Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In memoriam: Eugene Gettelman, M.D. (1908-2009)

We were saddened to hear of the death last month of Eugene Gettelman, M.D., University of Oregon Medical School Class of 1933. His granddaughter, Elizabeth, graciously sent us a link to a wonderful obituary in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, and to the online guest book where family, friends, colleagues, and former patients have left their warm reminiscences.

For those who may be in the LA area: there will be a memorial service for Dr. Gettelman on Sunday, May 3rd at 2pm at Colen Conference Center, American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Dr., Bel-Air, CA.

Dr. Gettelman participated in the OHSU Oral History Program in 1999. The abstract of his interview is included below; the full transcript may be obtained in the OHSU Main Library or by contacting HC&A at homref@ohsu.edu.

My favorite quote?:
I think that I'm proud of the fact that for many years I tried to be a doctor like the doctors that I saw in Portland. I'm disappointed now that I don't find any doctors like that anymore.
Abstract of interview:
Dr. Eugene Gettelman jumps into his story about his years at the University of Oregon Medical School by describing the moment at which he knew he wanted to be a doctor: a fire had broken out at the University, and specimens, equipment—even cadavers—had been brought out into the street. Only seven or eight years old at the time of the fire, he carried that memory with him when he matriculated at the University in September of 1929.

Throughout his interview, Dr. Gettelman recalls in vivid and often hilarious detail professors, classes, and student life at UOMS in the 1930’s. We hear about Pop Allen’s research on neuroanatomy and about Hod Lewis’ instructional techniques; Laurence Selling’s unsurpassed skill in neurological examination; and Dr. Bilderback’s cadre of associates—one of whom was quite a practical joker.

Gettelman talks about the training students were given in physical diagnosis. He describes the old amphitheater in Mackenzie Hall, where crowds of students, residents, and visitors would argue over a patient with a particularly puzzling problem. He also discusses his experiences as a third- and fourth-year student at various hospitals and clinics in the area, including the police hospital in downtown Portland.

We also hear about students’ social life, such as it was. During the Depression and Prohibition, students made do with pure alcohol obtained from pharmacists and consumed at roadhouses.

Upon graduation, Dr. Gettelman served for a year as a physician in the Civilian Conservation Corps camp at Lake Quinault, Washington, before heading on to an internship and residency at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago. We hear about the Jewish doctors that began arriving at Michael Reese, refugees from Nazi Germany. One of these doctors showed Gettelman an article about a new drug just introduced by Bayer & Company: Prontylin. Gettelman gives his eyewitness account of the first reported use of sulfanilamide in the United States, there at Michael Reese Hospital.

Finally, Dr. Gettelman briefly describes his term as a county physician in the slums of Chicago during the late 1930’s. He left Chicago at the start of World War II, and served two years in the South Pacific. Afterwards, he was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Base in Santa Barbara, and decided to remain in the area upon discharge. He subsequently spent many years in private practice in the San Fernando Valley.

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