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Building on Diversity

With vision, intelligence, and passion, founders of the School of Medicine endured early obstacles to create what is now an acclaimed research and medical facility.

by Susan Sample

Depicting a box of crayons all in green, posters at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center remind us in 1999 that "diversity" enriches. In 1942, Dr. A. Cyril Callister didn't need prodding.
A Salt Lake City surgeon appointed half-time dean by U of U president LeRoy E. Cowles, Callister was charged with recruiting faculty, organizing clinics, and supervising accreditation for the newly expanded medical school. In his recruitment efforts, Callister made it clear that he believed in the value and necessity of a diverse faculty.

"There was considerable community opposition to the idea of bringing in outside scientists and doctors, and another man without the grasp of the situation or the vision, who was too sensitive to criticism, would have failed," recalls Barbara Samuels, who, with her late husband, Leo T. Samuels, was enticed to leave Minnesota for Utah.

The men and women who founded the School of Medicine and colleges of Pharmacy, Nursing, and Health came from countries as far away as Sweden and cities as different from Salt Lake as New York. They were Jewish as well as Christian. Some dressed differently: "Why, I was terrible! I wore trousers!" said the late Physical Education Professor Maud May Babcock. Yet they shared a vision with all Utahns.

"In our conversations you gave expression more than once to your admiration of the pioneer spirit of your ancestors," wrote Dr. Philip B. Price, a Baltimore surgeon, to Callister. "My forebears were pioneers, too. The essence of the pioneer spirit as I see it, is the courage to tackle an unideal situation, trying hard with faith and intelligence to build something ideal out of it. That is what I would like to see done, and have part in...."

Determination united these individuals in their goal to provide medical education opportunities rivaling the best in the nation to residents of Utah and the Intermountain West. As a result, generations of health-care professionals have been educated, and remained, in the state, while others continue to shape the delivery of health care across the globe, leading us into the next century.

Beginning in 1905, the U offered a two-year medical course. Only a high school education was required of the first 14 students, who finished their degrees at four-year medical colleges out of state. Within 10 years, freshman quotas and changes in medical instruction were making it increasingly difficult for Utahns to transfer in order to complete their studies. In 1942 the Board of Regents approved expansion to a four-year medical college.

Two physicians Callister recruited are credited with having the greatest influence on the U's medical education. The aforementioned Dr. Price came from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to chair the Department of Surgery. Born in China to Presbyterian missionaries, Price was calm, methodical, and unhurried, although he demanded quality.

"I feel strongly that if the Medical School is to fulfill its high destiny, it must have as a companion institution a university hospital which would facilitate carrying on the highest grade of scientific work...and which would have such a standing in the community that the best physicians and surgeons of the city would aspire to its visiting staff," said Price, who served as medical dean from 1956-1962.

Dr. Maxwell M. Wintrobe, first chair of the Department of Medicine, also came from Johns Hopkins. A native of Nova Scotia, he had written Clinical Hematology, a textbook still used worldwide. "I was naïve and didn't know all the questions to ask. I didn't visualize the problems, and it's a good thing," said Wintrobe 40 years later. He'd been "promised the moon," but when he arrived in Utah in 1943, he had no department, much less an office; part of a garage was remodeled into a classroom.

Wintrobe was as demanding as Price. At a 1946 faculty meeting, Wintrobe suggested that misspellings and illegibility on students' tests be counted against them. He wouldn't hire any married medical resident; he expected sole fidelity to medicine.

Wintrobe strove for quality in research as well as in education and patient care. In 1946 he received the first grant from the U.S. Public Health Service to any medical school-$100,000 to study muscular dystrophy and other hereditary metabolic disorders, helping to create Utah's reputation as a premiere research institution.

Dr. Louis S. Goodman, who came in 1944 from Yale and the University of Vermont to chair the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, claimed research as his first love. He developed basic techniques still used in anticonvulsant drug studies. He and Alfred Gilman-"brash young men"- had written the bestselling text The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics. But the Oregon native is respected as much for his teaching, leaving an indelible mark on the College of Pharmacy as well as the medical school.

A "remarkable teacher with an extraordinary command of the language," Goodman took a personal interest in students. "Indeed, every two or three hours Dr. Goodman would seek out the most noisy place on the train, usually between cars, and have me present my paper to him," recalled the late Ewart A. Swinyard PhD'47, Goodman's first graduate student and later dean of the pharmacy college. Goodman had paid Swinyard's travel expenses and accompanied him to a scientific meeting in Atlantic City, then surprised him with a concert at Carnegie Hall.

Goodman's sense of humor was remembered by an administrator during planning for the medical center in the 1960s: "The aspirations or pipe dreams of the departments vastly exceeded the realities of the dollars. This was epitomized when Lou Goodman arrived at a space allocation meeting and placed a big meat axe in the center of the table."

Humor helped ease the transition for L. David Hiner, recruited from Ohio State University by President A. Ray Olpin in 1946 to be the first dean of the College of Pharmacy.
"When I arrived here, I didn't even know where they were going to put the college," recalled the late Hiner. "I told President Olpin, If you give me good equipment and a good staff, I don't care if you pitch a tent for us." Fortunately, he didn't have to do that.

Hiner and a faculty of three moved into the top floor of the former women's gymnasium building. By the time he retired in 1970, the college had moved to L.S. Skaggs Hall on the health sciences campus.

Swinyard was one of the three faculty members. A native of Logan, he was working towards his doctorate at the University of Minnesota when he learned that Goodman had joined the U faculty. He transferred, receiving one of the University's first two doctoral degrees. He succeeded Hiner as dean from 1970-76.

In 1975, Swinyard received a contract from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health, for the early evaluation of anticonvulsant drugs. In August 1999, the grant was renewed, bringing 24 years of continuous support to $27 million.

The U was one of the first institutions in the country to receive a U.S. Public Health Service grant for nursing education in 1941. Although nursing had been taught since 1913 primarily by medical faculty to students enrolled in diploma programs affiliated with Salt Lake hospitals, a 1938 survey proved the need for a University-based school.

Two women were instrumental in the transition of the Department of Nursing Education into the School of Nursing. Hazelly B. Maccan was teaching at Columbia University when she was recruited as the first dean in 1948. She promoted the baccalaureate program as a necessary foundation for future graduate degrees and worked for college status.

Mildred Rordame BS'46 MS'50 succeeded her in 1953, although that wasn't her intention. She had applied for three positions outside Utah and reconsidered only when President Olpin accepted her conditions: the University, not Salt Lake County General Hospital, would pay all nursing faculty salaries, and national accreditation and a graduate program would be top priorities.

Known as Dean Quinn following her marriage to U chemistry professor Elton Quinn in 1956, she guided nursing education for 20 years. Men were admitted to the program, although initially they weren't allowed in the female catheterization class, and student nurses no longer lived at area hospitals. Nursing was accredited, and the graduate program, begun in 1958 with four students in psychiatric nursing, expanded to include master's degrees in medical-surgical nursing, nurse-midwifery, and maternal-child nursing. In 1977 the college admitted its first doctoral students.
"Miss Babcock was generally well-received but there were a few who were shocked by her new work," including "her gymnasium costume directly from New York," according to one historian. Maud May Babcock brought more than tro-users to the U in 1892: she established the physical education program, which evolved into the College of Health.

A sickly child, Babcock excelled at elocution. Her health declined at the Philadelphia School of Oratory until she began light calisthenics; orators used their hands and arms extensively. "As a result of these exercises her weak body showed a gradual improvement, which impressed her so much that she became interested in physical culture," according to Susa Young Gates, who convinced Babcock to leave Harvard University for the U.

From 1893 until her retirement in 1938, Babcock promoted physical education as well as speech, founding the department that became Communications Disorders. She was followed by Jakob Bolin, a Swede who had taught at Yale and Roosevelt Hospital's Medico-Gymnastic Clinic in New York. In four years, Bolin broadened physical education from three activity courses to 15 professional courses.

"Dr. Bolin, though a stranger, unacquainted with our western conditions, took hold with a vim and soon had things stirring," reported the Utonian in 1912. "Besides being a splendid instructor, Dr. Bolin has won the respect and willing response from his pupils by his alertness, consideration and impartiality."

Contributions from a diverse faculty, such as Dr. Willem J. Kolff, distinguished professor of surgery and internal medicine, continue to add to the University's stature. In The Netherlands during World War II, Kolff developed an artificial kidney using a drum of wooden slats and cellophane, materials he could get past the Germans. He was an obvious choice to chair the new Division of Artificial Organs in 1967 and to direct the Institute for Biomedical Engineering. His pioneering work in artificial kidneys and dialysis drew Utahns' admiration as soon as he arrived. But his work on an artificial heart, culminating in the world's first implantable artificial heart placed in Barney Clark on Dec. 2, 1982, along with numerous breakthroughs in genetics research, will bridge the University's international acclaim into the next millennium.

-In researching this article, Health Sciences Report magazine editor Susan Sample drew upon works published by Mary Pappasideris Chachas BA'53, Erna Persch Olsen BS'46, Marvin Hess BS'50 MS'54, and Henry Plenk, M.D.

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