Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Carl E. Hopkins (1912-2002)

This week, Charles Grossman, MD, brought us paperwork on several grants he was awarded in the 1950s, a few glass lantern slides from presentations, the telegram sent August 5, 1965, inviting him to the White House (framed!), and a small stack of reprints.

The reprints are of work by a handful of faculty members from the University of Oregon Medical School, including E.E. Osgood, Howard S. Mason, Thomas Fitzpatrick, and Carl E. Hopkins. "Carl Hopkins, you don't know that name, do you?" Dr. Grossman asked. Well, no, the name wasn't familiar, and we had no Biographical File on him. So Dr. Grossman obliged us with a few stories.

Hopkins was recruited to UOMS in 1947 (according to Grossman's recollection) by Dean David Baird, who was looking for more research-oriented faculty to join the group already in Portland. Hopkins had attended Darmouth College (where he wrote his undergraduate thesis on "War, peace, and education" in 1933), and Harvard (A.M., 1935 and Ph.D., 1948). As a staff advisor for UNRRA in Shanghai from 1946 to 1949, Hopkins learned to speak Chinese; later, he would write a memoir about his experiences there (and he and Grossman would travel together to China in 1974).

Hopkins joined the faculty of the Dept. of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at UOMS in 1949 under chairman Adolph Weinzirl. He taught biostatistics and epidemiology to students and to faculty; Grossman attended his informal sessions for faculty with "about 12 others", including researchers from Osgood's lab. When Howard Mason joined the faculty in 1952, he, Hopkins, and Grossman started a play-reading group for interested faculty and students.

While at UOMS, Hopkins wrote nearly twenty articles. The reprints deposited by Grossman today are for his papers on "Patterns for purchase of public health services in Oregon" (1952), "The absolute curability of cancer of the breast and statistical methods of evaluation in follow-up studies with technical supplement on statistical methods of evaluation" (1953), "Multiple sclerosis and the local weather" (co-authored with Roy Swank, 1955), and "Some remarks on the teaching of medical care in medical schools" (1959).

It was "medical care" that Hopkins was most interested in, according to Grossman--a topic near and dear to Grossman's own heart. Hopkins "did not find fertile ground here", said Grossman, for his ideas on utilization and costs of delivery of health services. So, after obtaining his M.P.H. from Johns Hopkins in 1957, Hopkins left UOMS in 1960 for a position as a research statistician at the UCLA School of Public Health. The UC Senate published a memorial for Hopkins at the time of his death in February 2002, which is available online.

While in Portland, Hopkins passed his skills as a statistician on to a cadre of researchers who went on to produce notable results of their own, and we are grateful to Charles Grossman for reminding us of his contributions.

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