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Interview with George Thompson, October 12, 2005 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with George Thompson, October 12, 2005
Date:
October 12, 2005
Description:
In this interview, Dr. George Thompson discusses his 50-year-spanning medical career, sharing details of his medical school education during the Depression through his years as a general practitioner in Wilmington. Dr. Thompson also references the significant evolutions in medical procedures and pharmaceuticals he has witnessed, as well as his relationships with other prominent medical practitioners in Wilmington.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Thompson, George Interviewer: Mims, LuAnn Date of Interview: 10/12/2005 Series: SENC Health Services Length 1 hour, 2 minutes

Mims: Today is October 12, 2005. I'm LuAnn Mims with John Osinski and Katie Abbott with the Randall Library Special Collections. We're continuing our Series on "Health Services of southeastern North Carolina". Today, we are talking with Dr. Thompson. And, his initials are G. R. C. Thompson. You were a General Practitioner, here in Wilmington, correct?

George Thompson: That's right.

Mims: Well, what we're going to do is get a little bit of family history from you, um... where you were born and raised, how many brothers and sisters... and that kind of information.

George Thompson: Talk louder.

Mims: Ok. Will do. Uh... your family background... where were you born?

George Thompson: I was born in Charleston, South Carolina, April 23rd, 1914.

Mims: What kind of work did your Father do?

George Thompson: My Dad was in... Uh... a Machinist in the Navy. He was uh... Head of the Machinist Mid-School for the whole U.S. Navy, until he retired. He retired in 1922, by a Special Act of Congress, as he didn't have the education when he went into the Navy and he got his Commission by a Special Act of Congress and Congress was the only one who could retire him. So, he retired in 1922 with the Rank of Commander.

Mims: Wow! What... uh... and you said your Mother was from Charleston, as well?

George Thompson: Uh hmm. My Mother was born in Charleston. I was born in the same house my Mother was born in. 45 Hazel Street.

Mims: Is it still... standing?

George Thompson: ...It's still standing.

Mims: Hmm. Well, you were giving us a little earlier history about... your connections with the "Johns" from Johns Hopkins...

George Thompson: Well, I didn't find that about John Hopkins until my Mother visited me up in Wilmington. It was about 1965... 1966. And, she was in the house here and I had a medical journal that had a picture of John... Johns Hopkins and his wife. And, she saw the picture and she... looked across the room and hollered where'd you get those pictures of Uncle Johns and Aunt Lisa? (laughter) That's how I found out about it.

Mims: Very interesting. Is it... its just a coincidence that you go into medicine, right?

George Thompson: Yes, I'd been up here at least 25, 26 years... in practice, when that happened.

Mims: Do you have any Brothers or Sisters?

George Thompson: I had uh... two Brothers, two Sisters. Uh, two Brothers are dead, one Sister is dead. My other Sister is in uh... East Yarmouth, Massachusetts. She is a Graduate Nurse.

Mims: Hmm.

George Thompson: And, uh... she was in the Navy and that's where she met her Husband. He retired a Major in Marine Air (?).

Mims: Hmm. Um... what was your uh... schooling like, as a child?

George Thompson: Do what?

Mims: You're schooling like as a child?

George Thompson: Well, my first schooling was in Norfolk, Virginia. I went... my first two years. I went to Larchmont (?) School, in Norfolk, Virginia. While up there, I had an experience... I had come home from school and I used to climb the trees around the house, the gum trees, and I was up in the top of one of them and the dirigible "Roma" came over and I watched it and when it was headed back to the Naval Base, where it was to spend the night, and when it went over the Army Base, there, it exploded. I saw that happen.

Mims: Hmm! So, you were in Norfolk, going to School?

George Thompson: In Norfolk, Virginia, at that time.

Mims: How did you get up there?

George Thompson: Uh... my Dad was transferred there, from Charleston. He transferred up there right after World War I ended. He moved... Machinist... made the School up there.

Mims: Where did you go after Norfolk?

George Thompson: Aft... came back to Charleston. I went to James (?) Simmons School. That's a Grammar School. Graduated from there in '27. Went to Charleston High School. Got out of there in uh... '31. The College of Charleston... that graduated in '35. Medical College of South Carolina... graduated in '39. And, went from there to Grady Hospital, in Atlanta, to Intern with a rotating Internship. And, I ... while there, I was offered Second Year Service on all four Branches of the Internship. I could make my choices which I wanted.

Mims: Is that what you call a "Rotating Internship"?

George Thompson: Rotating... where you went.... didn't Specialize. They didn't recognize any Specialist, back then, at all...

Mims: Mm hmm.

George Thompson: ...which they shouldn't do today. If they want to be a so-called Specialist, let 'em learn more of what... be a Doctor, first.

Mims: Well, let me back up just a minute. Where did your interest in Medicine come from?

George Thompson: Uh... I'm the first in the family to ever study Medicine. I had an interest in it. Got that from my Mother who uh... wanted to get into Medicine, either a Nurse or to go to Medical School. But, she couldn't do that on account of sickness of her Mother. She had to take over the running of the house. And uh... she wanted one of the children to take up Medicine... if they would. And, my two Brothers didn't. I liked it... liked the idea of it and I stuck to it ever since I decided that when I was a kid... before I ever went to school.

Mims: So, your Mother was definitely an influence?

George Thompson: She was the interest in it. And, then the Family Doctor took an interest, too... in me and encouraged me all he could... when he'd see the family. He was a... personal friend of my Mother's before she ever married my Dad. He was a Family Physician for the whole Hopkey (sp? Hopkins?) Family, in Charleston.

Mims: Well, its curious that you... the time that you're graduating from High School, we're going into the Depression, during this period of time. We have bad economy, throughout the country, whenever you graduate from High School... the Great Depression... did that impact your decision to go to Medical School, at all?

George Thompson: Well, I was told I would never be a Doctor. But I... that didn't stop me. I went on with it. And, I would have gone after two years of College, which I could have done, but the Depression hit. That knocked the money out to go to Medical School. So, I had to go two... so I went two more years to the College of Charleston and then went to Medical School.

Mims: How were you financing this? Were your parents paying for it?

George Thompson: My parents financed it. But, back then, the tuition for Medical School was $250 a year. (laughter) And, you could get by... your books and everything... for about... including the tuition, for about $500 a year. You can't do that today (laughs).

Mims: Some of the younger Doctors, that you talk to, they're so in debt because of their Medical School but...

George Thompson: Yes, they... well, now the Medical... College of South Carolina was a State financed plan (?). Charleston financed it, as well. The City of Charleston. That School was founded in Charleston in 1824 and it was a City School, at the beginning. Just like the College of Charleston was founded in uh... 1780... 1780. And, it was founded by the City, also. Its one of the oldest Colleges in this country, today... still functioning.

Mims: Another thing you hear about um... people in Medical School, is the long hours they have to put in.

George Thompson: Well, I came up with long hours, back then. The average working day was 12 hours.

Mims: Hm hmm.

George Thompson: And, everybody was used to it. So was I. And, I think they should do the same thing they did then. They told us when I... we got into Medical School, they says, "You're working for the Medical... Medical Degree 24 hours, 7 days a week. If you don't like it, the front door is open and good bye!". When I went up to Atlanta to Intern, that was the first greetings we got. You worked 24 hours a day. Medicine is that way because you can't control when somebody gets sick. You might try but (laughter) you won't succeed.

Mims: Did you get any time off or...

George Thompson: Well, you got off... you could arrange for somebody to cover for you. And, you could get off some that way. Otherwise, you slept when you could and studied when you could. But, you had to attend classes, too. They didn't... if you missed your classes, you had to have a damn good reason.

Mims: Were you able to stay there, at the Hospital?

George Thompson: No, you stayed out... and uh, those from out of the City... some of the boarding houses that were around the College.

Mims: ...'cause I understand at James Walker, that some of the Interns lived in what would have been...

George Thompson: Now, the Interns in the Hospitals, they lived in the Hospitals.

Mims: Right.

George Thompson: They did that back then. But, uh...

Mims: But, when in Medical School...

George Thompson: The School... you lived out until you got your M.D.

Mims: Ok.

George Thompson: Now, they held something over yours heads, back then, they don't hold now... that if they ever thought that you did something they didn't think was worthy of being a Doctor, you didn't graduate. And, that held good... up until the last day you were a student.

Mims: Is this talking about your abilities or...?

George Thompson: Your ability, your morals...

Mims: Your morals...

George Thompson: And, everything related to life.

Mims: How hard was it to get into Medical School?

George Thompson: Well it... back then when I got in, it was very hard. It was during the Depression.

Mims: Right.

George Thompson: I was... I got in there... I was... there was only 52 in the Class. And, I was 1 out of 2,500 Applicants.

Mims: So, you must have had good grades to get in?

George Thompson: Well, I graduated from the College of Charleston in the upper quarter of the Class.

Mims: Um... how... how much weight was placed on like character references?

George Thompson: Quite a bit. Doctors, back then, were highly respected. More so than they are today. The Politicians have ruined everything they get into. And, they are into Medicine and, Medicine today isn't near as decent, as it was back then, morally and otherwise.

Mims: When you keep referring to "back then", let's back up for a minute. I understand that there was a fairly significant report called the "Flexnor (sp?) Report". And, that kind of changed the dynamics of Medical School.

George Thompson: Well... well, it might have done it but the Schools are at fault, in many ways, too.

Mims: Hm hmm.

George Thompson: Now, Schools today are taught by young people. They don't know the first thing that experience gives you, in any work. One of the biggest things that I know of, because of lack of experience of it, is this immunity to antibiotics and the reaction they have. Now, antibiotics didn't come out for public use until after World War II. And, about 1950, there was an article published in the American Medical Journal on the results of continued use of antibiotics. It came out... was... it came out from Johns Hopkins... that they found that after uh... 4 days of antibiotics, there was a change in the immune system of the human that occurred. That the antibiotics began to destroy the naturally immune systems. And, back then, they were given the antibiotics, not for uh... 4 days, as they should, but they were giving it for 1, 2, 3 and 4 weeks or longer. And, they wonder why they broke down the immune system. But, the young ones didn't pay any attention to that. And the young ones don't pay attention to any new thing that really comes out and give it a lot of thought before they either condemn it, which they do more than they (inaudible) or... unless the drug companies come across with money.

Mims: Mm hmm.

George Thompson: And, that's the worst damn thing that ever hit Medicine... besides the Politicians.

Mims: Yeah, I understand that uh... through the pharmaceutical companies, that they support a lot of grants, that actually fund Interns...

George Thompson: Well, when I came around, almost nothing in the form of grants.

Mims: Mm hmm.

George Thompson: If somebody did research, they did it on their own because of their like... love for Medicine.

Mims: Well, I've talked to several other Physicians that...

George Thompson: Yeah...

Mims: ... talked about how um... the transition in Medical School um... with the people following the Specialties. You were right before that, right? The Special interests?

George Thompson: I had just begun... now... they had what... some people knew more about certain phases... like the Eye Doctors. A lot of people don't want to work on the eyes because one tiny slip and you're blind! And, uh... I... I didn't want to work on eyes because of that factor. But, I wasn't afraid of anything else.

Mims: How about Surgery?

George Thompson: Surgery... well, I liked surgery and I did quite a bit of surgery. I started doing first, uh... cutting on a human, live human... I did... I took my Dad up to the Naval Hospital to get some skin tags and moles removed. Well, the Doctor at the Navy Yard, uh... found out from talking to my Dad, that I was in Medical School, so he said... told me to, "Scrub up." So, I scrubbed up with him and he took one of them off and he said, "I've got something to do. You take the rest of them off." So, that's how I got my full introduction to Surgery.

Mims: (laughs) I don't that would happen, today.

George Thompson: No. And, for... then when I .... now at the College, they required Surgery before you could graduate. You had to do two major Surgeries, two minor Surgeries, deliver thirty babies in the home, and thirty babies in the Hospital. That was required to graduate. And, you had to give anesthesia for four major Surgeries. So, we were prepared, when we graduated there, to step right into working.

Mims: That's really interesting... especially that you mention "home births". So, not a lot of people were coming to the Hospital to deliver, right? It wasn't the norm.

George Thompson: Yes.

Mims: Uh... talking to Dr.Cosaruba (sp?), he said that uh... part of his medical training included, what you would consider now, nursing. Like starting IV's. Do you remember doing anything like that?

George Thompson: Uh... IV's were just beginning to be used in Medicine, when I came along. At Roper Hospital, in Charleston, that was the County Hospital, uh... intravenouses were very seldom used. And, when you did you had to scrub up for it. You didn't... and if you did any had to do any "cut-down" you had to put on the gowns and everything... as well as "scrub".

Mims: Was the patient taken to Surgery... or...?

George Thompson: No. They were done right in the bed. But, we did that because they didn't have any antibiotics to kill any chance of infection. And when... and, today... that's... lack of that is... a big cause of the high increase of infections in the Hospital is the lack of proper scrubbing and precaution for sterilization. Its... I noticed that they put... while I was still doing Surgery, that the Doctors come in, they'd washed their hands, like you would do at a sink, and that was it. But, when we came along, you scrubbed with a scrub brush and soap for a minimum for fifteen minutes. And, you rinsed your hands in running water. Then, you rinsed them in distilled water. Then, you washed them off with 95% alcohol. Then, you dried them and put your "scrub suit"... uh... put your gowns and your gloves on, after that. Well, they go through part of that still, but they left off that "skin sterilization" 'cause it don't take but one germ... to cause trouble.

Mims: I'm surprised you have any skin left on your hands after doing...

George Thompson: Do what?

Mims: I'm surprised you have any skin left on your hands. It seems like your...

George Thompson: Oh, the skin can take a heck of a lot of scrubbing.

Mims: Now, these gloves you're talking about... The nurses talked about this is in the day before disposable latex gloves.

George Thompson: Yeah.

Mims: And, they would have to wash them out and re-sterilize these gloves.

George Thompson: That's right.

Mims: It's very different from what we...

George Thompson: No, they used rubber gloves... thin rubber gloves before...

Mims: Uh hmm.

George Thompson: ...the latex came out.

Mims: But, they were re-used.

George Thompson: Re-used them. Now, they washed them and dried them, dust them with talcum, and put 'em... matched 'em up and put 'em in individual packs. Put 'em in the sterilizer.

Mims: What other procedures can you think of which have changed so dramatically?

George Thompson: Use of plastic. Create a lot of junk for nothin'. Glass is still... to me, is still better. It's less chance of bacteria growing on glass than it is on plastic. And uh... a lot of the... I don't know... there's some other things... that I can't recall, right this minute that I think its influence as well...

Mims: And certainly the advent of uh... Medicine with... just the ... with all the designer kind of medicines that have come out... um... you're talking about your starting your practice before antibiotics were readily available and now they've got more than one kind antibiotic...

George Thompson: Well, right now, they're back to worse than it was before antibiotics came in as far as infections are concerned. You can ta... go look at the record. As an example of things look at the record for this State on maternal and fetal death, in 1945. You'll find that it was only 5 per 10,000 births. Today, it is 20! Most of it comes after caesarian section. Back then, "sections" ran about 1% of your practice. Breached deliveries... they delivered them as breaches. And, now, back then, we had toxemia... pregnancy... which killed quite a few people and that was due to diet. If you have good diets down, toxemia is practically disappeared. We had syphilis... a very high rate of syphilis. And, when I began work, the Shipyard, in 1942, the uh... rate of syphilis for the city of Wilmington was almost 50%.

Mims: Kinda' high isn't it? Even for that time?

George Thompson: Very high. But, the Shipyard uh... forced everybody that tested positive to be treated or they didn't work. And, they couldn't find work elsewhere. Once they had gotten a job... at the Shipyard, the Shipyard had to turn them loose and uh... Dr. Davis who later was uh... County Health Doctor... uh, that's C. B. Davis...

Mims: Ok.

George Thompson: Uh... he's the one that put that in, when they started the Shipyard.

Mims: Hmm... because I talked to Dr. Van Velsor (sp?) and part of the way he comes here is...

George Thompson: Oh, Van Velsor came about in 1950, somewhere like that.

Mims: ...but to take over a VD Clinic or something like that... he...

George Thompson: Do what?

Mims: I think he came because of the uh.. STD's. The uh... he was working some Clinic when he came down here.

George Thompson: Well, the Health Department had a...

Mims: Right.

George Thompson: ...a large Clinic. In fact, most cities did... I know... I can remember... when I was on Obstetrics, in Atlanta, we had a... once a week we had a Syphilitic Clinic for Obstetrics only and I'd get down there, I could, I don't know, I guess I was lucky, I could stick veins that other people couldn't. And, I'd end up sticking about one to two hundred that day, at the Clinic.

Mims: (laughter) Oh, my God.

George Thompson: ...giving them treatment for syphilis... that's just in the Obstetrics Section.

Mims: Hmm.

George Thompson: And... when you... we used to have to draw the blood and match and cross-match it, for giving transfusions. We had to do that ourselves. We'd find that, especially in the colored race, they would run almost 60 to 70% positive.

Mims: Wow.

George Thompson: So we'd... would have quite a few tests to run.

Mims: Hmm. Well, let's... let's backup for a minute. After you completed your Medical Training... um... you finished up in Atlanta, at Grady, where did you go after that?

George Thompson: Well, I was to go back and take over the Family Doctor's practice. And, uh... Grady Hospital appointed the Second-Year Residents, a week before Dr. Willhagen (sp?) died. And, that left me out. Otherwise, I would have stayed there and studied Obstetrics under Dr. McCord (sp?)... Bartholomew, who was tops in the Country, then. And, so I had to find some place else and I wanted more experience in Surgery and Obstetrics and I'd known about James Walker because a friend of mine, who was a student in the School, two years ahead of me, Interned there. So, my Senior Year, I came on up, to break from the study for examinations, at Christmastime. So... I came up and spent a couple of days with Dr. Hayes, who practiced down at Shallotte. But, then he went to Fairmont. And, I think his son is down at Southport, now... Dr.... James Hayes. I think that he looks like... his son.

Mims: Ok...

George Thompson: Uh... so... oh, gee, I lost...

Mims: That's ok, we're coming into uh... James Walker.

George Thompson: Oh yeah... so, I knew I could get the extra Surgery that I wanted. So I applied and got an appointment there. So, luckily, one of the men that Interned, when I came up to see Dr. Hayes there was... Resident... Dr. Politees (sp?).

Mims: Ok... I've heard his name before.

George Thompson: Yeah...

Mims: Uh... hmm.

George Thompson: He was a great (inaudible?)... had a stutter... I met him... Oh, we'd sit down there when I was around there... and talk. And, we liked each other. So, he grabbed me when the first guy walked in there and ten minutes after I walked in the Hospital I was scrubbing-up for an operation. So, he threw me right in to it.

Mims: Oh, my gosh!

George Thompson: And uh... then the War broke out in... uh... '41.

Mims: So when did you come to James Walker?

George Thompson: '41... '40! Came in '40.

Mims: Ok.

George Thompson: And, the War broke... I came July 1st, 1940.

Mims: Alright... so uh...

George Thompson: And, then the War, I think came, ... broke in uh... December '40.

Mims: I think it was '41... yeah.

George Thompson: And Dr. Politees was a member of the National Guard... so, he had to go. And Dr. Cosgrove (?) was still at James Walker, at that time. But, Cosley (sp?) didn't like Surgery. So they dumped it on me. So... that's when I got plenty of Surgery and all types.

Mims: That's what you came here for, right? (laughs)

George Thompson: I got what I came for. And, uh... the War broke out and I... I tried to get into the Navy for Medical School. I wanted to make the Navy my life.

Mims: Hmm...

George Thompson: I was turned-down for color blindness.

Mims: Really?

George Thompson: Red-green. Well, when the War broke out and they were hunting for Doctors, I came down and reapplied... for the Navy. Again, they turned me down for color blindness. I thought they'd eliminate that since they had uh... Technicians to run your Laboratory work... instead of the Physician doing it. So... I applied and again I was turned-down for color blindness. And, then the Draft came out. Well, I examined for the Draft, as one of their volunteer Doctors. And then, uh... they started taking all the Doctors from there and they started hitting the older Doctors and I was one of the youngest ones there. In fact, I believe I was. Uh... I applied to the Army. They turned me down for "flat feet". (laughter) So, when the Air Force started hunting Doctors, I applied there. They turned me down for no good reason. Just turned me down. (laughter) And I reapplied to the Navy, again. This time I took... when they turned me down, I took the Waiver up to the President.

Mims: Like the President of the United States?

George Thompson: Yeah, like Franklin Roo... that was the procedure, the normal procedure. So, I got a letter back signed by Admiral... uh... oh... geez, names slip... he was Roosevelt's private Doctor.

Mims: Uh hmm.

George Thompson: "Under orders of the President, under no condition need I ever reapply to the Armed Services..." So I...

Mims: That's incredible... with the Draft and the need....?

George Thompson: I was wondering what happened?

Mims: Yeah. Now, during World War I, Roosevelt was Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

Mims: Uh hmm.

George Thompson: My Dad was a Commander, stationed in Charleston.

Mims: Uh hmm.

George Thompson: He was in a group of Masonic members of the uh... Navy who were hunting spies because Ger... Charleston's a big German center. They caught two to three spies, down there. Wilson called him to Washington and he put my Dad in charge of spying, down in Charleston, and he told... gave him a special number to call and he'd have immediate access to Wilson. Or, any time he came to Washington to see him, he had immediate access. Well, Roosevelt had to get in line. Roosevelt found out about it. He and my Dad crossed.

Mims: Hmm.

George Thompson: Roosevelt wanted to kick him out but he couldn't because Congress gave my Dad his Commission. And, Congress wouldn't listen to Roosevelt. And, when I applied he remembered the name and initials and I'm named for my Dad.

Mims: Hmm.

George Thompson: And, I got that letter back and I got it back within less than a week after I mailed the Request for a Waiver. I've still got the letter.

Mims: Do you? Love to make a copy of that. That would be kind of interesting to have about.

George Thompson: Yeah. I've got the Letters of Recommendation uh... that were sent to the Navy from the uh... Professors that taught me. So, I kept those. Those were the only ones I received back from any of the Hospitals I applied to for Internship.

Mims: Well see, this helps a lot because I thought they took everybody during a time of war. I mean they found some place for somebody in time of war that... especially with a Physician. I would have thought they'd jump right on that.

George Thompson: Well, they use color blind, they use them even today to read camouflage. Pictures uh... You know, aerial photos...?

Mims: Right. Mm hmm.

George Thompson: ...a color blind person can see through the camouflage and can pick it out.

Mims: Hmm... So what did you do during the War?

George Thompson: Uh... I continued to practice in Wilmington. And, when I left James Walker, Dr. Davis was working at the Shipyard at that time. Uh... he contacted me and I started working out at the Shipyard, part-time, with him. I worked out at the Shipyard 7 - 8 hours a day and then had my own Private Practice, too, with the understanding that if I had an emergency that I could leave the Shipyard and go there. And, so I stayed there until the Shipyard closed and meantime I was building up my own Practice.

Mims: Uh hmm. Where was your Office located?

George Thompson: Uh... in the Murchison Building. You know where that is?

Mims: Uh hmm.. several other Doctors...

George Thompson: A lot of people don't know. Its not called that anymore. But uh... it was there and I stayed there until about... oh... in the uh... the middle-Fifties when Dr. Pickard closed his Office. It was... his Office was behind Andrews, on 17th Street. He closed it and went to work in an Emergency Room. And, I bought it... his Office and moved-out of the Murchison Building and stayed there until I retired in '89.

Mims: So you never moved-out towards um... closer to New Hanover Hospital, when that got built?

George Thompson: Do what?

Mims: You never moved towards New Hanover Hospital?

George Thompson: Yes, I did.

Mims: Oh, you did?

George Thompson: See, they moved from James Walker to New Hanover in '67.

Mims: Right. But your Office stayed where it was?

George Thompson: Oh, my Office stayed where it was.

Mims: Ok.

George Thompson: But, I was on the Staff at James Walker from... I was on the Intern Staff and then the Attending Staff, right from the time that started when I came in 1940.

Mims: Wow.

George Thompson: And I'm still on the Honorary Staff.

Mims: So that's almost fifty years of service?

George Thompson: Yeah.

Mims: Long time. You saw a lot of changes, too?

George Thompson: I delivered over 5,000.

Mims: Holy cow! Do you know how many Surgeries you performed?

George Thompson: (shakes head)

Mims: Lost count.

George Thompson: I never attempted to count it. I got pretty good training... Dr. George Johnson, was a leading Obstetrician, in the State. And, he took a liking to me and any time he wanted anything, he'd ask me to do it for him... which I was glad to do it because I got experience by somebody that knew. And, Dr. Joe Hooper, the old one... old Dr. Hooper.

Mims: The Urologist? Not...

George Thompson: He was a Surgeon.

Mims: A Surgeon.

George Thompson: One of the top Surgeons I've ever seen. He and George Johnson were partners.

Mims: Uh hmm.

George Thompson: Now, this Joe Hooper whose a Urologist, that's his son.

Mims: Ok.

George Thompson: He's named for him. Now, old Dr. Hooper was about as tall as I am. Now Dr. Hooper's wife, he'd have to look up like that. (gestures upward with his eyes) (laughter)

Mims: Did you ever work with the Nurses, did you ever do instructions for the Nurses?

George Thompson: Yes, my uh... let's see... it was the Second Year at James Walker, I taught Orthopedics to the Nurses. But, uh... I and the Nurses got along quite well. If anything went wrong... I found it wrong... I told the person that did it. I didn't go... like some of the Doctor's did... they'd go to the Head Nurse, Superintendent of Nurses, and "raise hell". If I had anything to say, I said it to the Nurse and that was the end of it as far as I was concerned.

Mims: It must have been...

George Thompson: Now, my wife, my first wife, she was a damn good Nurse.

Mims: Really? Did she go to James Walker?

George Thompson: She graduated Medical College, School of Nursing.

Mims: Oh, ok.

George Thompson: I met her just before she finished her training.

Mims: Well, uh... the Nurses must recall you fondly because when you were up here for that Alumni Meeting they were... everybody... I saw you get a lot of hugs from these Nurses, so...

George Thompson: Yeah.

Mims: So, I guess you weren't too... too mean to them.

George Thompson: I used to kid them all the time. And, they'd kid me back. But, if anything I could do for them, I did..

Mims: What about other Physicians? I know there was, early on, was a Medical Society established in Wilmington. When you came on board, did you join that?

George Thompson: I joined that as soon as I... uh... as Interns we were invited to their Meetings. And, then when I left there, on my own, I applied for Membership to the County Medical Society and to the State Society, and the AMA. And, after that, the Society of Medicine I joined... when they formed the American Academy of Family Practice, back in '49. I applied for that. I'm one of the Charter Members.

Mims: Really?

George Thompson: And, I uh... I belonged to the uh... Industrial Physicians for a while. But, I didn't get anything out of that so... I let that drop.

Mims: Membership in these Societies is not particularly social? It's more of a way to network?

George Thompson: Well, it was originally founded for education and it gradually sneaked into Society which it couldn't help but being associated there together where you sit down and have a meal together... you're going to socialize. Like when we started, I can remember back then, old Dr. Hooper and Dr. Johnson uh... came to me... or rather we were talking and they brought it up... introduced having a "Highball" (laughter) before dinner.

Mims: Ok. (laughs again)

George Thompson: Back then, whiskey was hard to come by. I used all the coupons I could get, legally, and I'd buy the whiskey and I had it in "Stock & Kiss" (?)... somebody wanted "House of something..." So, Dr. Hooper asked me, "Got any whiskey?". I told him, "Yep." So, he said, "Let's get... let's start having a drink before we eat." (laughter) So, I went out to the car and got a "fifth" I had in there. I had just bought that evening and uh... Dr. Hooper got one down at the "Wilmington Men's Club". Do you know where that was?

Mims: Yes, "The Cape Fear Club".

George Thompson: Yeah, "The Cape Fear Club". We were there and after that started... uh real socializing. It broke up the... groups. Everybody became human (laughs). (laughter) Of course, when they brought down the Speakers, for the day, for the evening... they didn't do that elsewhere in the State. And, they wondered how come it wasn't such a clannish meeting? So, they found out, after they'd had a drink or two, that... they broke down that barrier.

Mims: That's probably why it succeeded.

George Thompson: And then, that continued and then now it started having a Symposium in Wilmington. Started right after the War ended.

Mims: Mm hmm.

George Thompson: Down at "Lumina".

Mims: Was this like an Annual Meeting?

George Thompson: Do what?

Mims: Annual Meeting with Speakers?

George Thompson: An Annual Meeting with Speakers and we had worldwide speakers come in. They came in just to be friendly (?) from the schools. We had Dr. Charlie Mayo come twice. From The Mayo Clinic... one of the Founders. And, uh... a fellow from New Orleans, uh... I forget his name he was known for Cardiac and, uh... oh, gee... what's the diabetic one that discovered insulin? We had him come down and uh... there's a couple of others in there... out of Chicago... one of the big Surgeons from up there, he came twice. Uh...

Mims: Well, let me ask you, in your time... did you go to any of the other Hospital facilities here... like Community Hospital?

George Thompson: I... I... I felt about this... with going to other Hospitals... but... took my Patients to James Walker because uh... at that time, Cape Fear Hospital was run as a private Hospital...

Mims: Bullocks...

George Thompson: ...by Dr. Mebane and Sinclair. And Bullock. Well, that... I uh... I started taking a couple patients there in to Bullocks... I just didn't like it. It wasn't... you couldn't get what you wanted when you needed it. So, I uh... just stuck to James Walker. And, with Obstetrics you can't be two places at one time. You can't be at two Hospitals. And, I... I delivered my own every chance it came. I didn't get anyone. I wasn't one much for traveling. I would relieve for the other Doctors, when they'd go on vacation. But, uh... a lot of them wouldn't relieve for me. A lot of them didn't like Obstetrics is the reason. Well, if they didn't like it they're not going to do a good job. So, I accepted it. That's why I say that Medical School should teach General Practice to start with. No chance of "Specializing" until after you learn the body. Anybody could learn part of the body. You could learn it. But, it takes a darn good person to learn the whole body! And I don't care what they say, every part of the body effects all other parts of the body. They're interrelated.

Mims: Mm hmm.

George Thompson: ...And, you've got to know that interrelation. And, they don't teach... they don't teach Physiology, like they did. If you pay attention to the Physi... know the Physiol... Physiology, as it should be... then you can recognize something that's not proper.

Mims: Mm hmm.

George Thompson: Then you can understand and recognize uh... pathological Physiology. And, you can know that... the answer to that... that quick. Whereas, now they have to go have Laboratory work which only represents the condition of the blood at the time the blood was drawn. It can't give you the real facts that you need in many, many cases. But, you can diagnose it by a good physical examination, careful, and a damn good history and family history. And you can make the diagnosis much easier, quicker... and cheaper!

Mims: What you're saying I think rings true... about...

George Thompson: ... The reason...

Mims: ...The time that you spend with your Patients has changed.

George Thompson: Yeah. The reason that all this Lab work came in is because of the Lawyers.

Mims: And, third-party insurance, too, I mean...

George Thompson: Well, the Lawyers brought that on.

Mims: Mm hmm.

George Thompson: And I ... first insurance I got, on Practice, was $75,000 for $15 a year.

Mims: This is malpractice insurance?

George Thompson: Malpractice.

Mims: Mm hmm.

George Thompson: And, last big insurance, I got a million dollars... uh... last five or six years I was in practice, and it only cost $300. And, now that insurance will cost you damn close to $100,000. That's why the cost of medicine has gone high because of these unnecessary "wrong" suits brought on by Lawyers looking for money.

Mims: Well, I think that the trend, too, is that a lot of people don't want to have malpractice for delivering a baby so they're losing a lot of Obstetrics.

George Thompson: Because of the cost of it. The insurance... the average Doctor delivers about a hundred, two hundred babies a year. Some go up as far as three hundred. Uh... but uh... to pass that cost of insurance on them... it'd run a couple of hundred dollars, per baby.

Mims: Mm hmm.

George Thompson: Because of the suits.

Mims: Mm hmm. Well, when we talked to Dr. Bear (?) he said that he quit delivering babies when the insurance...

George Thompson: Exactly.

Mims: ...got up so high.

George Thompson: There was a damn good Doctor.

Mims: He sounded like he was good.

George Thompson: He studied under Dr. Novack (sp?) in John Hopkins.

Mims: Well, let me ask you about some of the other Doctors that we don't have with us. Like, Dr. Fales comes to mind. Do you remember Dr. Fales?

George Thompson: Dr. Fales? Quite well. When I ... first year I was in town, I would take over some night calls, make house calls for Dr. Fales and Dr... Dr. Fred Barefoot.

Mims: Mm hmm.

George Thompson: Do you know of him? He's Dr. Graham Barefoot's Brother.

Mims: Brother.

George Thompson: Yeah, he ended-up practicing uh... in Whiteville. He practiced here in town for a while and then he went to Whiteville.

Mims: Roxanne had talked about him a little bit... so.

George Thompson: Yeah.

Mims: ... because that's her Uncle. And, I think he had a Daughter that went to James Walker, too, or was Nurse or something?

George Thompson: I don't know... remember that part.

Mims: Ok. What other Physicians do you remember that..

George Thompson: Dr. Wattsfarthing (sp?)

Mims: I had heard...

George Thompson: ... John Evans. Bunny Hare (sp?).

Mims: He was a Urologist.

George Thompson: Urology.

Mims: Ok.

George Thompson: Uh, Joe Hooper worked with him before Bunny retired.

Mims: Mm hmm.

George Thompson: Dr. Hare graduated from the same school I did.

Mims: Hmm. The Nurses... in some of the Nurses' interviews... they talked about Dr. Hare before.

George Thompson: Yeah. And uh... Dr. Sidbury... Dr. Joe Knox. Uh... Dr. John Evans. Donald Koontz.

Mims: Donald Koontz I've heard quite frequently... Surgeon?

George Thompson: He and old Dr. Hooper used to be quite rivals. But, they were rivals in a friendly way as well.

Mims: Mm hmm.

George Thompson: Dr. Jim Robinson. Charlie (?) Graham.

Mims: And, Jim Robinson... he was...

George Thompson: Surgery.

Mims: Right.

George Thompson: He was one of the top Surgeons in this area. He left here and uh... went down to Jacksonville... practiced down there. Oh uh... Dr. Robinson... I guess he was about 60 years old when he left here.

Mims: Really? What about Dr. Dosher? Did you recall...

George Thompson: Who?

Mims: Dr. Arthur Dosher. Do you remember him at all? He was down in Southport but I know he came up to James Walker some...

George Thompson: Uh... I knew of some down there some but I didn't know anything about it except... but I knew a Dr. Burdette (sp?). Now, he was two years behind me in School...

Mims: Mm hmm.

George Thompson: ...he was also a Fraternity Brother.

Mims: Um... you're also at that time where some Doctors... uh... were like Country Doctors...

George Thompson: Yeah.

Mims: ...you know... some of their perimeters areas and I didn't know whether you had any contact with them when the Patients had to come to the Hospital.

George Thompson: Uh, I had some contact with them but not much because they were, when I came, they were pretty well settled in sending their referrals to the older people.

Mims: Ok.

George Thompson: Now one of the other older Doctors, uh... Dr. uh... Crouch... Obstet... Pediatrician...

Mims: R. Lee (?) or the other one?

George Thompson: His Daddy.

Mims: Oh, really?

George Thompson: Yeah. R. Lee's Daddy.

Mims: I didn't realize that.

George Thompson: R. Lee's Brother was also a Pediatrician.

Mims: Right. But the Doctor... the Father was a Doctor, as well.

George Thompson: Yeah. He was a Pediatrician.

Mims: It's a lot. Many generations. So uh .... well, we're coming down to the end, here, and uh... didn't know... you said you retired in 1989?

George Thompson: Yes.

Mims: What was... what has life brought you since that period of time...

George Thompson: Do what?

Mims: Are you still involved in Medicine... since your Retirement?

George Thompson: Oh, I retired, not because I really wanted to. But, I got tired of these young Doctors telling Patients that I should have run Laboratory work. I didn't need to run it. I knew what was wrong because I was taught Medicine without Laboratory. And, uh... I sent many a Patient up to Duke for special reasons and the local Doctors didn't confirm what I sent. I didn't have any Lab work on them because I knew if I sent them to one of the local Doctors they were going to run Laboratory... even repeat it. So, the diagnosis I put on them came back from Duke.

Mims: Hmm.

George Thompson: And, the Doctors here couldn't understand why.

Mims: Did you uh... I know some of the other Doctors in their retirement, they've come and done volunteer kind of stuff. Like Dr. Tiddler (sp?) still reads EKG reports.

George Thompson: Yeah.

Mims: Did you do anything still to practice?

George Thompson: Uh... as far as calling them in for a conference, I called them in for a while but got absolutely no help.

Mims: Really?

George Thompson: Now, whether it was intentional or not, I don't know. That's only just wondering why no help when they were supposed to be Specialists and limited practice, but uh... I got no help at all about it.

Mims: Hmm.

George Thompson: Now, old Dr. Fales, he used to come to me about medicines. Now, I knew the function, the action of drugs because back when I came along we had to compound and write up prescriptions... what was in each one. Had to know the action of drugs in the body. And, I knew that stuff and I knew it inside out. And, he'd... I'd used to... he'd come to me and ask what was good for this and that. I tried a lot of new drugs around here that other Doctors still don't use, I used back then to treat for... one example that hits me is Shingles.

Mims: Mm hmm.

George Thompson: I could knock Shingles out in 48 hours. It'd take the rest of them six to eight weeks... because I used a drug that was used in Africa for it and it was available here on prescription.

Mims: Hmm.

George Thompson: But, it wasn't used for Shingles, it was used for something else.

Mims: Is it herbal-type medicine?

George Thompson: Do what?

Mims: Was it herbally based?

George Thompson: No. Flagyl.

Mims: Really?

George Thompson: You've probably heard of that.

Mims: Mm hmm.

George Thompson: That's the drug that works. 500mgs twice a day for three days and then the Shingles are gone.

Mims: Interesting. Yeah, John has a question for you.

Osinski: Doctor, I have one question for you. At the beginning of the interview...

George Thompson: Do what?

Osinski: ... At the beginning of the interview, you said someone told you... you would never be a Doctor?

George Thompson: Oh, that was the uh... the Advisor in High School.

Osinski: Do you remember why he told you that?

George Thompson: No, he never said why.

Osinski: (laughs) Just curious as to who told you that and then you proved them wrong.

Mims: After practicing Medicine for fifty years, I guess you did prove them wrong.

George Thompson: Well, I was the first one in my class in Medical School to be accepted.

Mims: Well, you've had an incredible life and I really appreciated you coming in and talking to us, today. You've given us a depth of information that we did not have before. I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time and talking to us.

George Thompson: Well, I'll tell you another drug that's very effective but they don't use. It's the treatment of prostatic cancer. I had uh... three members of one family came down with prostatic cancer. One of them had already had metastasis over his entire body.

Mims: Oh!

George Thompson: He happened to be a good friend of mine. He was a farmer. He came to me with tears in his eyes. He'd been told he less than six months to live. And, he wanted to know if I could do anything for him? I told him there's something I can give you but I won't guarantee it because the people around here will frown upon it. But, I'll give it to you and you can take it with... what else. So, he says, "Ok." I told him, "It'll run you about a hundred dollars, a month." But, he got and took it. Six months later, he went back to the same Doctor that told him he didn't have any time to live. He couldn't find any evidence of prostatic cancer in his body.

Mims: Even though it had metastasized?

George Thompson: Cleared it up, completely.

Mims: Wow! What was that? (laughs)

George Thompson: They use the same drug for Parkinsonism. Now, its a viral drug. Now you're going to find out. You'll see some more of it. Right now, they're showing that cancer of the cervix, that it's a viral infection.

Mims: Virus. Right.

George Thompson: Well, I've always held that is was a virus...

Mims: Mm hmm.

George Thompson: ...right from the very start. And uh... So... and Parkinsonism is a viral disease cause they can't find the cause of it.

Mims: Mm hmm.

George Thompson: And, viruses are so small you can't find them. And, they'll disappear completely and come right back. Uh, it's uh... Symetrol (sp?) is its name. Now that will uh... clear viral infections up, especially in the throat.

Mims: Hmm. I've never heard of that, before.

George Thompson: These people that have chronic sore throat...

Mims: Right.

George Thompson: It's a virus infection. And, you can... it'll flare up... you look in their throat real good... its an entirely different look from that of a bacterial infection. Looks like velvet. Pale pink velvet... in the throat. You put them on Symetrol and its out at three days. Markedly improved.

Mims: Very interesting! Well, we've got to cut the tape, now. We're...

George Thompson: And another drug...

Mims: Well, we're going to have to turn off the tape.

George Thompson: Oh, ok.

Mims: We've run out of tape.

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