Thursday, January 03, 2008

In memoriam: Harry Irvine, Jr., M.D.

Today's Oregonian carries an obituary for Dr. Harry Simonson Irvine, Jr., graduate of the University of Oregon Medical School and one in a line of Irvine family physicians. Irvine died at home on New Year's Day of an apparent heart attack.

Like many other graduates of the Medical School here, Harry Irvine, Jr., was the son, brother, and father (and even great-uncle) of other alumni of the school. His father, who graduated from UOMS in 1919, died in 1964--also of a heart attack. After four years as the campus physician at Oregon State University, Harry Sr. opened a private practice in Portland in 1925. Harry Jr. joined him in practice in 1949, after both had returned from serving in the Second World War. Harry Sr.'s other son, Dr. Willis J. "Red" Irvine, graduated from UOMS in 1948; like his father, Willis served as president of the Medical School Alumni Association. Willis's granddaughter, Megan Wills, graduated from OHSU's School of Medicine in 2006; her dad, David Wills, is a 1977 alum. David J. Irvine, son of Harry Jr., is a 1982 grad who currently practices in Albany, OR.

What makes families of physicians? In an article published February 15, 2004, Oregonian reporter Patrick O'Neill talked with Wayne Sotile, a psychologist from North Carolina who specializes in "high-performance couples." Sotile noted that positive exposure to a parent's medical practice seems to direct children into medicine. In the past, physicians and other healthcare professionals often brought their children to their offices, or along on patient rounds, giving the kids a first-hand look at the world of medicine.

The medical world has changed--with new privacy rules and tighter schedules--and that kind of access is rarer now. It remains to be seen whether that will have an effect on future generations following their parents into medicine. Sotile was quoted as saying that the "isolationist effect of medicine, super-specialization and super-technology" has hampered the creation of more family dynasties of physicians. Here at OHSU, however, the tradition still seems to be alive and well.

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