There seems to be contrary opinions on the teaching abilities of Dr. Robert Loeb. In my opinion, Dr. Loeb was one of my “master” teachers at P&S during my medical school days from 1949 to 1953 and my internship at Columbia Presbyterian. He ran the very best medical rounds I ever attended.
I do not think that he taught medicine using “fear and intimidation.” His use of “fiddle-dee-dee” when he disagreed with someone’s remark during his grand rounds may have offended a few medical students, but not in our class. He was literally idolized not only by the medical students, but by his peers in the Department of Medicine. His “Textbook of Medicine” (Cecil-Loeb edition) has been used by numerous medical schools.
The grand rounds he ran were attended by physicians from universities from around the world. His rounds were run with dignity. Cases were presented to him and the staff with succinct knowledge of the patient, complete with all the pertinent laboratory and X-ray results.
I salute two brilliant fellow students whose deaths you just reported. Oscar Ratnoff amazed me. He could study for an anatomy quiz with his dormitory door open and classmates trafficking in with music blaring. He just sat with his book open and got A’s. I believe he wrote a paper on cirrhosis of the liver while an undergraduate.
Henry Janowitz was a natural. A quick mind with rapid comprehension. A sure winner.
I’m surprised by the hate letters about Dr. Robert Loeb. Maybe it’s a generational difference in our attitude toward parents. The sophomore year was rumored to be the year of execution, but most of us loved Dr. Loeb. I got lucky during his introductory lecture, wherein he flashed on the screen some skin conditions indicative of an underlying internal disease. I blurted out the answers. He stopped and asked my name. We were reasonably close after that. He got impatient with me because I couldn’t hear the presystolic murmur of mitral stenosis.
Dr. McNiece in fourth-year ophthalmology class used me as a normal subject to demonstrate the diagnostic procedure for detecting strabismus. Unexpectedly he found I had 4 diopters deviation since birth. Perhaps I might have had a slight hearing loss as well that accounted for my difficulty with the mitral stenosis. I suggest that freshmen be tested.
Blue Ridge, Ga.
The series of recent articles and letters about Robert F. Loeb have been of great interest to me. I knew him for six years, as a student, intern, assistant resident and during a year in the rheumatology program with Charles Ragan and Charles Christian. After that I was the first chief resident with Stanley Bradley.
Dr. Loeb had extremely high standards for himself and everybody else. Yes, he was impatient with students who had not learned or prepared as he expected. He could be scornful of house staff who performed less well than he thought they should. His displeasure could be crushing. I cannot imagine that anyone never felt his disappointment. He could be diffident about his own actions. He was concerned before his heralded professor’s rounds that he might have little or nothing to offer. Of course, his ability to analyze and address problems logically was always exciting and instructive. He even could be critical of senior faculty. At team rounds, our weekly teaching session, residents presented patient cases and attendings discussed them. After one such session I overheard him in his office talking to a senior full professor who had just been a discusser, saying: “Henry, your presentation was not up to our standards.”
While his directness and scorn could trigger shame and fear, one had to see that his criticisms had merit and, if taken constructively, could be helpful. It was entirely possible to reverse his response with good work. His praise could be high and warm. A smile and handshake after one did something especially well was memorable.
My letter was prompted by a remark by one of your correspondents that he never learned anything from Dr. Loeb. If this is true then that fact is on him. Dr. Loeb was a great teacher, a great intellect, and a great example of ethical discipline. David Seegal, another great mentor/professor, always said one should get the best our peers had to offer and not bother with the rest. Dr. Loeb had a lot to offer.
Castle Rock, Colo.
I have been somewhat bemused by the recent letters about Dr. Loeb and Dr. Bradley. I am sorry that some of our colleagues have unpleasant memories. However, I consider myself to have been very fortunate to attend the College of Physicians and Surgeons.
During my third-year clerkship I had a patient with cystic fibrosis, a young lady age 23 who at that time was the longest lived individual with this disease. One of her recurring symptoms was hemoptysis. On one occasion, while I was at the nurse’s station I observed her in the sixth bed on the left with a jar full of red material on her bedside table. I felt she must be bleeding out so I ran down to her and discovered that the jar contained raspberry preserves! A few days later I presented her to Dr. Bradley. On her bedside was a small jar with a little bit of hemoptysis in it. After I finished my presentation Dr. Bradley asked me if I had anything to show. I told him I did not. He showed her clubbed fingernails and then pointed to the jar on the bedside table and said, “What do you think is in that jar? Raspberry preserves?” My classmates could hardly contain their laughter and I remained calm and said no, but there was a faint twinkle in his eye. I am sure the nurses had told him about the episode I had.
David N. Reifsnyder’63
A Different Lewis
To see “The Lives of a Cell” by Lewis Thomas ascribed to C.S. Lewis (Winter 2009 issue, “Alumni Profile: Robin Cook”) was a shock.
Phyllis Hanson Hawkins’41
We recently discovered my mother’s name, Phyllis Hanson Hawkins’41, in the In Memoriam section in the Fall 1997 issue (Vol. 17, No. 3). It indicates no known survivors. She is survived by daughters, Susan Blair Hawkins Harden (Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio), Jean Grant Hawkins Schaedler, M.D. (Burbank, Calif.); sons-in-law, Terry Harden and Robert Schaedler; and grandson Terry Harden II (Maumee, Ohio).
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