Today, we received the transcript from a May 2003 oral history interview with Dr. Daniel H. Labby, conducted by Dr. Joe Bloom as part of the history of medicine in Oregon project being funded through a number of sources, including the OMEF, OMA, and OHSU. Since the OHSU Oral History Program did not start collaborating on the history of medicine in Oregon project until late 2003-early 2004, we're actually lucky enough to have two interviews with Dr. Labby. The OHSU interview, conducted in September of 1998 by librarian Linda Weimer, is available through the OHSU Main Library.
Dr. Labby shows a combination of good humor and keen insight throughout the 2003 interview. A few of my favorites are below; contact us directly for more information:
Well, I was a Portland native, and actually born in a house near Lair Hill. And my mother being a nurse and my father, who tried to come to medical school as an immigrant boy, couldn’t manage it and became a dentist. So I had two professional parents. I was the oldest, born, actually, in 1914. Or was it 1814? I can’t quite remember.*******
The medicine at Hopkins, as I say, was under the influence of Sir William Osler. And it interested me because Dr. Selling had also interned there many years before, around 1908. And he told many stories about famous people. For example, one that comes to mind was about William Roentgen, the great German X-ray specialist, who brought his X-rays to demonstrate at the Hopkins. And William Osler at the time was actually the chief of medicine. And my father-in-law, Dr. Selling, as he eventually became, said that he asked Sir William Osler what he thought about the future of the X-ray in medicine, and he said it was a passing fad. And we all took great courage in that, because we knew the great man at times could be wrong.
Well, it was a fascinating time, because there weren’t too many of us full time. There wasn’t enough money. There were only, I’d say, about half a dozen of us, perhaps, all together. Maybe six, seven, eight people. And if we ever wanted to get together as a faculty, all we had to do was wait, because we’d all meet in the lunch room and talk about what was necessary for the teaching. The approach was completely different than it became, of course. For example, we gave seventy lectures – and I gave most of them, frankly – in internal medicine to the junior class. In addition, since we had no specialists in certain areas, I became a specialist because of my interest in metabolism. And rheumatology, diabetes, endocrinology and gastrointestinology, gastrointestinal work. Because of my interest in the liver.
Eventually, I was to be able to hire people to do all that work. But it was much like an old fashioned jazz combo, where you play the saxophone for a while, then pick up the clarinet or the trumpet, and play whatever is necessary. But eventually I was able with Dr. Lewis to hire people like Monte Greer in endocrinology, and Dan Bachman in rheumatology. I got somebody to help me in diabetes and metabolism. And then John Benson came along in gastroenterology. So that began to offset the need for a lot of volunteers from downtown Portland to run these special disciplines in medicine.
Bloom: I have just two other areas that I’m going to ask you some questions about. One is, do you have any advice for patients who are looking to find a physician? How should a patient find a physician like the physicians you’re talking about?
Labby: I’m glad you brought it up because I do get called, not infrequently, about “I’m new to this city,” or, “I don’t like the man who’s taking care of me. Do you have somebody that would be–” and these are the words, – “a good match for me?”
And I say, “Well, what do you mean by a good match?”
“Well, I’d like a physician that will listen and answer my questions.”
And I said, “Well, I’m with you there. But can you ask the questions that you need answered?” Because it works both ways.