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Interview with Lockert Mason, October 19, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Lockert Mason, October 19, 2004
October 19, 2004
Dr. Mason Lockert recounts his medical career in Wilmington. He gives specific examples of porcedures and policies at Babies Hospital and James Walker.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Mason, Lockert Interviewer: Mims, LuAnn / Parnell, Jerry Date of Interview: 10/18/2004 Series: Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length: 51 minutes

Mims: Today is October the 18th, 2004. I'm LuAnn Mims with Jerry Parnell with the Randall Library Special Collections. Today, we are going to speak with Dr. Lockert Mason, a surgeon here in the Wilmington area. Good morning to you, sir.

Mason: Good morning.

Mims: If you could start today by telling us a little bit about your family background - where you family lived, what they were doing.

Mason: Well, I was born and raised in Richmond and uh.. (clears throat) I uh.. took my surgical training at Old Gray School of Patterson and North Carolina Baptist Hospital and that's how I ended up in uh.. North Carolina.

Mims: Was your father a physician?

Mason: Yes. Mm-hmm.

Mims: What was his specialty?

Mason: He was in industrial medicine.

Mims: Are you the only child?

Mason: No. I'm one of five.

Mims: One of five? Did any of your siblings go into medicine as well?

Mason: No. I'm the only one.

Mims: What do you think led you to that direction?

Mason: I don't know. I think that I got interested in surgery while I was in medical school and uh.. most of the professors that I admired in medical school were surgeons.

Mims: Now I know that there was a report that came out called the Flexner [ph?] Report and it kind of shifted the way that physicians were trained. Did that have any effect on you during your training?

Mason: That was long before my time.

Mims: I'm trying to get the idea of when like the specialties became like certified in their specialties.

Mason: Well I believe that the first- first specialty to be- to be certified was probably ophthalmology and uh.. general surgery and uh.. OBGYN uhm.. specialty boards were started in the 1930s.

Mims: Because now you look for a surgeon that's board certified.

Mason: Yes. I think that that is uh..-- It's the only standard uh.. qualification uh.. throughout the United States.

Mims: There was a period of time though that anybody could do surgery. Was that--?

Mason: All they had to have was a license to practice medicine.

Mims: And of course, the history of the education of physicians changed so dramatically. You graduated from Boman Gray?

Mason: No. I graduated from the Medical College of Virginia in 1945 and I interned at the Pennsylvania Hospital in uh.. Philadelphia '45 to '46 and I was on uhm.. active duty with the Navy from '46 to '48 and I was at Boman Gray from '48 until 1952. And on the completion of my residency in 1952, we moved to Wilmington.

Mims: Why Wilmington?

Mason: Uh.. Wilmington was a charming seaport town and we were looking for a nice place to live.

Mims: When you arrived, there were a couple of hospitals functioning. There was Bullocks Hospital. Do you recall anything about Bullocks downtown?

Mason: Yes. Uh.. Bullocks [ph?] Hospital was on North Front Street in- in a building, which is next door to what is- is called First Union Bank now and when I moved here it was Murchison National Bank. And uh.. I was not on that staff, so I don't know very much about it.

Mims: Then there was James Walker Hospital.

Mason: Yes.

Mims: And you went- you--

Mason: I was on the staff at James Walker Hospital.

Mims: As a surgeon.

Mason: As a surgeon. (clears throat) And I was on the staff of Community Hospital and Babies Hospital.

Mims: Community and Babies. Was Dosher Hospital functioning in Southport yet?

Mason: Yes.

Mims: Did you ever go down there?

Mason: I did. I went down there in the middle of the night on an emergency case uhm.. when their- their main surgeon was out of town on vacation and uh.. I operated and fortunately the patient lived.

Mims: How about any other rural hospitals? Were there any in Burgaw? Like was Pender open yet?

Mason: Not- not around then. I was not on any other staff.

Mims: Okay. It certainly seems like you had your hands full with what you did have. Were you a general surgeon, or did you do specialties?

Mason: I did general surgery and thoracic surgery.

Mims: General and thoracic. Well tell us about your time at Community Hospital. What was it like at that facility?

Mason: Well, I was called very rarely to see patients at Community Hospital. Uhm.. I- uh.. I operated at Community Hospital and sometimes the patients were so uhm.. ill that we had to transfer 'em to James Walker Hospital simply because we had uh.. more laboratory facilities and perhaps uh.. more x-ray facilities that weren't available at Community Hospital. But that was very rare. I only- I only transferred probably two or three patients in ten years.

Mims: So you thought that James Walker just was, because it was larger, they had more facilities.

Mason: That's correct.

Mims: Right. We're just trying to figure out since neither of those structures are standing, it's hard for us to reflect at how both of these functioned in the community at the same time. So it seems like there was a nice relationship between the two in that regard, as far as patient care was concerned. Would you think that?

Mason: Yes, I think so. Uhm.. They uhm.. (clears throat) they provided different services and uhm.. were cooperative as far as I- as far as I knew.

Mims: We had talked to a nurse anesthetist who spent time at both James Walker and Community and she has stated about the same situation going to different places. So it's nice to have another perspective on that. Now Babies Hospital. You did your work there too?

Mason: Yes. I- I- I was called to see patients at Babies Hospital.

Mims: What kind of thing would bring you down there?

Mason: Well, we operated on children for hernias, appendicitis, uh.. Polaric Stenosis and just about all of the uhm.. problems that are encountered in a pediatric practice.

Mims: We understand that Babies Hospital also took sick infants in from the surrounding community. So it became like a center for pediatric care. Is that what you--?

Mason: Yes, that's correct.

Mims: Right. You knew Dr. Sidbury [ph?] then?

Mason: Yes.

Mims: What was he like?

Mason: He was a wonderful gentleman and uh.. (clears throat) an excellent pediatrician and a pleasure to- to work with.

Mims: Do you remember any of the other physicians that were on staff a Babies?

Mason: Surely. Uhm.. The- the pediatricians were Dr. Sidbury {ph?]; his daughter, Rowena Sidbury-Hall [ph?]; his son, James Sidbury, Junior; uhm.. Frank Reynolds, Dr. Joe Rocks [ph?], Ralph Boya [ph?] and the surgeons who operated ov- over the years in- until about- until 1950, the surgeons were uhm.. Donald Kuntz [ph?], uh.. James Robinson [ph?] and Tom Greene [ph?].

Mims: I don't think I've heard the name Tom Greene [ph?] before.

Mason: No, he was there.

Mims: Dr. Kuntz we hear quite a bit about and of Robinson as well.

Mason: Uhm.. Dr. uh.. Joseph- Dr. Joel Hipot [ph?] did uh.. a lot of the surgery in the '40s and he died the summer of 1952. After 1952, the surgeons, the general surgeons were Dr.- Drs. Donald Kuntz [ph?], Harris Moore, uhm.. Robert Williams and me.

Mims: How about in the African American community? Were there any general surgeons there that would you know about?

Mason: They were practicing at Community Hospital.

Mims: Right, but what were their names?

Mason: Dr. Hubert Eaton was one. Dr. Upperman and uh.. I don't whether any of the others operated or not. Dr. Wheeler was an ophthalmologist.

Mims: Right. How about some of the old-time physicians that also did surgery? Do you recall any of them? I can't remember if Dr. Fales did surgery on not.

Mason: Yes, Dr. Fales did surgery.

Mims: But he was just a general practitioner, wasn't he?

Mason: Yeah. He did surgery. Dr.- Dr. McCatherine.

Mims: Oh, okay.

Mason: Uh.. Dr. Jim Dickey [ph?].

Mims: And these are some of the older ones.

Mason: Well, Jim Dickey [ph?] is about my age, but the others were older.

Mims: I'm just trying to get an idea of the ones that had the specialty in surgery and then the physicians that also did surgery. I'm just trying to find a line. Where was that line, kind of? Because now, you don't really have a general medical doctor also doing surgery, do you?

Mason: Not that I know of.

Mims: No. So about when would that have occurred? Can you think of like a time frame?

Mason: Well, the- uhm.. the change occurred uh.. in uh.. the fall of 1952 at James Walker Hospital when they- uh.. the board- when the board of a manager, board of managers uh.. required that all future applicants for surgical privileges be either members of the Diplomats of the American College of Surg- or Diplomats of the American Board of Surgery or members of the American College of Surgery or eligible for those memberships. So that's when the change occurred. Everybody before that was grand- grandfathered in. And so, that- that is a particular date when the change began to occur.

Mims: I appreciate that because it's always kind of question as to when and how because I've talked to Dr. Williams and he said that when he came, he was one of the first people that was board certified.

Mason: Yeah. He was actually the second- second person. Dr. Donald Kuntz [ph?] was the first.

Mims: Dr. Kuntz[ [ph?] was the first. Okay.

Mason: Yeah.

Mims: Because he talked a little bit about the acceptance was kind of difficult at first.

Mason: Yeah. Dr. Kuntz [ph?] was the first certified. Barrett Williams was the second and I was third.

Mims: Well that's interesting. We have read your history that you wrote about the Babies Hospital. You must have had some interest in preserving that historical information. Some of the things that we're finding out was that they had nurses training at--

Mason: Yes, they did.

Mims: Can you tell us a little about how that worked?

Mason: Well, they had-- During the time that I worked there, they had nurses who came for a period of time - probably three months - from a number of hospital nursing schools around the state and they got their pediatric training uh.. at Babies Hospital. It was a very pleasant experience for them and for us too.

Mims: The way I'm reading it is that these were nurses that were still in training and they were doing a pediatric rotation, or were these nurse graduates that were getting additional training?

Mason: Well, (clears throat) I believe in the very beginning, they were graduates who took training after they had graduated from the James Walker School of Nursing. But in the '50s and '60, they were on a rotation.

Mims: From various hospital schools throughout the state.

Mason: Yes. Mm-hmm.

Mims: They did resident training at Babies Hospital too?

Mason: Yes. And a number of prominent pediatricians in North Carolina and Virginia trained at Babies Hospital.

Mims: Can you think of any in particular?

Mason: Yes. Uhm.. Be Dr. Kendig who's a well-known pediatrician in Richmond, Virginia.

Mims: His name again was?

Mason: Kendig - K-E-N-D-I-G.

Mims: Thank you.

Mason: And there was a Dr. Hogg - H-O-G-G - in uhm.. Hampton, Virginia. Dr. Kosaruba trained there.

Mims: And he's still in practice.

Mason: I know.

Mims: I lost my train of thought. As far as the nurses went, we saw that your name was listed as the director of medical education at James Walker.

Mason: Yes.

Mims: What was that capacity? Did you have anything to do with the nurses' training?

Mason: No. I didn't have anything to do with nurses' training. This was strictly for uhm.. interns and residents and, medical students.

Mims: Because they had interns and medical students coming at James Walker as well.

Mason: Yes.

Mims: A lot of them seem to have foreign names. Was that typical?

Mason: They did. There was uhm.. uhm.. a period of many years when uh.. most of the interns and residents at James Walker and other community hospitals were foreign medical graduates.

Mims: Why do you think that was?

Mason: Well, it is- it's because there were so many approved training programs uh.. in excess of the number of American graduates each year. And that I think has uh.. largely been uh.. corrected over the years by the disapproval of a number of programs which- which were not really good training programs.

Mims: Well I just happened to notice that Dr. Tan seemed to have been one of these that came in.

Mason: Yes, he was. He was a res- he was a resident at uh.. James Walker. He had finished three years of training uhm.. at another hospital and then he transferred to James Walker for his last two years.

Mims: So a lot of the American trained uhm.. physicians would try to go to like bigger medical centers. Is that kind of how it was and then the foreign ones would come to the smaller more regional one.

Mason: Yes, and uh.. in recent years, uh.. the uhm.. larger medical centers had had significant numbers of uh.. foreign medical graduates. Uh.. I think the trend here locally has been that we would get- we have gotten more and more American graduates.

Mims: But you had nothing to do with the nurses' training.

Mason: No.

Mims: Some of the physicians did help with the training of the nurses.

Mason: Yes.

Mims: And it looks like what we figured out is that there would be a physician appointed to kind of like if the nurses got sick, they became like the physician for the nurses. Do you know what I'm talking about?

Mason: I don't know about that.

Mims: It's like at Community, we saw that Dr. Eaton had to take rotation where any time a nurse got sick or a student nurse got sick, he became that physician. I didn't know whether you knew anything like that at James Walker.

Mason: Uh.. I'm not aware of it.

Mims: Anybody specific to that job? And then we spoke a little bit off camera about the inclusion of African American physicians on staff at James Walker Hospital. I saw specifically Dr. Roan [ph?] and Dr. Wheeler, both specialty physicians. Do you remember about the time that they came on board at James Walker?

Mason: I would- I would guess it would have been really in the early 1960s.

Parnell: Were they fairly well accepted by all the other doctors and staff?

Mason: As far as I know, yes.

Mims: We've also been trying to look at the thread of the two nursing schools in particular from James Walker and Community. When both of those facilities closed, Wilmington College had a nursing program that they developed. Do you recall any of that development with the nursing program coming over here to the university or college at the time?

Mason: I remember when it happened, but I don't know any details.

Mims: Because we were reading some secondary sources that give us the inkling that the field of nursing was changing and they needed a more academic environment instead of the hospital program.

Mason: That was a general trend in nursing education I think and I believe that the board of James Walker Memorial Hospital gave a substantial amount of money to UNCW to start the school.

Mims: They did. They certainly did and as a matter of fact, I believe the first couple of years it was known as the James Walker Memorial Hospital Student Nursing Program. So yes, they did contribute a lot. We talked to Mr. Seymour Alfer [ph?] about the development of New Hanover and why they in particular did not take a nursing program. Since you were on staff there at James Walker, I wanted to just get your opinion on how that happened. In reading your article too, we had a question about what is called as the Nurses Residents Home.

Mason: Yes.

Mims: What about that?

Mason: Uh.. That building still stands.

Mims: That's what I thought. It's the only thing left, right?

Mason: Yeah. It's a square brick building fairly- close to the highway. Dr. Sidbury [ph?] uhm.. uhm.. paid for having it built in memory of his wife.

Mims: What happened to her?

Mason: I don't know. She w- she was-- Uh.. I don't remember when she died.

Parnell: And did the nurses at Babies live there, or they had the option to live there?

Mason: Well, yes. Nurses on the staff. Half of the student nurses lived- lived in that building.

Mims: So when they did their rotation that became their residence.

Mason: That's right.

Mims: Yes, we saw that. We also saw that Jessie Kenan's wife gave money to build part of the third floor from my understanding.

Mason: That's correct.

Mims: Okay. That's also in the connection with UNCW because her family gave the Kenan Wise House, which is now the alumni house here.

Mason: That's correct.

Mims: What else in that report-- It's very interesting to ask because in investigating all this information, of course we have a third structure that has recently been destroyed, or hospital structures. We've lost James Walker Community and Babies Hospital. We're rapidly losing our landmarks and of course the contribution that physicians in the medical personnel gave to our community. Were you involved with anything to try to save the Babies Hospital?

Mason: No. I didn't have any part of that uhm..--

Parnell: The Babies Hospital at one time would just open in the summer months.

Mason: Yes.

Parnell: But when you came, it was already operating year round, wasn't it?

Mason: Yeah. I think 1939 was the--

Parnell: You mentioned that in your article. But we had read another date at one time that was later than that. Was there any time after you were there that they were closing during the year?

Mason: No.

Parnell: Okay.

Mims: Why did they decide to stay open year round? Do you know?

Mason: Well, in the early days, most of the treatable pediatric diseases were related to climate. They- they got diarrhea and some of the complaints from contaminated formulas, milk and uh.. that was the main thrust of the- uh.. the treatment of children in- in the summer. And that could be well handled in a hospital and often needed to be handled in the hospital. And other conditions uh.. that were more prevalent in the winter, could handle- be handled just as well at home.

Mims: Because I would think with the summer and no air-conditioning that it would be just horrendous in the hospital.

Mason: Well there was always a breeze.

Mims: Right there where it was. It was on the beach earlier, wasn't it? At one time, it was down on the beach itself.

Mason: Uh.. Yes, but I don't remember what the years were.

Mims: In the early years.

Parnell: I think the '20s.

Mims: And they moved over to their present location but it burned down.

Mason: Yeah. The original uh.. hospital, which had been a summer residence or cottage had burned.

Mims: And then they rebuilt it about 1922?

Parnell: Something like that?

Mason: I don't know - '27 I believe.

Mims: '27?

Mason: I think so.

Parnell: Do you know what the nurses had been used for now?

Mason: I don't know. I don't know.

Parnell: Okay. Also going back to the nurses for a minute and nurses training, we read that after World War II for a number of years, Babies Hospital was involved with military nurses, doing some training for them. Were they still doing that when you arrived?

Mason: No. That was before my day.

Parnell: Do you know what that was about?

Mason: No.

Mims: You said you were in the Navy Reserve.

Mason: Yes, uhm..--

Mims: Where were you at that time?

Mason: I was stationed in Murphy's Burrow, Tennessee.

Mims: Were you used as a surgeon at that time?

Mason: No. I was uh.. assigned to a psychiatric hospital for two years.

Mims: Well that must have been interesting.

Parnell: All military, or just general hospital?

Mason: Veterans.

Parnell: Veterans?

Mason: Uh-huh.

Mims: It's interesting to see where they put physicians during--

Mason: Well, at- at the time, from 1946 to '48 uhm.. they were discharging medical officers and- and they had less need for 'em on- on- for a- active military duty people, but they had a flood of Veterans Administration patients. And they looked- uh.. my whole class on the Navy on loan to the Veterans Administration.

Mims: So your education wasn't interrupted at all during the war? Is that correct?

Mason: No. I went straight through medical school.

Mims: Because we've talked to a couple of others that they had to skip a couple of things and then come back to it. I didn't know how that worked. Whenever the hospital was closed during the summer months, was it used for anything else do you know?

Mason: I don't think so, but I- I don't know. It was before my time.

Mims: It seems logistically difficult to move all the patients out and then you have to come in and re-prep everything every single year. I'm sure that running it continuously probably was a little bit better. What was the surgical suite like at Babies Hospital?

Mason: There were two operating rooms. One of 'em was a major room where big operations were done and the uhm.. other was somewhat smaller. That's where Tom Selective [ph?] is and that's where Dr. Sidbury did his umbilical vein exchange transfusions. And uh.. then there was a smaller room, which was a- a recovery room. And actually, uh.. Bab- Babies Hospital had a recovery room before James Walker did.

Mims: Because we did talk to some of the nurses who said that surgical patients were brought right back to their rooms because the student nurses had to especially stand, sit beside the ether patients and watch their recovery.

Mason: They did a lot of times.

Mims: What type of anesthesia products were used when you first came on board there?

Mason: Mostly ether.

Mims: Mostly ether.

Mason: Mm-hmm.

Mims: Even on the children, though.

Mason: Yeah.

Mims: Was the surgical suite on the very top floor?

Mason: Yeah. It was on the second floor of the original uh.. brick building and then it moved to the third floor when that floor was added.

Mims: What was the concept behind putting it up so high?

Mason: I don't know.

Mims: It seems like all the other hospitals, the surgical suites are all on the top floor. So I was just trying to figure that out.

Mason: I don- I don't know.

Mims: It must have some kind of historical bearing to it. We'll just have to keep trying to plug away on that one. What was the surgical suite like at James Walker Hospital?

Mason: We had four or five operating rooms and one large dressing room for the uh.. surgeons and- and it had modern equipment. It was just like any other uh.. surgical suite.

Mims: And at Community Hospital, they had one or two suites?

Mason: I think they had one or two operating rooms.

Mims: And during your time as a surgeon, you probably saw a lot of transition in techniques. Can you think of a big change that happened?

Mason: Well, uhm.. there weren't any- there- there were plenty of- of innovations during the time I practiced, but I think the innovations that have occurred since I practiced are- are a great deal more.

Mims: Are you talking about the laparoscopy type surgery?

Mason: Yeah.

Mims: Everybody always mentions that. That must be very significant. It shortens the recovery time the smaller the incision. Is that right?

Mason: That's true.

Mims: For thoracic surgery, what kind of changes have you seen?

Mason: Well, uhm.. when I first started uhm.. practicing uh.. most of thoracic surgery was infections of one kind or another - lung abscess, or brochiectasis, uh.. or empyemia. But then with antibiotics, they became much less frequent and the procedures mostly involved operations for transferring the lung and- and different lesions of the esophagus. But I have been retired for 17 years, so I'm not sure what goes on now.

Mims: So what year did you retire?

Mason: 1987.

Mims: 1987. Did you work at New Hanover Hospital?

Mason: Yes.

Mims: What was that change like from--?

Mason: Well I was a uh.. head of surgical education at New Hanover Hospital and uh.. we continued to develop the residency until we had a fully approved Class I surgical residency.

Mims: So it was constantly pushing the bar to get the accreditation.

Mason: Yes. We moved from none to a Class II and then finally to a Class I uhm.. in coop- with the cooperation with the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Department of Surgery.

Mims: How long a period of time did that take?

Mason: Well our first approval at James Walker was in 1963 or '64 and uhm.. (clears throat) our final approval was in 1971.

Parnell: Did you teach at UNC also?

Mason: Uhm.. Well uh.. I went to uh.. the Medical School at Chapel Hill on- on a surgical rotation one day uh.. several times a year for maybe four years.

Parnell: Okay.

Mims: I was just trying to think of the way that the hospitals are organized now. Sometimes when you come out of surgery, you go into one of the specific care units like the Intensive Care, the Cardiac Care. When did you see that developing because we saw that James Walker did have a Critical Care Unit.

Mason: They had an Inten-- Uh.. They had a- an Intensive Care Unit.

Mims: They did.

Mason: Yes.

Mims: Do you know about what time that came into place?

Mason: Probably about 1965.

Mims: Kind of near the end.

Mason: Yes.

Mims: So that when New Hanover was built, they included the Intensive Care Units and the Step-Down Units as well.

Mason: Yes.

Mims: Because now, we just assume that they're there. When you look at the old layout, they weren't there. Also, the transition from the ward settings - the hospitals now don't really have ward settings.

Mason: No. You can't have 'em because of Medicare laws. They dec- they had decreed that they had to be semi-private/private rooms and uh.. they wouldn't pay for any ward patients so that-- So the hospitals stopped having wards.

Mims: That's interesting.

Parnell: I didn't know that.

Mims: So that also happened probably around--

Mason: '68.

Mims: '68? 1968.

Mason: Probably - '66.

Mims: I know that Dr. Williams spoke a lot about like third party intervention on dictating some of the way that the hospital was laid out, talking mainly about insurance. It started stepping up I guess in the late-'60s then.

Mason: Yeah.

Mims: You mentioned something earlier about something I've read about and I don't know if you can speak on it or not. Dr. Sidbury [ph?] was very well known for this transfusion procedure that he did. What did that entail?

Mason: Well these were babies who had uhm.. severe jaundice at the birth u- uh.. due to some (clears throat) incompatibilities uh.. in the red blood system and uh.. (clears throat) there actually was an exchange uh.. of removing the baby's blood and uh.. infusing normal blood. And uh.. there- there- there's an umbilical vein which remained opened in the umbilical cord before it uh.. drops off and he used that vein uh.. to withdraw increments of the baby's blood and transfuse increments of donor blood and he was a pioneer in that field.

Mims: I know that hyperbilirubin anemia - they watch that--

Mason: Yes.

Mims: --For transfusion--

Mason: This was ___________________________.

Mims: Because I keep hearing people talk about it, but I didn't know what exactly that meant because I think Dr. Kosaruba [ph?] says something about it. Blood donations. As a surgeon, you would be aware of the blood donations. We've seen pictures of like the lockers with the blood in there. Do you know how that worked I mean as far as donors were concerned?

Mason: No.

Mims: No, because we've talked to some people who talk about live transfusions right there at the operating--

Mason: They had them in the '20s, perhaps in the '30s. It's called direct transfusion.

Mims: But then it went to where the blood was--

Mason: Was withdrawn. Uhm.. The donor was bled and it was- and it went through a rubber tube into a bottle for storage and of course all that is now replaced by plastic.

Mims: That's another thing. It's hard to look at back at time before latex gloves, before disposable syringes, in the age where that's all I've known. We hear the nurses talk about glass syringes.

Mason: Sure. I got a couple at home.

Mims: Do you?

Parnell: You do?

Mims: And talking about in the OR--

Parnell: And not wearing gloves.

Mims: Or wearing gloves and then washing them and hanging them up and how you sterilize them and to use them again.

Mason: Sure put 'em in the autoclave.

Mims: And the gowns I guess were real cotton gowns, not that disposable stuff they are now.

Mason: Yeah. They were cotton gowns. They would launder them and then they would put in the autoclave to sterilize.

Mims: It's just a whole different--

Parnell: Changed.

Mims: --Different ballgame now. It's just hard to comprehend this. So that's why it's important to talk to you - someone who has seen these kind of transitions. You were also talking about the intervention of antibiotics affecting thoracic surgery, specifically like penicillin came on board in like the end of the '40s.

Mason: Uhm.. The first penicillin that I- I ever saw was when I was a senior student in medical school in 1945 when you had to get it from uhm.. some governmental agency. It was- it was- it was rationed because of the scarcity. It was very effective, even in small doses because the bacteria had not been exposed to it before.

Mims: And now, it's so commonplace that you get a small infection and you take the antibiotic.

Mason: The streptomycin came along about 1946 and that became the first drug that was affected against tuberculosis.

Mims: You wouldn't do any kind of intervention surgery on TB patients, would you?

Mason: Yes.

Mims: You would?

Mason: Uhm.. I- I did in training. Uhm.. uh.. we had a three month rotation when we were- when we were senior residents to a uh.. Western State TB Sanitarium in Black Mountain uhm.. and we did four or five cases a week up there. I only recall operating on one TB patient in Wilmington uhm.. in private- private practice.

Mims: You know the site where Cape Fear is now was a TB sanitarium.

Mason: That's correct. It was still operating when I- when I moved here.

Mims: It was.

Mason: Yeah.

Mims: So how did that work? If you were diagnosed with TB, they sent you there for treatment?

Mason: Mm-hmm. A number of counties had uh.. TB sanitariums because there weren't enough state sanitarium beds but where they- they had- had uhm.. streptomycin, uhm.. beds began to be freed up uh.. and it was not necessary to have county sanitar- sanitariums anymore. Uhm.. And eventually of course, it- it was so effective that the uh.. state sanitariums had to close, or at least the one at Black Mountain has been closed.

Mims: Well, was it to control a contagion too?

Mason: Yes. You- you- you were sent to the sanitarium and you had to stay uhm.. until they declared that you were not infectious anymore.

Mims: Because James Walker also had a contagious ward at one time and I guess they would have seen TB patients there as well.

Mason: I don't--

Mims: You don't recall?

Mason: I don't remember, but you might talk to Dr. Reynolds about the polio epidemic. He, he uhm.. was caught, you'd have to ask him about it, but he- he took care of a ward full of polio patients at James Walker.

Mims: Yes, I reading in the late '40s there was a huge epidemic throughout the state and delayed the start of school and filled up I guess all the hospital beds, etc. Well, what else?

Parnell: How did you feel about the closing of James Walker and Community and building the new hospital?

Mason: Oh, I was all in favor of it. Uhm.. James Walker was antiquated and so was Community and uh.. it took a lot of effort to get the bond issue passed. In fact, it failed on the first go around.

Mims: I recently saw a book, like a little pamphlet that was prepared during the time of this bond where they showed photos of James Walker Hospital and some of the derelict. It wouldn't say it was really bad, but that it could be better and then the proposal for what the new hospital looked like. Were you part of any of that development?

Mason: No. That was headed up by Dr. Fales [ph?] and Dr. Charles Fadal [ph?] uhm.. and I was not an active part of that.

Parnell: Going back to the article one more time, how did you come about to write this? What was your rationale?

Mason: Uhm.. Ms. Willa [ph?] Dickey [ph?] who was Dr. Sidbury's [ph?] assistant had a lot of original material and notes and minutes and things uh.. pertaining to the Babies Hospital over the years and uh.. she uhm.. thought that uhm.. at least that material should be or information should some how be uh.. recorded before it- it was all lost. And she uh.. lent me those notes and uhm.. that was the basis of what I wrote. Uhm.. I returned the material to her, and I don't know what has happened to it since that time.

Parnell: Is she still around?

Mason: No.

Parnell: No. What about her family? Does she have any family still in the area, or do you know?

Mason: Not that I know of. Now, Mr. George Boylan was head of the Babies Hospital Foundation and he had lots of Babies Hospital records. He is no longer head of the foundation uhm.. but he could tell- he would know where all those records are.

Mims: You said Boyland?

Mason: Boylan - B-O-Y-L-A-N - George Boylan.

Parnell: And he's still in Wilmington?

Mason: Yeah.

Parnell: Is the foundation still active, the Babies Hospital Foundation?

Mason: I don't know. Uh.. The ac- it was active for a number of years and uh.. I don't know whether it's still active or not and I don't know who's the head of it.

Parnell: Okay. We'll have to find out on that. Go ahead.

Mason: Uh.. Billie Little [ph?} would know about the foundation. I'm sure she's on the board of directors.

Mims: Yeah. I need to contact her definitely.

Parnell: Would you take the same career path over?

Mason: Yes, I would basically. I have- I have a good life.

Mims: We know that your son is also a physician.

Mason: Yeah, just recently moved back to Wilmington.

Parnell: We heard he just moved to town recently. That's three generations, or four?

Mims: Three generations, unless your grandfather was a physician too.

Mason: No.

Parnell: No, okay.

Mason: No, he wasn't. But- but his father was. In fact uhm.. (clears throat)

Mims: Your grandfather, your great grandfather was a physician then?

Mason: Uhm.. My great grandfather was a professor of medicine at Tulane.

Mims: Really. So this is a family thing to be--

Mason: Well my son John is uh.. head and neck surgeon and his wife's an anesthesiologist and her father is an orthopedist and her grandfather was head of pediatrics at Duke.

Mims: My goodness.

Parnell: Medical family.

Mims: That's very interesting to have multi-generations of physicians.

Mason: Yeah.

Mims: Yeah. So that's nice because Willy Newton [ph?] just told us about your son coming into town. What's his specialty?

Mason: Head and neck surgery.

Mims: Head and neck surgery. Who is he in practice with?

Mason: Hoke and Pollock.

Mims: When you were coming up in your schooling, were there very many females involved with becoming a physician at the time?

Mason: Uh.. There were a hundred in my graduating class and three of 'em were female.

Mims: Three out of a hundred. Well that's actually better than I thought. I read the name of a female physician here in town that we've not been able to track anything down about her. Her name is Annie Smith and it's a little bit too common to try to track it down. Would you know anything about her?

Mason: It doesn't ring any bells with me.

Mims: No. I got her name out of that book about physicians of the lower Cape Fear that was put out by the auxiliary several years back because now, there are a lot more females involved with the field.

Mason: Sure.

Mims: When did you note there was more coming in?

Mason: In the 1970's.

Mims: 1970s. And again, we talked about the inclusion of foreigners coming in and practicing, African Americans being allowed on staff. When New Hanover opened, it was integrated totally at that time.

Mason: I think it's very interesting because it- African American doctors at Community Hospital except for Dr. Wheeler were very much opposed to the new hospital. They felt they would be rejected or given second class status and it just didn't happen.

Mims: That's interesting because you would think that they would support this because their hospital was on edge and lost accreditation at one time, not able to financially keep up with the times. So you would think they would want to have something because after Community closed, it became an indigent home or something like that. The county took it over.

Parnell: Just for a few years before they tore it down.

Mims: Before they tore it down. Well I think we're out of time and near the end here. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Mason: No. I think that about covers everything.

Mims: Well, we certainly do appreciate you coming and spending the time with us today, helping fill in our gaps.

Mason: Well, I'm happy to do it.

Mims: Thank you.

#### End of Tape ####

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