ALBERT C. ROOD
1914 born in Hayden, Arizona
1928-1932 high school education, Grand Junction (Colorado) High
1932-1934 undergraduate education, Mesa Junior College, Grand Junction, Colorado
1934-1936 undergraduate education, University of Colorado, Boulder (B.A., 1936)
1936-1940 medical education, University of Colorado School of Medicine (M.D., 1940)
1940-1941 internship, Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1941-1942 residency in Surgery, U. S. Marine Hospital, Mobile, Alabama
1942-1944 Medical Officer, U. S. Marine Hospital, Fort Stanton, New Mexico
1944-1975 private practice in surgery in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Name: ROOD, ALBERT COURTNEY
Date of interview: 5 JANUARY 1987
Date of birth: 1914
Highest degree: M.D.
This interview surveys the life and career of Dr. Albert C. Rood (1914- ), a general surgeon of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Coming to the state in 1942, Dr. Rood practiced for more than thirty years, almost all of them in Albuquerque. Among the subjects discussed in this interview are Dr. Rood's personal and professional backgrounds; the Public Health Service Hospital at Ft. Stanton, New Mexico; the mid-century surgeons of Albuquerque, especially Drs. P. G. Cornish,
Jr., J. W. Hannett, and William H. Woolston; medical facilities in Albuquerque; the fissure within the Albuquerque medical community between the Lovelace Clinic physicians and the
"Downtown docs"; the old-time tuberculosis physicians and sanatoria of Albuquerque; and many others.
1. Cornish, P. G., Jr., M.D.
2. Chouke, Kekar S., Ph.D.
3. Waring, J. J., M.D.
4. Peters, LeRoy S., M.D.
5. Hanson, K., M.D.
6. Day, B. H., M.D.
7. Cornish, P. G., III, M.D.
8. Cornish, P. G., Sr., M.D.
9. Wylder, Meldrum K., M.D.
10. Woolston, William H., M.D.
11. Hannett, J. W., M.D.
12. Cohenour, Leo, M.D.
13. Connor, Wesley, M.D.
14. Dodge, Che
15. Nissen, Wallace E., M.D.
16. Lovelace, William Randolph, I, M.D.
17. Lassetter, Edgar T., M.D.
18. Rowe, Frank A., M.D.
19. Sister Celeste
20. Wittwer, William F., M.D.
21. Clayton, E. M., M.D.
22. Burton, Solomon, M.D.
23. Van Atta, John R., M.D.
24. Forbis, Robert E., M.D.
25. Mulky, Carl, M.D.
1. American Medical Association
2. University of Colorado School of Medicine
3. Allegheny General Hospital (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
4. United States Public Health Service
5. United States Public Health Service Hospital (Ft. Stanton, New Mexico)
6. Bernalillo County-Indian Hospital (Albuquerque, NM)
7. St. Mary's Hospital (Gallup, New Mexico)
8. Lovelace Clinic (Albuquerque, NM)
9. Presbyterian Hospital (Albuquerque, NM)
10. St. Joseph Hospital (Albuquerque, NM)
11. Women's and Children's Hospital (Albuquerque, NM)
12. First National Bank Building (Albuquerque, NM)
13. University of New Mexico School of Medicine
14. Medical Arts Square (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
1. Albuquerque, New Mexico
2. Bernalillo County, New Mexico
3. Hayden, Arizona
4. Boulder, Colorado
5. Ft. Stanton, New Mexico
6. Grand Junction, Colorado
7. Denver, Colorado
8. Mobile, Alabama
9. Gallup, New Mexico
Decades of interest: 1. 1930's
2. education, premedical
3. education, medical
5. family medicine
6. internship and residency
9. hospitals, federal
Mesh subjects (cont.): I 0. Thoracic surgery
12. societies, medical
13. Cesarean section
14. fees, medical
16. group practice
18. pregnancy, ectopic
21. libraries, medical
22. retinitis pigmentosa
I . Great Depression
3. Navajo Indians
4. "downtown docs"
UNM MEDICAL CENTER LIBRARY ORAL HISTORY OF MEDICINE PROJECT
Interview with Albert C. Rood, M.D. Albuquerque, New Mexico Monday, January 5, 1987
Doctor Rood, a long-time general surgeon in Albuquerque, began his practice in 1944, working with Dr. P.G. Cornish, Jr., one of the distinguished older generation New Mexico surgeons.
Doctor Rood then practiced for about three and a half decades, until eyesight problems forced his retirement in 1975. The interview was held in Doctor Rood's Northeast Heights home by Professor Jake Spidle, Ph.D., Department of History, The University of New Mexico.
SPIDLE: I'd like to begin this interview by asking why you decided to go into medicine in the first place. Did you come from a medical family?
ROOD: No. My stepfather, who reared and educated me, was an attorney in Grand Junction, Colorado. I had no interest whatsoever in studying law, nor did I have any interest in history. While in college I put off taking history until I was a senior because I didn't think I would enjoy it, and I enjoyed it even less than I thought I would (laughter). I wasn't very good at it, because there was a balcony in the room where the history lecture class was held. I sat
under the balcony and a football player who sat directly behind me snored so loud I couldn't hear what the professor was saying. His lecture notes were done on yellow onion skin paper and
every time he turned a page it crinkled and rattled. I didn't get anything out of it. I had gone to college long enough by that time to know I was flunking, so I hunted around and found a housewife who had a Master's degree in history. She knew the professor quite well and knew what he would ask. She spoon-fed me history over one weekend, and I made a B in the course.
SPIDLE: (laughing) But you wound up pretty interested in history.
ROOD: I got interested in history as I grew older. I find that things interest me now that wouldn't have, at all, years ago.
Anyhow, I was a product of the Great Depression. My father was a banker and an
attorney and he had quite a financial struggle when I was ready to go to college. The little junior college there at Grand Junction evolved into Mesa College, and the county paid my tuition, so it didn't cost anything. I attended there for two years, which I never regretted because I had a grand time. While there I was gradually introduced to the disciplines necessary for college while still being able to live at home. That was good for me, because self -discipline was hard for me
to manage right away. For example, I knew I had to take either French or German to qualify for medical school. I chose French and I recall one morning during my second year while I was translating from a book before class the teacher saying to me, "Mr. Rood, did you have a good date last night?" I was embarrassed and said, "No, Ma'am, I didn't have a date."
"Well," she said, "obviously, you didn't study French."
It was a small school with less than twenty students in the class, and this sort of embarrassment was good for me, because it made me study. I guess I f elt that somebody cared. Nobody cared when I went to Boulder. There was always someone ready to take my place if I stumbled, and I never had the feeling for Boulder that I had for the junior college on that account. My counselor was less than no good. Every time I went to ask him something, I could tell he was thinking about his research problems, his graduate students or something else. He wasn't interested in me at all.
I decided I wanted to study medicine when I was fourteen, because I had the feeling I wanted to do something that was necessary, to assure that there would be no problem about my being able to make a living. That attitude, of course, came as a result of growing up in the Depression. Besides, I was always interested in science.
At about that time I got a job in a research laboratory at the United States Bureau of Entomology. It was a great experience for me, because it wasn't long before I realized that I didn't like research at all. The reason was that ninety per cent of the work involved collecting data and classifying it, which was just as dull as it could be. I say it was a great experience because, without it, I may well have gone into something like that, not knowing any better. This helped to solidify my idea about studying medicine, so I wrote to the AMA because I had no one to advise me about what high school courses to take for pre-medicine, and they were tremendously helpful. They wrote repeatedly, sent me all kinds of literature, and guided me infinitely better than any time after I joined AMA. They offered detailed instructions on what to take and all about it, so that worked out pretty well.
I went to Boulder and then to the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver. I was consumed with an interest in medicine, as were all of my 62 classmates. The dean figured on flunking ten or twelve of us and winding up with a class of 50 for the remaining years, but none of us ever flunked. One guy was asked to leave because they didn't like his personality.
They simply said, "We don't think you are suitable material so maybe you ought to do something else," and they let him go. The main reason was that he was always volunteering information and they didn't like that idea in those days. If they wanted you to say something, they called on you.
As a means of disciplining this fellow I recall once they asked him to conduct the class in gross anatomy. We really didn't have classes in gross anatomy, just question and answer sessions that were conducted rather informally. The course was mainly taught by an East Indian, a brilliant man who looked more like a Black than an Indian. He could quote word-for-word from three or four anatomy textbooks.
After two of us had worked together dissecting and reached a point where we just didn't know any more, he would come round to visit us and say, "Rood, look on page 1476 in Morris' Anatomy, where it says..." and he would quote the paragraph. Of course, medical students are very critical and suspicious and we thought, "Bull. This old guy has just memorized some of this stuff to impress us." But he did that every day -- all the time. His name was Kekar S. Chouke.
I kept in touch with him after I graduated from medical school. I never knew for sure why he came to this country. He had a family in India and I think he completely separated himself from them.
As I went on in school I had a professor of medicine, a man of means who had come to Denver early in his life. He had a tremendous personal library, and his name was J.J. Waring. During lectures he waved his hands to emphasize things and he wore a nice, crisp bow tie and a striped shirt -- was always very neatly dressed -- and we didn't want to miss a word that he said. He was a great teacher, and I recall once he came into the amphitheatre where he lectured and said, "The great Russell Wylder from Rochester is coming to visit next week and I don't want you boys to embarrass me. So this week I'm going to spoon-feed you some diabetes."
When Dr. Wylder came, we got involved in counting how many times he took his
pince-nez glasses off during his lecture, but he didn't tell us a single thing the old man hadn't told us the week before. Waring was a great teacher.
SPIDLE: I didn't know he was teaching in the 1930s. Did you know his biography just appeared last year?
SPIDLE: It was written by Helen Clapesattle, who wrote the Mayo Clinic story. It's a large book, perhaps 450 pages. So you're his direct protégé?
ROOD: Yes, he was my professor.
SPIDLE: Isn't there a Waring Institute there?
ROOD: The Webb-Waring Institute. They were both great TB doctors. Dr. Peters was the great TB doctor in Albuquerque, and he used more four-letter words in one sentence than, I guess, anybody else in his period of time. Yet he was greatly respected by his colleagues and was internationally known.
SPIDLE: I'll sketch a rough chronology, if I may. Then I would like your comments as an eye-witness to Albuquerque medicine in the late 1940s. First, when you graduated from Colorado in 1940, did you intend to be a general practitioner?
ROOD: Yes. I decided on doing a lot of things early in life. One was to practice in a small town of about I 0,000 population, and be able to do my own surgery as well as general practice.
We had a doctor like that in Grand Junction whose name was K. Hanson. He was an excellent surgeon and I never heard anything derogatory about him. He was full of tuberculosis, had very little energy, and he never married. He lived at the La Court Hotel. He taught the nurses and did surgery and conducted his office, and that's about all. He wouldn't speak to you if you met him on the street because he didn't have the energy to stand and visit with anybody. He just moved ahead, never acknowledging you with a how-do-you-do or anything. But if you were a patient in his office, you were the only person on earth. You were the center of his attention completely, and you felt comforted by the attention he gave you.
Another old doctor there, a nose and throat specialist named B.H. Day, also was one of my giants when I was a child. He influenced my life a lot. One time when I was in grade school I was running after a truck going down the street, trying to climb on the back for a free ride. I couldn't quite make it, and I stumbled and fell into a vacant lot where I slit open the palm of my hand on a broken bottle. I went to the school nurse, who put some salve on it and wrapped it up. In a few days I went to the old doctor, and you never saw air turn so blue in your life.
"That god dammed nurse doesn't know what she's doing. She shouldn't have put any ointment in that wound, because it interferes with the healing."
He cleaned it all out, put some Merthiolate or something on it, wrapped it up, and I got along fine. They were my childhood giants who influenced my study of medicine because I admired what they were doing in the community.
I interned at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as far away from Denver as I could get and yet be in a good hospital. I drove all over the United States while I was a medical student, looking at hospitals, talking to doctors and hospital administrators. In
fact, the people at Milwaukee County Hospital sent me for a psychiatric evaluation because I was applying for an internship. Of all the hospitals I visited, it was the only place where they did that.
SPIDLE: That was probably a good idea.
ROOD: Yes. I applied at four hospitals that I thought were about on a par so that, if
one of them accepted me, I wouldn't sweat about whether I could get a better acceptance later on like I had seen some of my upperclassmen do. I applied to Anchor Hospital in St. Paul, to
Harper Hospital in Detroit, Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh and I don't recall where the other one was. I think Pittsburgh accepted me right away as a sort of curiosity because they had never had an applicant from that far west.
I had a great year there, though it was a serfdom. You have no idea how hard they worked us. Many nights I didn't get more than two hours' sleep and once I never left the hospital for three weeks. I was determined to do it the way the other twelve interns were doing it. They had those guys by the neck, because they couldn't get their M.D. degree until they finished a satisfactory rotating internship. I already had my M.D. degree and had passed my state board examination from Colorado before I came, so I had that out of the way.
But I worked just like the rest of them, and it was a great experience -- I learned a lot.
The only redeeming feature was that H.J. Hines, who was chairman of the board, lived just down the street from the hospital. He arranged a special dining room for the interns with a waitress
and a menu with our choice of three different types of meats, and we ate four meals a day. That made up a lot for lack of sleep, because we really enjoyed it.
energy to do it.
Sure, knowing that, if they were going to work you so hard, you at least had the
ROOD: Yes. And one of the peculiar things about that place was that all the doctors chewed tobacco. The people who ran a store next to the hospital where they made Pittsburgh stogies put up little sacks of tobacco leaves for chewing and the doctors always carried these sacks in their pocket. I've even seen doctors there operate and chew tobacco at the same time (laughter).
Their surgery wasn't as good as what I had seen in Denver, and I was surprised because it was a much bigger city. But their orthopedics department was superior. If you wanted to be anybody in orthopedics, that was the place to go, because they had so many industrial accidents there. That wasn't something I was interested in, so I got out of there.
Some of my colleagues were being taken into the service right and left, and I figured I wouldn't be able to get a satisfactory residency without going in also, so I went to the Marine hospital in Pittsburgh and signed up with the Public Health Service. I was sent to a Marine hospital in Mobile, Alabama, which was the most beautiful city I had ever seen. I loved it but it didn't love me. I developed a severe case of bronchial asthma there. I would go home at noon and take intravenous medications to control it so I could work. I finally wound up in an oxygen tent and they gave me a month's leave to convalesce in Colorado.
Afterwards, I asked for a transfer to Fort Stanton, New Mexico, which was the only inland Marine hospital I could find on the map because I thought it had the same climate as that in
Colorado, where I didn't have any asthma. I went to Fort Stanton which was in the mountains, and I loved it.
I had a wonderful two years there. I was a country boy. They had all the things I enjoyed
-- lots of horses to ride and beautiful country to ride in. They had a lot of places to hunt
turkeys and deer. I had a big garden and had a glorious time at Fort Stanton. Strangely, some of my colleagues there were from large cities like Philadelphia and Boston, and they were completely out of place. They didn't enjoy it at all like I did.
My commanding officer at Fort Stanton understood it quite well, and he let everybody assume as much responsibility as they could manage, and he went around to make suggestions once in a while. He didn't have his foot into everything like so many commanding officers do. People from the surrounding countryside were brought in with acute conditions that required immediate attention. I'd had some surgical training in Mobile so I did all the surgery at Fort Stanton except chest surgery. I recall once asking the commanding officer whether it was all right for me to operate on a woman from the Capitan Mountains, a woman who had a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. He said, "Rood, you can do anything you want to around here as long as you don't tell me about it." I knew he didn't mean that, but it was very comforting.
SPIDLE: That surprises me. I thought it was exclusively a tuberculosis hospital.
ROOD: No, we had about a thousand German prisoners there, most of whom were taken off a German luxury liner bound for Central America, along with a smaller camp which held American-born saboteurs. We had to keep them separate from the German prisoners because they were a bad influence. All the Germans were excellent physical specimens. They played a lot of soccer. They were allowed to irrigate about sixty acres of adjacent land to raise their own beans, potatoes, squash and so on, that they could eat during the year, so every morning about three truckloads of produce workers would be sent to the fields.
Every so of ten one of them would hide in a dry irrigation ditch or something, and he would be missing when they started home. One escaped and we believe he traveled to Mexico because he was never caught, though they usually had no trouble rounding them up. The border patrol at this camp didn't bother to send out a posse when men were missing -- they simply borrowed a couple of Apache trackers from Mescalero, who easily captured the escapees.
Apparently those Germans had seen some wild west movies in their homeland and were afraid of being scalped, so they surrendered with no trouble at all. That worked pretty well. It of ten makes me think it's a shame they waste so much money operating an expensive penitentiary in Santa Fe. If they set up a facility similar to that at Fort Stanton, it could be operated very economically. These fellows lived in simple buildings, they played soccer on a large playing
field each Sunday, and two German doctors were interned along with them. SPIDLE: Were you responsible for the medical care of those internees?
ROOD: Yes, along with several other duties. I did all the surgery and also did some outpatient work which was tricky, because the Germans would falsify symptoms. Many of them were homesick and they came in complaining of an ulcer and it was up to me to decide whether they were really sick or simply trying to get repatriated, so that was always a kind of guessing game. But we got along all right, and I enjoyed it down there.
However, I didn't have any training in chest surgery, so Dr. Cornish came down from Albuquerque to operate whenever we needed him. He visited about once a month to do either
thoracoplasty or lobectomy or something like that. He figured that was his contribution to the war effort. They paid him $125 for that service each month, and it was always a kind of joke because it was worth so much more than that, even in those days, than what the government paid him. He would come down, stay overnight, and we began operating at 7:30 the next morning.
We usually finished whatever we were doing before noon, and he would be off on his way back to Albuquerque. We got to know each other pretty well that way, because I always assisted him in surgery. He told me how to care for the patient post-operatively and so on.
I saw an opportunity to get out of the service a little earlier than the other fellows, because I wasn't being advanced the way I felt I should be with all the responsibility I had. I had the same rank when I went out as when I came in, so I asked to be discharged. They let me go probably because they figured I was a liability due to my poor health record. I came to Albuquerque and asked Dr. Cornish for a job as his assistant because I wanted to learn more about surgery on women than I knew. I hadn't had gynecology experience and that's a large part of general surgery. I worked with him for several years figuring that, after following him around a while, I would go to some small town, set up an office and start practicing. But he and I got along so well, we formed a partnership.
We were among the original group who built the Medical Arts Square and it was such an innovative building design that doctors came from all over the country to see it. Charlie Mayo came to look at my office once because he had never seen a medical facility built like it anywhere else. It wasn't the prettiest place in the world, but patients could drive right up to the front door and walk into any office without worrying about having to take an elevator. We originally planned a multi-storied building with elevators and so on, but the union began dictating to us about what kind of elevator operators we had to have and how many operators we had to have, so we just junked the whole thing and built a different kind of building. We practiced there together until he passed away. Dr. Cornish was very athletic. He played a lot of football and baseball in his youth, and he took to dragging me to baseball games. I usually got behind a post somewhere so I wouldn't get hit and went to sleep, because I didn't care anything about baseball. Af ter about three sessions of that, he gave up on me.
the state level.
I think it was P.G. Cornish III, who told me his father was a champion golfer on
ROOD: Most likely. When P.G., III, was about fourteen years old, he would come to Fort Stanton and stand on a box in the operating room so he could watch his father operate.
Someone told me he used to go on house calls with his grandfather, old P.G.
ROOD: I wouldn't be surprised. His grandfather was the first man to practice surgery as a specialty in either Arizona or New Mexico. He practiced in Flagstaff for a long time, and I remember Dr. Cornish telling stories about traveling in a buggy with his father occasionally to see patients who lived out of town. I recall going on a call down on South Walter to a home once owned by old Dr. Cornish. It was a brick house a block or two off Central. The people who owned the house showed me an old textbook written by Sir William Osler they had found down in the basement, and I've kicked myself ever since for not asking whether I could buy it from them. I should have, because the book was over a hundred years old.
SPIDLE: (chuckling) And you wonder how something like that gets into a basement on South Walter in Albuquerque. In line with that, I'd like to ask you to walk into Albuquerque one
more time, because I am interested in your comments about the town's medical community in 1944. I know P.G. Cornish was one of the lions in the Medical Society here.
ROOD: Meldrum K. Wylder was one of the leading figures here in those days, and a very brilliant man then. He was very active politically as well as medically. He was probably the best-known pediatrician in the state in his day, even though he did more obstetrics than anyone else. He drove all over the middle Rio Grande Valley and the Estancia Valley
delivering babies night and day.
They tell a story about Meldrum Wylder, and I wish I had been there to see it. He was in court one time when Joe Smith, a capable but rather unscrupulous corporation lawyer, was one of the attorneys. He asked Dr. Wylder, "Would you please tell the court how the Bernalillo County Medical Society feels about Dr. Lovelace?"
Dr. Wylder responded by saying, "The Bernalillo County Medical Society feels about Dr.
Lovelace the way the Bar Association feels about you."
It created havoc, and they had to recess the court as a result.
SPIDLE: (laughing) Yes, I've heard about Dr. Wylder. But I'm particularly interested in the surgeons. There was Cornish. What about Hannett and Woolston?
ROOD: Dr. Woolston was a former professor at the University of Chicago School of Medicine. He kept pretty much to himself, was quite active at Presbyterian Hospital, and I knew him quite well. But he wasn't the kind of man you could sit down and visit with. He didn't have too much to say. Dr. Royer used to help Dr. Leo Cohenour with his surgery.
Old Dr. Cohenour was not a very likable person. He was Chairman of the County Procurement and Assignment Service, and after I had been here two years he 'declared me
Eligible for re-enlistment. I called his office to make an appointment with him, but there was no way to talk to him. He wouldn't see me, yet I had medical discharges and summaries that would have excluded me from military service any longer. I couldn't get to him so, after throwing
some of the notices I received from the Armed Services in the wastebasket a few times, I finally decided I had to answer. I had to get my high school grades, college grades, medical school grades and all this stuff together, and it was a chore to re-apply for a position. However, when I sent them a copy of my discharge summary after I had spent a month in the hospital in Mobile as a patient, they wrote to thank me, saying they wouldn't need me.
Many of us had rather unsatisfactory relationships with the older doctors in Albuquerque, so we formed a club that included doctors from the Lovelace Clinic as well as other young doctors. About forty of us belonged to what was called the Rio Grande Social and Across the River Hatchet Burial Society, and we met in the back room of Johnny's Inn. It was a great meeting. We had no officers, no rules or regulations, and the purpose of the organization was to remove from political office a lot of the overbearing old doctors who were controlling medicine in New Mexico. It was a very effective organization.
They took up what was important at the beginning of the meeting, then we had dinner. Wes Connor would get up and tell a few risqué stories, which he was good at, and some doctors stayed around playing poker until the wee hours. I attended three or four of those meetings, and it was probably the most effective medical society I ever belonged to (both men laugh).
SPIDLE: And certainly the most enjoyable. I always thought P.G. Cornish was one of the establishment figures at whom such a group aimed.
ROOD: I don't think anyone had any bone to pick with Dr. Cornish at all. He was pretty much liked by everybody. He was the first president of BCMC when the hospital opened. I worked there for a while, doing five or six tonsillectomies at a time for Ben Roberts, who was in charge of nose and throat, to try to help clear up their tonsillectomy backlog.
Dr. Cornish was not cut out to be the leader of a large group; he was well liked by most everybody on an individual basis.
On the other hand, Dr. Hannett was more poised and more capable of conducting large meetings, and he had a limerick on the tip of his tongue for everything. He was very literary, and wrote the most interesting, funny letters you ever read in your life. He once wrote home about his experiences as a patient while he was on the west coast. He was full of all kinds of stories about his practice in Gallup. He was a surgeon in Buffalo, New York, when he was younger. He was heartbroken when he lost his wife, who died of an illness that I don't recall now, so he traveled to Gallup to visit his brother.
There is one story he told me himself. One sparkling, sunshiny morning he got up and went for a walk around the block. He was stimulated by it all so he walked along until he came to what was the front of St. Mary's Hospital. He thought he might find someone there to visit with, so he entered the lobby where the Sister Superior greeted him.
"Dr. Hannett, I'm so glad you came to visit. I have a couple of young staff doctors I'd like you to meet."
The fellows soon arrived, looking sort of serious and sober and they, too, said they were glad he came, and added, "Providence must have had something to do with it," because we have a difficult confinement case that has been in labor for two days. We're about to apply instruments, and we would like you to look at her."
He said, "Oh, I don't want to do that, boys. I'm just here on vacation and I don't want to do any work."
They said they needed his help, "and we would sure appreciate it if you would look at her." Finally he said, "All right. If you feel that way, I'll be happy to do what I can."
Dr. Hannett was the kind of man who would say anything, no matter how shocking it was.
When he finished with the examination he said, "Boys, when you deliver that baby, I'd like to have one of his ears for a souvenir."
Of course they were upset and asked what he meant by it. "Well, the mother is too small; she'll never deliver from below and must have a Cesarean."
They said they didn't know anything about the procedure, and asked whether he could do it. "Oh, sure," he said. And that was the first Cesarean ever done in a McKinley County Catholic hospital.
Another time they brought in Che Dodge, an old Navajo Chief. The story goes that he was stolen by the Navajos when he was a baby and reared as one of them. Anyway, he was considered probably the best chief the Navajos ever had, at least up to that time. He got sick with jaundice and one day they brought him in to the hospital.
Dr. Hannett took X-rays, found gallstones, and told Che they needed to be removed. The chief consented to the operation and got along fine afterward, with no complications whatsoever. He left the hospital after a week and returned to the reservation, and a week later came to have his sutures removed. Dr. Hannett said he didn't see Che again for a month, when he came in once more and said, "Dr. Hannett, what do I owe you for your help?"
This was back in the 1930s when times were really tough and Dr. Hannett didn't want to overcharge him, so he said, "Well, I could use a load of wood."
And he told me, "You know, I never had to buy another stick of firewood as long as I lived in Gallup. Every now and then some Indian would look over the wall into my back yard and if my woodpile was getting low, I had a new load of wood."
(end tape one, side one) (begin tape one, side two)
ROOD: Dr. Cornish and Dr. Hannett worked together and they were the most coordinated pair of surgeons I ever saw. They didn't help each other; they both operated at once, yet they never got into each other's way. Dr. Nissen was Dr. Hannett's assistant, I was Dr.
Cornish's assistant, and we both watched them operate together. On really serious cases, one would ask the other to assist rather than using either of us younger guys, because they had worked together for a long time before we came there. Every so often while I was helping Dr. Cornish, he would say, "I would have to enlarge this incision if Jim was here because he wouldn't like it this way," referring to Dr. Hannett.
SPIDLE: I learned a great deal about him when I interviewed Dr. Hannett's daughter, who lives out on Juan Tabo.
ROOD: He has another daughter named Patty Hueter, who lives in the old homestead on Lomas. I used to call her when I wanted permission to write something about Dr. Hannett. A lot of things I have written could very well be the source of a lawsuit, because I don't have permission for some of it. Some of it was gathered from previously written sources, and so on.
I've never done too much with it, and when my eyesight went bad, I couldn't read or write any more. Dr. Hannett was an excellent surgeon. I saw him do several cerebral decompressions for subdural hematomas that general surgeons rarely did. Of course, today, with CAT scans, it's no problem anymore, but to make a diagnosis in the early days was sometimes more complicated than was realized. Dr. Hannett practiced in an era before there were X-rays, and he told me how they would set an arm or a leg. They measured the uninjured leg, then measured the other to establish whether it was properly set.
He once told me about helping one of the neurosurgeons who moved to town. Many neurosurgeons are kind of nervous and high-strung, and they say things in the operating room that they wouldn't say socially at all. In this instance they had a sucker there which was pretty close to the brain. Brain tissue is like mush with no substance at all. It's easily injured, and this young surgeon said to Dr. Hannett, "Don't suck the brain."
Dr. Hannett was kind of stressed and he shouted, "Sonny, I was doing these when you were in diapers." The nurses never forgot that; they laughed about it for weeks afterwards (laughter).
SPIDLE: You've alluded to another Albuquerque surgeon, Uncle Doc Lovelace. When you came in 1944, I know full well that a pronounced split existed within this medical community between Dr. Lovelace and his clinic, and the downtown doctors. I'm interested in your reflections on that.
ROOD: I really ought not to comment on that, because I had no first-hand experiences. I only knew about things from hearsay. I stayed strictly away from the Lovelace Clinic, just as I would stay away from a chiropractor. I've known some of the men who worked out there and they were fine, excellent men. But from the stories I heard, I wasn't interested in old Dr.
Lassetteror old Dr. Lovelace. I think they were very capable businessmen, because they created quite an institution.
I never was interested in group or clinic medicine. I preferred solo practice. When Dr. Cornish passed away, I never got a partner. I did solo practice and found it very gratifying because I had a lot of wonderful colleagues. They took excellent care of my patients when I wanted to leave town. Dr. Frank Rowe, who has now passed away, often covered for me, and he was very capable. I never worked with him very much, but I often visited with him. We drank coffee together at the hospital, and he had an excellent reputation.
SPIDLE: We didn't get to interview him. He was low on our priority list because we had no idea he was ill. We just don't anticipate that kind of thing.
ROOD: Bataan Hospital was off my beaten path. In fact, I didn't like to practice at Anna Kaseman Hospital either because, even if I had only one patient, it meant spending at least an hour a day to go there, take care of that person, then get back to the office. It wasn't geographically convenient. I practiced mainly at Presbyterian and St. Joseph's. I let my patients decide where they wanted to go, and ninety per cent of them chose to go to Presbyterian.
Actually, it would have been nice had my Protestant patients gone to St. Josephs and my Catholic patients gone to Presbyterian, because the Sisters knew they had captured the Catholics, so they worked a little harder on Protestants.
SPIDLE: When I spoke with Dr. Edward Parnall a week or two ago, he mentioned his experience as a young doctor here in the late 1940s. He said he had difficulty getting patients into the hospitals--the older doctors "controlled the beds," to use his phrase. Apparently you had no similar experience.
ROOD: Oh, yes, I sure did. I had a lot of trouble getting patients into St. Joe's. They were supposed to accommodate us on a rotating basis, but they gave tremendous preference to members of Lovelace Clinic before Bataan Hospital was built. So much so that I finally went to the Sister Superior and explained that it was my turn, and I wasn't able to get a hospital patient admitted. She looked me right in the eye and said, "You know what you can do about it, Doctor," so I realized I had a problem there. That was in the early days. Later, when the new hospital was built and Sister Celeste came in, things were entirely different. She was a wonderful administrator and a fine person to know. Actually, she also was president.
SPIDLE: Yes, she was a very talented woman. ROOD: I admired her a great deal.
SPIDLE: Dr. Parnall said he sometimes had recourse to Dr. Rice's Women's and Children's Hospital.
ROOD: I operated there on occasion too, and found it all right. It was a little different, but I never had any serious problems.
SPIDLE: In general, how would you appraise the facilities in Albuquerque hospitals during the 1940s? Did they compare favorably with Pittsburgh, for example?
ROOD: Well, Dr. Cornish was a much better surgeon than anyone I saw in Pittsburgh. There was no comparison. I was really hypnotized with his diagnostic capabilities. I saw a couple of things the first week I was in Albuquerque that amazed me.
He once said to me, "Rood, would you go out to 214 South Stanford, where Mrs. so-and-so has a ruptured ectopic. I want you to put her into the hospital, schedule her for noon, and we'll operate on her over the noon hour."
Diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy can be one of the most difficult things in the world, and he did it over the telephone. I was very impressed (laughter). She entered the hospital and, sure enough, that's what she had. We operated on her, and she got along fine.
Another time concerns an old doctor in Los Lunas, Dr. Wittwer, who practiced up into his nineties. He was always very well dressed, with his whiskers trimmed just so. He was kind of the king of Los Lunas and everybody loved him. But when he called to say he was sending a patient to Presbyterian Hospital, you had better be there, because it was always something terrible that he couldn't manage and we might not be able to, either.
One of the first patients I saw that he sent to the hospital was a pregnant woman who had been delivered breech by a midwife down there, and she had pulled the head off, rupturing the uterus. When we opened her up, the head was floating around in the intestines. Dr. Cornish
took her uterus out, gave her transfusions, and she got well. But I was horrified. That was quite an introduction.
Dr. Wittwer lived for several years after I came here. I used to meet a couple of old doctors at medical meetings around Albuquerque occasionally -- Dr. Solomon Burton and Dr.
E.M. Clayton. Dr. Clayton practiced pretty much the way Dr. Wylder did, so one day I said, "When you're doing a delivery in the home, Doctor, do you carry a sterile pack with you, and drapes and so on?"
"Oh, hell," he said. "I don't have any drapes or anything. If a woman gets cold I'll throw a horse blanket or something over her"(laughter). I never saw him practice in a hospital, but those two old doctors were fun to visit with.
Dr. Cornish told a story about Dr. Burton, who had pernicious anemia in the days before they had liver extract or any of the more specific medications for treatment. There wasn't much to do for them except feed them raw liver and give them transfusions. Dr. Cornish gave Dr.
Burton a transfusion and it wasn't long afterward that he made a very successful and lucrative real estate transaction, so Dr. Cornish teased him by saying he had given Dr. Burton a pint of Jewish blood. Dr. Burton didn't think hat was funny at all (laughter). Both Burton A venue and Burton Park are named after him.
SPIDLE: When you came was everyone still in the First National Bank building?
ROOD: Pretty much, yes. It was crowded, and maternity cases hated it because they got jostled in the elevators. I had one examining room and was always waiting for some woman to get her girdle either on or off, so I wasted a lot of time. Dr. Cornish practiced with his father in the same old suite and they had an assistant before I arrived. He was a nice young man who had tuberculosis and is dead now, but he couldn't stand the pace. When I came to Albuquerque, Dr. Cornish was doing 700 majors a year, which is a tremendously large surgical practice to be doing by yourself. I felt he needed an assistant; his wife felt he needed an assistant, so we worked that out, and we hit it off very well.
I know Tom Cornish better than I know P.G Cornish, III. When I needed legal counseling,
I usually asked Tom. I once had a large home on Santa Clara, Southeast, but there was no sense
in living there after my children left and I retired. We moved into this rental unit and decided to sell the other house. When I asked Tom whether I should get a realtor or sell it myself, he said
he would help me with it if I wanted to sell it myself. He was very nice about it, and after we got the house sold, I asked him how much I owed him.
He said "After all you did for my dad, I won't charge you anything." I never forgot that.
Tell me more about Medical Arts Square, because I don't know anything about
ROOD: We were all cramped up in the First National Bank Building, and Dr. Van Atta, Hannett and Cornish were kind of the sparkplugs behind that. Dr. Wes Connor and Dr. Nissen were also on the original planning committee, all of whom, with the help of Architect Max Flatow, designed the building. About 45 of us were original stockholders in it. We didn't charge ourselves much rent for space there, but we did pay a monthly per-square-foot rental on the property, and after a period of time we were able to sell it. ·
I practiced there for twenty-five years and it was a most satisfactory arrangement. It was in the very best location for my needs, close to the two hospitals where I worked most of the time. A small coffee shop was located in the main building, which was my downfall, because I went there almost every afternoon to gather in a few calories that I didn't need, and I started gaining weight. When I first started practicing there I weighed 145 pounds, but it wasn't long before I was 175 pounds. We also had a little pharmacy, which was handy.
Dr. Forbis, another capable surgeon, was the first active orthopedist in the group, but it wasn't long before he expanded, built his own building nearby, and took on several partners. He had a tremendous practice, doing the orthopedic surgery at Carrie Tingley Hospital, and
traveling to towns all around the state to do surgery, including Farmington -- he even married a girl from there -- and his results were excellent. He and Dr. Parnall didn't see eye to eye. I liked them both very much but, unfortunately, they weren't very friendly.
This is something I've observed in small towns; many of the doctors aren't friendly with each other, even though they have common cause. I guess they're too competitive. The way the profession was originally practiced, where they said nice things about each other and passed the word around, was a much better arrangement than advertising on television and all the things we see today. I don't agree with that at all, because you can't tell who is honest, who is capable,
from an advertisement. You can more quickly tell who you should go to by talking to a nurse than any other way. But I do see that it's quite a difficult thing for a patient to decide who they should go to.
SPIDLE: Your practice has spanned some extraordinary changes in the history of medicine, not just in terms of medical ethics and advertising, but you went to medical school in the days before penicillin--1936 to 1940.
ROOD: Yes. When I was at Fort Stanton, one of the men who worked in the materiel office there developed a loud murmur. After taking a throat culture, we decided he had
sub-acute bacterial endocarditis, a very serious condition that usually results from some bacterial growth on the heart valves. This material breaks away to locate somewhere else in the body and can be fatal in the majority of patients. There was no really good medication for it, so we sent a telegram to the National Institutes of Health asking for 800,000 units of penicillin, which was a lot of penicillin in those days. They wired back through the Signal Corps: "Are you sure you want this penicillin? There is no indication in the medical literature that penicillin is of any value in sub-acute bacterial endocarditis."
Well, it was soon learned that it was specific for that. We gave this guy the 800,000 units of penicillin in sterile saline, dripping it in slowly over a week's period. He got well and lived nearly twenty years after that.
SPIDLE: It made a believer of you, did it?
ROOD: Yes, but it was just guesswork in those days. We didn't know whether it would help but we didn't have much to fall back on.
SPIDLE: Your first years of practice in Albuquerque saw the end of the TB era, due to streptomycin and all. You mentioned Dr. Peters, and a number of other TB doctors were still around then.
ROOD: Dr. Peters was gone when I arrived so I never got to meet him. He was a close friend of Dr. Cornish, and he visited their home many times, because Mrs. Cornish liked Dr.
SPIDLE: Was Carl Mulky still around?
ROOD: Yes. He was very nice to me and taught me several tricks that the older doctors knew about. For example, there was a medication years ago called Squill that acted very much like digitalis. It slowed and strengthened the heart rate in certain cardiac cases, and was useful with elderly patients who would vomit on digitalis. He told me who made it, how to use it, and so on. The old Methodist Sanatorium where the Cadillac agency is now was still operating.
Everybody had tuberculosis patients around here. Presbyterian Hospital had a TB unit, and there were several sanatoriums around town besides that. But when I first came to Albuquerque I saw some active tuberculosis patients from Fort Stanton who had received a pass walking on the streets of Albuquerque. I thought it was a hazard to children, so I immediately called the county health officer.
He said, "This is a center for tuberculosis and we have to make allowances for them. These contagious disease laws are rather loosely applied to tuberculosis patients."
SPIDLE: With Albuquerque calling itself the "heart of the well country," they perhaps felt they had to lean over backwards for their tuberculosis patients.
ROOD: I went to Dr. Van Atta, who was doing a majority of the X-ray work here, and said, "I see people with active tuberculosis on the streets. How much of this stuff do you think is spreading around?"
He said, "I could count the cases I've seen that originated here over the last year on the fingers of one hand. Scarcely any tuberculosis is acquired in Albuquerque. They come here with it."
That was sort of comforting. They felt the sunshine and dryness killed the tubercular bacilli rather effectively. So if they spit in the street, it didn't matter too much.
SPIDLE: You also mentioned BCMC or BCI. I know relatively little about its foundation other than the fact that downtown doctors were involved in helping to get it started. I assume you had contact with that, too.
ROOD: I helped in a small way toward opening the medical school. I wasn't too enthused about the county hospital because there was an old building on the hill just this side of Presbyterian Hospital that had been used as a VD clinic which I thought would be quite satisfactory for starting a county hospital.
But I didn't have the forethought I should have had at all in looking to the future. When I first came to Albuquerque, the population was 60,000 and there were only 59 members in the County Medical Society. Now, with the growing population and the medical school, we have nearly 400,000 people and almost a thousand doctors, which I couldn't have anticipated at all. I didn't see that far ahead. I was wrong about that.
When the county hospital was finally built, the operating rooms were placed in the basement so that if they dropped the atomic bomb somewhere, perhaps the operating room would be spared. It is the only hospital I ever was in where operating rooms were in the basement. The strange thing about it was that people felt sort of claustrophobic down there, and nurses didn't stay very long. If they lasted three months, that was about as long as they could stand it. They would leave to do something else to get away from those closed-in rooms. Most operating rooms have windows opening to the north to bring in light from that side of the building, and they
were used to that.
Even though I contributed considerable funds to it, we had a hard time getting a library started in the county hospital, which was used a good deal by the medical school. When the university expanded, they built a nice library building and I could see well enough at that time to go over there and read once in a while. However, after having spent thirty-one years reading the medical literature, the first thing I read after retiring was the Harvard Classics, because I never seemed to have the time before. Two years before the Mast was the best sea story I ever read.
As a result, I decided there were a lot more interesting things to read besides medicine, so I wasn't going to waste my time reading that. So I haven't kept up with it.
The eye problems you developed apparently forced your retirement, is that
ROOD: Yes. Although I liked to hunt I began noticing that I couldn't ride horseback very well at night because I couldn't see the twigs any longer. I had to wear glasses and developed night blindness. A friend, Dr. Guy Williams, an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist here, looked in my eyes one time and was very upset because he found a little pigment on the retina. He immediately sent me to an ophthalmologist, who diagnosed retinitis pigmentosa, which is a progressive type of blindness and nothing can be done for it. I went to the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Institute in Boston to see the leading authority on the subject. I was checked out completely, and they, too, had no cure or treatment for it. Even today, they don't know any more about it than when I was there.
I was fortunate that it didn't develop in childhood, because I saw a lot of blind children stumbling around back when I was in Boston. I never saw the problem in any of my patients, but af ter I retired a couple of my patients called to tell me they, too, have developed this problem. I asked Dr. Berson, Professor and Head of the Department of Ophthalmology at Harvard whom I went to see, how long he thought I would be able to drive a car.
He said, "You wouldn't be able to drive a car in Massachusetts now."
When I asked about my work, he thought I would be able to do surgery until I was into my seventies, but it didn't work out that way. Later that year I could hardly see well enough to drive home, so I went to Dr. Schonberg, my eye doctor, who said he didn't want me to do any more hospital work at all, including the surgery I had scheduled. "I don't know how you've gotten by this long." So I transferred my surgical patients to my friends and closed my office within a week.
SPIDLE: This was in 1975?
SPIDLE: Thank you for your time today, Dr. Rood.