wanted to be a Dr. Feelgood," he insists, "but a soundly based physician who could make his patients feel good by keen observation and a scientific approach to medicine." A rigorous diagnostician in the Robert Loeb tradition, he was concerned with the lack of diagnostic skills of fellow practitioners in the proper way to examine joints. To that end, Dr. Bilka produced a series of award-winning educationtioned educationuced a series of award-winning and widely used educationnal films on musculoskeletal examination and joint injection that have been used the world over.

 Dr. Bilka served as a captain in the U.S. Army during World War II.

 In addition to his teaching and private practice, he pursued educational involvement abrobroad. As secretary of the International Affairs Committee of the American Rheumatism Association, he traveled to India, where he lectured and treated, among other patients, the president of Sri Lanka. Named honorary member of the National Societies of Rheumatology of India, Peru, and Colombia, he is listed in "Who's Who in America."

 In his extra-medical life, Dr. Bilka has enjoyed a lifelong love of vegetable gardening. With a "fair-sized" garden to tend following his retirement in 1991, he has kept his friends and neighbors stocked with fresh produce.

 "One of my bequests to this Earth will be an improved, well-tended and fertilized plot of land," he smiles. Another will be the Paul J. and Madge M. Bilka Scholarship Fund at P&S.

copyright ©, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center

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