One essentially read great books while studying what was called contemporary civilization, going through the eras; religion, science, economics and so on were all covered sequentially.
My only complaint about that program was that civilization ended in Greece. There was nothing else to the east. I think that has been corrected in more recent years. And then medical school at Harvard? Question: Nicholas Murray Butler had lots of opinions about immigrants and higher education, most of them not very nice, but what it comes down to is do you recall any anti-Italian, anti-Catholic bias at Columbia or upon going to medical school?
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We were full of Italian-Americans and Jewish people. There was one medical school, however, where when I went for my interview after I had done very well in school. The way to correct it is to go back and be a professor at that medical school, which is exactly what I did. Question: How about your admission to Harvard? I saw Dr. I think we had one Black student. We had many Jewish students; two of my roommates were Jewish. So I never felt that at Harvard, certainly. Question: What was the size of the medical school class in those days?
I must say, medical schools by and large have been sensible and not exceeded their patient resources. The University of Rome at one time had 10, medical students in their first year. You can imagine what that meant in terms of instruction; but it was during the war years and we were inducted into the Army as privates, not even privates first class, in the Army Specialized Training Program.
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It was a great financial relief, obviously. The one story that I remember the best is about Captain Fairbanks, who had been a classmate of some of my school mates. He was a year ahead and they insisted on having his erstwhile school mates from Harvard call him Captain Fairbanks, not Russell. He had us fall out one day and he exhorted us to really do a good job, learn our drills and so on, because we were going to be the best damn medical school in Boston.
There are lots of stories that go back to that, they pushed us through fast. It was nine months, nine months, nine months. And I had left Columbia on what was called Professional Option, so after three years I left and then I did three years of medical school. So from beginning to end it was six years and that was too fast. I was 22 when I graduated and I think you need more maturing than that.
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Question: At what hospital did you do your clinical training in those days? Would it have been The Brigham? Excellent teaching hospitals. Question: How did you get interested in radiation oncology? You were oriented toward diagnostic radiology when you started your training? You did both. There was no such thing as separate training in radiation oncology.
In those days, radiation therapy in Boston, as in most major cities, was a black hole. It was really terrible. If you got a neurothema with kV with large-field radiation, it was evidence of malpractice. So you can imagine what a lady who had postoperative radiation therapy for a radical mastectomy, she got this much radiation. Anyhow, the Korean War broke out and the man who was in charge of radiation therapy was called to the colors to go off into the Navy.
That was absolutely it. We had truly only a smattering of exposure. I had done my internship there in surgery with Dr. Robert E. In many ways, the lack of training was a help because you had no precedents, you had no fixed ideas as to what to do. It was all new. And just at that time, effective chemotherapy was just coming into the picture, so the development of the combined therapy was due largely to Dr. Sidney Farber who believed in coordinated care, total care and that dictum about cure not being enough for children.
So all of that just was part of the air I breathed. And it turned out to be quite successful — not because of me, but because of the model. Weis; he died before that. But Dr. Farber was an extraordinary man. He had an enormous impact on the development of cancer chemotherapy, a huge influence nationally and internationally in the whole area of cancer.
He worked largely with Mary Lasker, who was a very potent political figure, but when you think about all the firsts, he really was the person who put what we now call Langhans cell histiocytosis on the map. He was instrumental in the development of methotrexate and also dactinomycin.
It was in his screening that it was identified as being an effective agent. It had been turned down by the Cancer Screening Board at the NCI; it was not effective against the mouse models that they had.
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Farber had read some work. Eikelberger, I think, was the person who reported from New York that it did seem to work in cancer, so again, Dr.
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It made leukemia worse. It made it worse, therefore an antifol might work. That is really stupendous. He then worked with a biologist at Lidderly Laboratories and Burroughs Welcome. His name was Suber Row. He was an Indian biochemist who made an antifol. It was aminopterin in those days. And they got their first remissions. Ladd was a very tall imposing figure who started pediatric surgery in the United States because of the awful accident in the harbor of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
There was an ammunitions ship that was in the harbor of Halifax which is built on a hillside surrounding the bay. This ammunitions ship blew up. Well, it was almost like an atomic bomb because the hills acted as a compressor of the force and the loss of life was horrendous. So the Canadian authorities asked for help, and I think if I remember correctly, Dr.
But he responded to the call. He went up and saw the terrific destruction and the loss of limbs and the lack of care specific to the children. So he went back and really founded pediatric surgery. It was largely his influence because he was the teacher of his generation of pediatric surgeons and one of his residents was Robert E.
Gross, who was unquestionably the finest technician I have ever seen, and really taught me medical science.