Readers respond to past issues

Previous Generations of Heights NativesPrevious Generations of Heights Natives
Dear Editor,
There are those of us who grew up in the “Heights” from a previous generation [P&S Students, “Homegrown Health Professionals,” Winter 2008 issue]. I was born and lived on 174th Street and Broadway until I started attending P&S. My folks moved then (great planning!). I attended the elementary school on 174th Street and Fort Washington Avenue and the JHS 115 on 177th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue (probably not there now; it was old then). I commuted from the Heights to Bronx Science and commuted to Columbia College. I routinely played “curb ball” (an interesting sport no longer possible because cars take up all the curbs) on 170th Street between Broadway and Fort Washington. My local movie theatre was the Loews 175th Street.
Stanley Fine’57
By e-mail

Robert Loeb
Dear Editor,
My father — Lawrence F. Withington’36 — wants you to know how pleased he was to read your recent piece about Dr. Robert Loeb, one of his favorite professors, who deeply affected Dad’s approach to medicine [P&S Journal, Fall 2007 issue]. He learned so much of the art of medicine from Dr. Loeb. Now 98, Dad walks daily when weather permits and continues to maintain his keen interest in all phases of medicine, reading the P&S Journal from cover to cover. He’s as sharp as a tack and remains the best diagnostician I’ve ever run across. I love to challenge him with real-life cases by giving him the history and symptoms. He’s always right, even with the “zebras.” He credits much of that skill to Dr. Loeb.
Nancy W. Del Borgo
By e-mail

Dear Editor,
I have been following the letters prompted by the article on the mentor of mentors — Robert F. Loeb — and thought I would add a vignette from my medical school years at P&S.
    Frankly, I liked every course I took and every clinical rotation I had. I was, of course, drawn to Dr. Loeb and I spent elective time performing research in the Department of Medicine with Drs. Van Arsdel, Middleton, and Sherman. Dr. Loeb gave me to understand that I would be offered one of the coveted internships in medicine. Then I went to Cooperstown for my surgical externship elective and surgery fit me like a custom-made glove. I knew where I belonged and I have been totally gratified and delighted with my choice ever since.
    I returned to P&S after my surgical externship with great trepidation of facing Dr. Loeb. I went to his office and he greeted me enthusiastically and I blurted out that I was going to become a surgeon. He covered his eyes and said, “I don’t see you, I don’t hear you, Henry. Come back when you come to your senses.” I came back several days later and told him that I still was going to go into surgery. He accepted the fact that I would never carry forth his admonition that “the first duty of a physician is to keep the patient out of the hands of the surgeon.” He continued, however, to treat me kindly with great interest in my career plans throughout my student tenure and my surgical internship at Columbia-Presbyterian.
    His teachings have always been guideposts for me. He greatly influenced my life-long dedication to scholarship and to the pursuit of knowledge; above all, my love of academia. In my presidential address before the Central Surgical Association in 1998, I spoke of Robert F. Loeb — the great internist who shaped the life of this unrepentant surgeon.
Henry Buchwald, M.D.’57, Ph.D.
Professor of Surgery and Biomedical Engineering,
Owen H. and Sarah Davidson Wangensteen Chair
in Experimental Surgery Emeritus
University of Minnesota

Dr. Robert Loeb
Another View of Dr. Loeb
Dear Editor,
Reading the article, “From Clifton to Doctor Back to Clifton Again” by Clifton Meador [P&S Journal, Fall 2007 issue], summoned up some recollections of my own as medical student at P&S, class of 1947, especially one experience with the “Great Dr. Loeb.” He invited me to examine a patient in front of the class in an amphitheater. In response to his question, “What did you find?” I replied, “There’s swelling around the kneecap.” To which he responded in a most condescending tone, “That’s known to the rest of us as the patella.” I would have liked to have said, “Aren’t you smart, Dr. Loeb!” or better still, something more colorful. However, I knew that had I said anything remotely sarcastic, I would have been expelled from P&S forthwith. As a classmate of mine, a great admirer of Dr. Loeb, said to me, “He teaches by humiliation and intimidation.” Dr. Loeb was abusive of medical students — behavior which, I doubt, would be tolerated these days — even at P&S.
    On the other hand, I also recall my experiences with Dr. Dana Atchley — who I think was equally qualified as a great teacher and who actually complimented me on several occasions for my clinical acumen. One of the most impressive and beloved internists at P&S was Dr. Abbie Knowlton, who would often preside at the weekly Clinical Case Conferences for the entire staff. I recall her asking one day, “And what does Dr. Atch-Loeb think about this case?” Loeb would often hesitate to express an opinion without looking at Atchley and it became obvious to all.
    For many years as assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at P&S at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt and director of the Psychiatric Clinic at the St. Luke’s site, I had occasion to teach third-year P&S students during their psychiatric rotation. I decided I would show that Loeb was wrong in his approach. I was supportive of the students and gave them considerable responsibility, which they noted and appreciated. At the end of each rotation, I would ask them what they thought of the rotation. They would often reply, “We had fun!” To which I would respond, “That’s fine, but did you learn anything?” To which they would reply, “We learned more — you gave us more responsibility and we handled it. Now we have to psych ourselves up to go back uptown and be treated like the lowest of low.”
    Teaching med students was the most satisfying part of my medical career and I like to think that I demonstrated that Loeb’s approach was not the only one but perhaps even less effective than it could have been had he tried relieving anxiety in his students rather than causing it. Everyone knows that anxiety interferes with mental functioning! I am still in the active practice of psychotherapy and psychopharmacology and enjoying it more and more.
Alex Caemmerer Jr.’47
Englewood, N.J.

Pennsylvania Hospital
Dear Editor,
The article on Philadelphia [Alumni Section, Rx for Travel, P&S Journal, Fall 2007 issue] mentioned the Pennsylvania Hospital. It is the first hospital in the United States, founded by Ben Franklin and Dr. Thomas Bond in 1751. Jack Butterworth’49 and I interned there in 1949 in a two-year rotating program, probably the last of its kind. I had the oldest room in the oldest hospital and can confirm its age. We thrived on the experiences caring for the sick and poverty-related ills of south Philly just five blocks from Independence Hall. The hospital located in the upscale Society Hill area had preserved the early external features of the building as well as a famous medical library, an early operating amphitheater and other memorabilia (for tour info call 215-829-3370). A visit to 8th and Spruce would be most rewarding. The internship was invaluable.
James R. Malm’49
Amelia Island, Fla.
Send Letters to:
Editor, P&S Journal
College of Physicians and Surgeons
630 West 168th Street
New York, NY 10032
E-mail: psjournal@columbia.edu


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