|I was fortunate in obtaining an Internship and Residency at the Albert Merit Billings Hospital, a part of the University of Chicago and its medical school. I entered this on 1 July 1938, and left in October 1941. I feel sure that Dean Poynter was responsible for this fortunate appointment, and I have carried their teachings as part of my life. As an Intern we had direct responsibility for the patient. In fact we were the only ones who could write orders. Each day we made rounds with the Assistant Resident and the Chief of the Department. These were great men, and I will enumerate them. George Dick, Infectious Diseases, Walter Lincoln Palmer, Gastrointestinal Diseases, Lewis Leiter, Nephrology, William S. Becker, Dermatology, and Henry T. Ricketts, Metabolic Diseases, all “giants” in their field. We were also involved in clinical and laboratory research, in addition to our routine duties. I really enjoyed and benefited from the personal relationship that I had with the senior staff. After 2 years I decided to go into chest diseases, and joined that department under the leadership of Dr. Robert Block.In March 1940, I married Marjorie Miller of Holdrege, Nebraska who was an intern dietitian in the Department of Medicine. By the end of June in my 3rd year we were about out of money, so I went into practice in Hibbing, Minnesota. This is the heart of the iron range and one of the coldest spots in the United States.
I did make progress financially for my income went from $100.00 a month to $300.00 with $60.00 added for my automobile. We had a nice new office for the 4 of us, a real good hospital, and plenty of work to do, most of which was quite interesting. The prize case I had that might bear noting was one of Type 7 pneumococci meningitis, who was in pretty bad shape. I was real fortunate in being able to cure the fellow with a mastoidectomy, intravenous Sulfadiazine, and intravenous and intrathecal anti-pneumococci serum. I was real happy with this fellow, for the survival rate of that disease at that time was virtually nil. I enjoyed the climate there in the summers. It was very nice and my spare time was spent fishing and portaging a canoe into the many lakes. The winters were different, temperatures reached 40 below zero, and one couldn’t see out of the windows between November and March.
Then World War II started and the fringe benefit was that I didn’t have to go through another winter in Minnesota.
On December 7th, upon returning from church, we heard the story of Pearl Harbor, and as a result I went to Minneapolis in July, and was given a Commission as a Lieutenant Junior Grade in the US. Navy.
I then reported for active duty in August to the U.S. Naval Training Station in Great Lakes, Illinois. There I was assigned to a ward of boys with rheumatic valvular heart disease, the result of an epidemic of acute rheumatic fever, I think in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. This lasted until November when I was assigned to the U.S. Naval Training Station Aiea, Oahu TH, which was just outside Pearl Harbor.
We were given the care of all enlisted personnel coming in from the United States. We took care of them and their medical needs until they were reassigned. This didn’t prove to be very interesting, but I did fall in love with the flora of the islands, and that has influenced my life since then. I did take a little extra duty on a patrol yacht that went out Northeast of Oahu five hundred miles, as a weather station, and perhaps to pick up any downed flyers who might be needing help.
I was tragically seasick for 3 days, but this disappeared as soon as we started going in circles, and I never experienced it again. By the end of our cruise I was hooked on sailing and we didn’t recover any downed pilots.
After we return to Pearl I decided I wanted to try sea duty, as a year had passed. My request was approved and I was assigned to the USS Meade, a destroyer also identified as the DD602. I really enjoyed this year. We spent time on independent duty, and then operated with the 5th Fleet over the Central Pacific.
We were instrumental in taking one island, and we shot up some small atolls that were being by passed. Fortunately we were never hit by any of the Japanese shells. We did get back to Mare Island for a major overhaul. Marjorie came out and we spent a delightful 2 weeks in Lake Tahoe. After returning to Hawaii, I had a total of 2 years out of the States, so I asked to be reassigned to shore duty, and was transferred to the University of Dubuque, in Dubuque, Iowa. This was a V12 Training Station that was a unit preparing Naval recruits for Naval air duty. It was here that my first son was born. 6 months later I was transferred to the Marine Station at Camp Pendleton, and while there, the atomic bomb terminated things.
I was assigned to inactive duty January 2,1946, and to the inactive reserve March lst of that same year.
I then went to the University of Minnesota for 3 ½ months in a review of Internal Medicine, and this included a 2-week course in psychosomatic medicine. This was my introduction to the psychological aspects of disease. I’d had no training in that in medical school and very little during my Residency program. Following this I made a big mistake. My in-laws talked me into associating with a physician who had been 4F, and was operating in a small hospital in Lexington, Nebraska.
My second son Stephen was born there, l Jan. 1947. I really came back to Nebraska because I was influenced by a physician I met in University of Minnesota, who encouraged me to carry a specialty into a smaller community. Other than for Stephen, the Lexington program was a disaster. I had the opportunity to join the Kearney Clinic, but was prevented by a contract with the hospital. I then came to McCook, Nebraska, my hometown, and became a partner in the McCook Clinic. We had a well-equipped hospital, but lousy facilities at the clinic, but this was rectified by the construction of a new building in 1960, and I was able to practice medicine the way I wanted to deliver it.
I had had excellent training in gastrointestinal radiology, and I spent quite a bit of time in the x-ray department too. One of the regional morticians had a son who brought home a German autopsy kit that he presented to me. I made good use of it doing postmortem examinations on most all the patients that presented interesting and/or difficult problems. On occasion, my son Steve used to assist me when needed.
I became interested in hypnosis and took a couple of courses in Las Vegas and Denver, Colorado. I used it rather extensively in my practice, but really got out of my field when I began to use it in obstetrics. It proved very satisfactory, and the women came back again and again. I really had no complications in all the patients that I delivered.
As new and younger doctors came into our office and I got a little older, I stopped doing these. I did find considerable use for it in attempting to get people to stop smoking. When one is a partner in a 4-man organization one has to take call, and so my practice was not completely restricted to Internal Medicine, as a result of that, I was not allowed to join the American Society of Internal Medicine. This had no adverse affect upon my work; and I had a very active and rewarding practice. I saw lots of pathology, and I did not feel that reluctance on the part of the Academy affected my work.
I finally secured the office on July 1, 1986, and I have never regretted it. Life here in McCook has been very good to me, and it has been a good place to rear my family. I had the sadness of having my older son killed when he was 6 years old, but he was superseded by an adoption of a boy about 9 years later.
I didn’t have very much time for extra curricular activities during my active practice. I did keep current with my postgraduate courses at the University of Denver, and the University of Miami. The latter courses in Miami were usually followed by short trips to the Bahamas or Costa Rica. I have been the local representative for the Nature Conversancy, a Rotarian for over 50 years, etc.
I always had an interest in sailing, so I acquired several boats along the course of the years, and even won the Regatta in the M20 Class at Grand Lake where I have a summer cottage. I also acquired a deep-water sailboat, called an Off Shore 41, which I named “Serentil”, and we sailed principally in the Caribbean. After I recognized that this wasn’t a practical hobby, I sold the boat but continued to sail in the Society Islands, in the Adriatic, and further South in the Windward Islands. Now I am old and crotchety and I can’t get in a sailboat any longer. I did build a house in Costa Rica, but Marjorie became ill, and I thought that it was a long-term situation so I sold it. She passed away in October of 1991.
Since then I have been retired living here in McCook. I have a small home, and I have developed an association with an old patient of mine, a female that is, and we have spent quite a bit of time traveling to Hawaii, Japan, Ireland, and Turkey. We have discovered a very small island called Saba in the Eastern Caribbean where we spend the winters.
Physically speaking, I think I am on borrowed time with a pacemaker, a couple of artificial joints, and lots of osteoarthritis elsewhere that certainly restricts my activities. Now I am too disabled to sail, and if I got into a boat I wouldn’t be able to get out.
In summary I can say that I had good medical training at the University of Nebraska, and a superb residency program. The practice of medicine has been very rewarding to me, and I guess to most of the people that I practiced on and with. I am still able to make my own decisions, and wish that I could do more.
I regret that I didn’t get to Omaha last fall for the 60th reunion from the University of Nebraska Medical School. To tell the truth, I forgot about it, thinking that it was going to be a month later. Today that call that a “senior moment”.
Reminiscing about the members of the Phi Rho Sigma, there are only 5 of us that I am fairly sure who are still surviving. Jim Shaffer, Don Miller, Herb Modlin, Jack Maxfield, and myself. I just heard about a week ago that Buzz Moore, who was in Helena, Montana, passed away at the age of about 85.
Looking back, life is really a matter of choices. I haven’t done badly.
My better choices were:
l. Choosing the University of Nebraska for Medical School.
2. Choosing the University of Chicago for hospital training.
3. Not joining the Army Reserve when a Senior in Medical School.
4. Joining the Navy.
5. Staying in the Naval Reserve.
6. Returning to McCook.
7. Not buying a house on the Island of Montserrat.
8. Not getting married a second time.
9. Developing the ability to do “not very much” and enjoy it.
My, not so good, choices were:
l. Investing in a Costa Rican gold mine.
2. Buying a 1976 Porsche 911 Targa and fixing it up.
I have had a devil of a time getting this thing composed. I hope that it hasn’t been too long for you to read comfortably. I shall look forward to reading yours, and I hope that all of you are better off physically than I.
JOHN L. BATTY, M.D.
1/1/2018 Update: Over the years from the time this article was originally written, my father had both hips replaced, his right shoulder, descending colon removed, was on his forth pacemaker generator and had developed congestive heart failure along with macular degeneration making it almost impossible for him to read or watch The Huskers play. While recovering from a bout with fluid in his lungs in Community Hospital he asked his cardiologist to turn off his pacemaker. The doctor agreed to comply with his wish. The next day the event happened and Dad gradually slipped away from this world over the next three days as Paul and I sat watching the heart-breaking event. But it was what Dad wanted. If he could not be helpful to others there was not reason to continue. On the morning of January 11th 2013 Dad raised his hand one last time in a salute or goodbye and quietly left us.