A Day in the Life ScenariosHuman Interest


I started medical school in September, 1965. After three years of undergraduate study at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, I was fortunate to be accepted into the Indiana University School of Medicine, located in Indianapolis. The state’s only medical school was located in the capital city of Indiana because the State Legislature put it there, and its central location made for easier referral by rural physicians. Plus, the medical facilities and patients  were very diverse, and there was a larger local population from which to attract patients.

In the 1960’s, the State of Indiana established a program called The Indiana Plan. Its purpose was to increase the number of doctors in Indiana by shortening the time it took for students to earn an MD degree. Instead of requiring the usual four years of undergraduate study, students who attended I.U. Bloomington could apply and be accepted to I.U. med school after just three years of undergraduate study. So instead of taking 8 years to earn an MD, the plan allowed me to earn it in just 7. I was awarded my undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree after my first year of medical school. 

The Indiana University School of Medicine, was located on the near northwest side of downtown Indianapolis. In 1965, it was bordered on the west by White River and White River Parkway, on the east by what is now University Boulevard, on the north by 10th St. and Fall Creek, and on the south by west Michigan Street. Compared to today’s Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) campus, the I.U. Medical Center (IUMC) of my era was less than half its current size. Still, at the time it seemed huge with its 13 buildings.

The IUMC, or “the Center,” as we called it, had six hospitals each of which had a different care emphasis and cared for different patient populations. The IUMC was truly a referral center. Robert Long Hospital was the main adult medical-surgical referral facility. My first clinical clerkship was at Long Hospital in September, 1967, the beginning of my junior year. It was a general surgery rotation with Dr. J. Stanley Battersby, who had the best surgical hands I’ve ever seen. I saw my first open-heart surgery at Long, although from across the room, and spent my first night on call there. When I never went to bed that first night, I wondered what I’d gotten myself in to.

There were two other med-surg hospitals at the “center,” and they were as different as night and day. While Long was a statewide referral center, Marion County General Hospital, later known as Wishard Hospital, and now as Eskenazi Hospital, was the county hospital that took all comers—the indigent, trauma cases, gunshot wounds, and any local citizen needing care. I delivered my first babies, did my first pelvic exam, and saw my first case of meningitis there, as well as taking care of patients in several different specialty clinics. 

The third med-surg facility was the Veterans Administration Hospital, now called Richard L. Roudebush Veteran’s Medical Center. Patients at “the VA” were all veterans and were thus almost entirely adult males. In fact, I don’t remember any female veterans. The best month of my med school career was the senior internal medicine elective I had at the VA with the best teachers, Drs. Roy Behnke, Don Pell, and Gus Watanabe. The atmosphere at the VA was unlike Long or General. To be treated for anything, patients had to be admitted. They might stay in the hospital for weeks because everything moved slowly. It took 3-5 days to get lab results. Patients may or may not get their meds because there was only one nurse on a ward for 30 or  more patients. But there was more interesting pathology at the VA than anywhere.

The other three hospitals were specialty facilities. Larue D. Carter Hospital was a psychiatric hospital for inpatient mental health care. William H. Coleman Hospital was dedicated to the care of obstetrics and gynecology. James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children was a world-renown pediatric hospital headed by Dr. Morris Green, a well-respected professor of pediatrics. At Carter we had lectures on anything psychiatric; at Coleman I observed private OB-GYN’s deliver babies, do hysterectomies and D & C’s; at Riley, there was nothing but very very sick children. I had both inpatient and outpatient rotations and saw many very sad cases.

Medical students didn’t have any contact with the six hospitals until their junior and senior years. The first two years were spent studying basic sciences in the Medical Science Building, a three-story structure with two lecture halls, a gross anatomy (cadaver) lab, a huge laboratory used for pathology, microbiology, histology, and pharmacology lab studies, and a physiology laboratory where we “pithed” frogs, swallowed a nasogastric tube, and drew blood from each other. As first and second year students, we spent 90% of our time in lectures and labs in the Med-Science building. The other 10% was spent in lectures in Emerson Hall, an office building/lecture hall a short walk south from the Med-Science building. During the third and fourth years,  Monday through Friday we had noon lectures at Fesler Hall located between Long and Coleman hospitals.

Fesler doubled as an administrative office building and lecture hall, and I once had a final exam there. Noon lectures at Fesler were hard to make because students had to come from one of the other hospitals, and often I got tied up with a patient I was taking care of. The medical school campus had a Union Building which had a large cafeteria, a bookstore, a few hotel rooms, a gym, and an indoor swimming pool. I ate lunch in the Union building every day the first two years. Freshman med students were easily identified because our clothing had the strong odor of formaldehyde acquired from gross anatomy lab.

Under the sidewalks and streets of the center was a network of tunnels. Tunnels ran from the Med Science building to Riley, Emerson Hall, Long, Fesler, Coleman, and the Union building, and were used to transport patients between facilities. Students and faculty used the system when it wasn’t warm and sunny outside. Halfway between Med-Science building and the Union building was a pharmacy where students could get non-prescription meds for free and prescriptions filled at a discounted price. 

The tunnel system was poorly lighted, had exposed pipes and wiring, and was used a lot so it wasn’t always tidy. Janitorial staff was limited and hospital wards and clinics took priority. As with any dark, dingy, and scary place, rumors of terrible things happening to people walking the tunnels alone were heard all the time. And they were just that—untrue rumors to give the tunnels a reputation. My four years at the IUMC nothing serious happened to anyone in the tunnels.

A few students lived in the Union building, but more, especially single students, lived in a cluster of World War II Quonset huts (I can’t remember the name) next to the Union building, and married students lived in a fairly modern apartment building called Warthin Village. It wasn’t really a village; just a stand-alone building. On West Michigan Street, across from Long Hospital, was the Indiana University School of Dentistry. I was never in that building because I never had any reason to be. First and second year dental students had lectures in the Med-Science building as we did but at times when the lecture halls and labs were not being used for medical student classes. 

The Indiana University School of Medicine in the 1960’s had everything needed for an excellent medical education. Hospitals, lecture halls, extensive laboratory facilities, and very interesting patients made nearly every educational experience available to students. But two negatives did have an effect on students. The first of these was the physical facilities. Long, Riley, Coleman, and General hospitals were all very old and desperately needed upgrading and modernizing. Long still had open wards with patients separated by only curtains. General had a postpartum ward that had crank beds and reminded me of a dark, old, witches’ dungeon. Riley had open wards, too, and the nursery was a modified open ward. To say every bit of modern technology was available to faculty and students would be untrue. 

The other deficiency was a lack of clinical faculty. The basic sciences—anatomy, physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, pathology, and pharmacology—were very well staffed with full-time  faculty. But clinical faculty was limited. It was early in the era of specialization, so some disciplines were poorly populated. Riley had only 4 full-time professors so a lot of teaching was done by pediatric residents or private practice physicians who volunteered their time to staff clinics and conduct hospital teaching rounds. General was very short on faculty, too. Again, local physicians helped out when they could. I remember only one neurologist for the entire campus, three psychiatry faculty, one adult gastroenterologist, and no rheumatologists. Internal medicine, general surgery, pulmonology, and cardiology were fairly-well represented, but still needed more people. During my senior year, the first infectious disease specialist joined the I.U. faculty. 

The shortage of clinical faculty forced residents to do a lot of teaching. Students met with full-time faculty for two hours two or three days a week. It was productive time that was always filled with educational pearls. My second year, I.U. recruited a group of nephrologists from the University of Florida. They had all been on the team that invented Gator Ade so in addition to being very intelligent they had a lot of interesting Gator Ade stories. 

Despite a low number of faculty, those who were there were excellent. The only bad teacher I had was Dr. Levine, a virologist who led my microbiology discussion group. He could not explain anything clearly. My education did not suffer, however. An experience is what you make of it and the opportunities I was afforded gave me exactly what I needed. Medical School can be quite overwhelming and intimidating, but you learn to adjust by prioritizing. My fellow classmates were very competitive and often tried to “one up” me and others by mentioning obscure facts. “Did you know about……?” To survive you had to ignore all that noise. 

Would I do it again? Absolutely, yes! Indiana University School of Medicine prepared me well. The basic science faculty was excellent, and I have fond memories of most of them. The clinical faculty was different, however. My exposure to them was much less and interaction was limited. Faculty teaching was mostly on hospital rounds or during staffing sessions on the wards. Surgical faculty was scarce because they spent hours and hours in the operating room so my interns and residents were my main teachers. And I had some very good ones. 

Today’s I.U. Med School is far more elaborate and sophisticated than that of nearly 60 years ago. I can’t begin to name any buildings let alone tell you where they are. Indiana has the largest med school, enrollment-wise, in the U.S.. It’s 8 regional campuses give students a different exposure to medicine than I received. It’s possible for a student to spend four years in training and never spend a rotation in Indianapolis. Total student enrollment is 2059 with 365 students accepted annually. My class had 205, and I thought that was a lot. With 205 students at one site it was possible to get to know most of my classmates. Three hundred sixty-five at 8 sites makes class camaraderie impossible. I guess that’s ok, but reunions would be difficult.

I hope this collection of memories was of interest to you because I enjoyed reminiscing about the places and events I was privileged to enjoy. 

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  1. After all those years you finally became my DR. My families DR, my brother’s DR, my sister in-laws DR and my mothers DR. So glad you did !!!

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