Oral History Interview with Dr. Eugene A. Stead


Part 1




William E. Laupus Health Sciences Library

Oral History Transcript

Date: September 15, 2000

Narrator/s: Dr. Eugene A. Stead and Mrs. Evelyn Stead

Interviewer: Ruth M. Moskop

Transcriber: Patricia Kinlaw, SAHS

Copyright 2000 by East Carolina University. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from East Carolina University.

Eugene A. Stead - EAS
Evelyn Stead - ES
Ruth M. Moskop - RM

RM: Say, "Good afternoon!" BAS: Good afternoon.

RM: My name is Ruth Moskop, and I'm here in the Health Sciences Library at East Carolina University on the afternoon of September 15, 2000. I am about to have the privilege of recording an interview with Dr. Eugene Stead and his wife, Evelyn. Dr. and Mrs. Stead, do I have your permission to record this interview?

EAS: Yes.

RM: Thank you so much. We have had a wonderful beginning to our day here. You brought a collection of beautiful books on the history of medicine - the history of medicine classic series- to our library. We understand that you would like this collection to be made available to physician assistant students, in particular.

EAS: We would.

RM: I am very curious about your interest in the physician assistant program and your close association with that program, in fact. (1:04)

EAS: Well, my children are down there in Florida. They are like all other children. They are not always like I would like them to be, but I love them just the same. And I will incline, as the years go by, to be better known for my role in the development of this program than for any other ventures that I've had a part in.

RM: And you've had a part in many important ventures.

EAS: I've had my share of them anyway.

RM: You have always had an interest- a keen interest- it's an ongoing interest in medical education and training of physicians. You did something rather renegade back in the 40's at Emory University. You made a suggestion and got called on the carpet for it. (2:02)

EAS: I examined what education had to offer our young students and part of that was for examining the past just so we wouldn't make the same mistakes, hopefully, that we had made before. Part of it related to earning a living, and medicine, of course, was developing professional skills. A large role of education is just to be able to enjoy the world better. Now each of us has brains, which accumulate and handle different types of information. I've always regretted the fact that I've never gotten any satisfaction from any form of music. Many of my colleagues have found music to be one of the delights of their existence. I wish I would have been able to open this district in me, but my brain simply was made in different ways.

RM: You have many other talents. You have broad visions and a truly adventurous spirit. (3:20)

EAS: Well, I've always been interested in how people learn and what they did with their learning. When I was a student assistant in the biology department at Emory, that is the way I earned my tuition. And I was active enough in what the students in the biology department were doing that I was in somewhat in the region of always called professor from the beginning of my professional existence. And in particular, called me professor (inaudible). For some reason, that name kind of stuck. When I became professor of medicine at the age of 33 at Emory, obviously the notions of the young professor was somewhat different from the older professors. And I looked at what the student did in those early formative years. He was kind of exploring what the world was like. Books, professors, and schools were one of the ways to make the inspiration. But I always thought that the student should be engaged in essentially what he wanted at that time to be engaged with. And I thought of the general notion that you went to school in a prescribed way of four years of high school and four years of college and four years, if you are going into medicine, medical school, and then four years of graduate work. And eventually, when you are getting old, you begin to look at the real world of how you got married and how you earn a family and got paid for doing something that you used to do for fun. And it seemed to me that there was really never enough freedom in the system and that one would do better to let the student do what he wanted to do and then when he had accomplished that, let him go out and look at the real world. And maybe he would discover there were lots of things he didn't know and he would like to come back and learn them. But I always thought when the student wanted to do something, he did it very, very well and when the faculty just wanted him to do something, he didn't do it very well. I had a talk to the Fulton County Medical Society. That was the main medical organization in Atlanta at the time. So, I threw out these kinds of ideas about education and I said there was no reason that in two years the individual could not explore most of the things that he wanted to explore and maybe he could go to medical school earlier. And I said, this would have a tremendous advantage to do it earlier, because he not only left out the time in medical school, but he'd also save the money by not spending it in those two years of college that he didn't really want before he went to medical school. And I thought the medical school would discover that many students had gotten what they wanted at a very much earlier time than four years. And it would be much better to let them go out in the real world and do things and maybe they would discover that the medical school had more to offer than they thought and they might come back. Now I was interested in the more flexible arrangement when you came to school and tried something else and came back to school. And I was interested in the fact that you could leave anything out that you wanted if you also left your time in. It was my way of thinking if you dido't go to medical school but two years, you then would have two extra years in which you could always come back and do what you now have discovered you now wanted to do. And that this would be a much more fun way to go to school. Somehow this got picked up by the Atlanta newspapers. I gave the talk on Friday and it came out of the Sunday newspaper that this young radical professor was going to shorten a lot of things and give the students a lot more freedom and the school a lot less money, and whatnot. And so on Monday morning, I got a call from the President of the University, who said, "Young man, I would like to see you immediately in my office." And I said, "I haven't had breakfast and I doubt that you have. Why don't we just meet for breakfast?" He said, "I don't have the slightest interest in breakfast. I just want you here." When he got there, he said, "Young man, I'm going to teach you some of the facts of life. And you are going to either learn these facts or leave Emory." He said, "Do you realize that three-quarters of our students in the college" this was before women were in the college - "come to Emory because Emory has a reputation of being one of the few southern schools that can get most of their graduates in medical school? And if you begin to interfere with this source of income, Emory has no other comparable source of income, it would destroy the school. And I just want to let you know that if you ever express any ideas which will reduce the tuition that the students pay to Emory, you will no longer be a member of our faculty." (9:53)

RM: You've got quite a story.

EAS: This was during the early years of the war. I didn't particular like the tone of voice or the way it was handled. But in the end, I knew this was my first professorship and I better keep it for a little while. So I knuckled under it and simply said, "You win and I will keep my mouth shut." I still believe that is the best way to go to school.

RM: You have initiated one very important project- very important training opportunities for people interested in careers in healthcare. How did your interest in the physician assistant program originate? (10:45)

EAS: Well, it was probably the interest in the way that medicine has developed. To begin with, there was never a real reason why we had medical schools. In the end, medical education in this country has been very informal. And there were people, who felt for some reason they could do good for people, you know, kind of practice, informally, medicine. And other people that would like to do this came to them and said, "We would like to know what you know." And the doctors said, "If you would pay us a certain amount of money, we will teach you what we know." And so medical education in this country began on a non-university basis. The prerequisite for entering this area of activity was never defined. The surgical part of the evolving venture was delegated to the barbers. The barbers were the predecessors or ancestors of our surgeons, who of course looked down on us a little bit because we felt we were better than the barbers. We were the non-barber part of the profession. (12:08)

RM: The internist.

EAS: The internist. At least, the non-cutting doctors. The universities didn't know what to do with people that ... medicine in the end is a practical business in which somebody that has some health problem comes to see somebody who might help him with the health problem. And therefore, in order to teach medicine, you have to get your hands dirty with the population and do things that professors of Latin or English would not think of doing. And therefore, the general notion that these people might eventually be a part of the university system never crossed their minds and it never crossed the university to have any interest in them. But eventually the Germans began to put together a system of medicine in which they tried to define some of the real basis of medicine- what the doctor could do or what the doctor could not do- and began to incorporate it in some of the natural sciences, like biology, or chemistry, or pathology, and whatnot. And so there was a university model. A little bit developed in England, but primarily developed in Germany, in which the medical school had a curriculum and a faculty and a way of operation which was simply part of the university system. And eventually, because of that famous Flexner report which showed how bad the training of doctors was and the Rockefeller group said, "We will give money to those medical schools which we will take a hand in making medicine a university component." The practicing doctors had absolutely no notion what this was all about. The doctors that taught me in medical school always ridiculed what the professors did in the medical school. They say they have a lot of funny ideas and they had books and they do funny things, but they don't know how to take care of any sick people. It was fairly early determined that there was going to be a medical legal piece of medical practice in case it ever became more organized and more scientific. And so in the very beginning, the state said that it would like to have confident people that could take care of sick people. And that was very early they said that you had to get a license from the state. If you are going to say, "Now this more formal system you are going to practice, you have to be licensed." And since the university was afraid, you see ... it had to do with all kind of things. People didn't want to think about urine, or bowel movements, or sex, or men examining women, or all kinds of things that doctors did. The last things that a professor of Latin wanted to do or a professor of religion wanted to do was get messed up with that kind of stuff. So eventually you had to have a medical school if you were going to do anything because these people who were already in practice in the community had to have some hand in making other people learn what they knew. So essentially, most medical schools, most universities, when they adopted the medical school, essentially took this base of people already practicing medicine, a little formal education, and put them in the parts of the clinical activities of medical school. And they took the German models and said, "Let's have some scientists and teaching of the formative stages of medical students." But the practicing physicians of course derived at all this. When I came along in 1928, I was simply told that you had to go through this stuff in order to get yourself a medical license, for if you go through private teaching it will never do you any good. And the sooner you get to the real business of seeing sick people, the better off you will be. It would have been much better if we had never had any medical schools. It would have been much better if we would had evolved out of the sciences, which the university was more comfortable with it. Where they lost their feeling of comfort ... which when you had to be one man examining another woman ... you know these kind of things just weren't done until the universities designed it. And then people who don't know anything about sickness are very unhappy when they are put on this unconventional system of having to live with these people and work with them and do something. So universities essentially rejected the medical schools. And the doctors in practice simply didn't want the scientific portions to the medical school. But since nobody else would take it, we begin to have independent medical schools. And that was probably our first mistake. We would have been much better if we had started off within the universities, an integral part of the university. And since people don't know much about medical practice, we'll just kind of all start off with some sciences which relate to people. And then eventually evolve and actually do something about them and teach people. This was a very slow beginning. When I went to Emory Medical School, we had about ten paged scientists on what was called the pre-clinical faculty. When we got to the business of taking care of sick people, everybody practiced on charity patients, and then instructors in the practicing community would give a few hours a week to come down to the charity hospital and interact with the students. (19:13)

RM: I understand that you did cardiology research there.

EAS: But research...I was concerned on getting numbers that related to people. And therefore, the tools that we worked with were remarkably unsophisticated. And anything we did that we could put a number on was new. Look how simple the observations were. Previously the entire medical profession operated without anybody having any actual numerical values, which could be transmitted from one patient to another, or one group of patients to another. I started out with really no research training, but somebody was going to pay me for a couple of years and I was supposed to do research. I started out with very simple equipment and I made very simple observations. And they were very easy to get published. There weren't many places to publish it. But anybody that was going to publish it couldn't publish a complex paper because none of us were capable of writing a complex paper. So it's kind of a golden era for kind of interested people like myself to un-train any quantitative scientific discipline to enter the system and begin to do a few things to even put numbers to. Within three months after I started my first patient observation, I reminded one my colleagues, equally as ignorant as myself ... had produced our first paper to be published in the medical literature. And it was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, which was a premiere clinical investigative journal of our time. So we were writing for the best journal in the country, with no basic scientific training, simply because we had developed a few ways of putting functions in the body, giving them numerical value. So you could begin to think in terms of "did anything change?", "were all these people alike when you started?". But it was very simple and I say this was beginning to apply in numbers to all kinds of things. So it was a golden opportunity for myself, who in essence, never had any scientific training. (22:12)

RM: You have been interested in medical education for a long time and you have had lots of thoughts about it. How did it happen in the 1960's I believe that you adopted the idea of the physician assistant program?

EAS: Well, it was kind of interesting. Initially, of course, the practitioner of medicine operated all by himself. Then he got somebody that was practicing, developed to practice, he got some receptionist, and eventually he used to have a nurse in the operation. And they did everything in the practice. And it was a little bit like trying to build a house, which you had somebody who couldn't do very much because he couldn't pick up very much by himself. And the tools were so simple. You had some boards and a few nails. And you could build a very simple house. But if you wanted to build a more complex house, it would be nice to have a little glass so you could see outside the house. And if you discovered it was going to rain, it would be nice to have something that was called shingles that would kind of let the rain come down. And then when the rain began to come down, you discovered it would be nice to have a gutter to kind of channel the water off the house. And eventually, you begin to develop a fairly complex group of people that built a house. But in medicine, you didn't do that. The doctor, in the early days, nearly everybody did some surgery. Eventually, people found other ways to be more rewarding to them and discovered they weren't very good at this cutting business and begin to do other kind of things. And so general doctors developed, many who did know surgery and then other doctors who did a lot of the surgery begin to do less of the things that general doctors ... so specialization started at a fairly early time in the business. But I looked on the fact that as a doctor who had tasted through or essentially did certain things like taking x-rays, look at a blood sample. But he didn't have anybody that did what he did. He was all alone, and it was a series of things that in theory only a doctor could do. I thought very early that it would be very helpful if we had people who worked right with the doctor and he could do many of the things that he did. And in spite of the fact that theoretically an M.D. can do anything, practically. Of course that never happens. You live in a certain community and have to practice in a certain way. You have a schedule of how much time you can spend on each patient. You have decided whether you are going to handle complex medical problems or simple medical problems. And in the end, while you might do a great variety of very esoteric things. When you actually look at what a doctor does in practice, he develops certain skills which he reduces from a thinking level to a habit level. And essentially, he practices medicine within that habit. Now when you actually look at, despite of the fact that it took him fifteen years to become a doctor, when you look at which of the things he might have done, he selected trial and error. And then you discover, of course, that a large amount of his practice is repetitious. Any bright person that wants to begin to do the repetition work that he does, for in the long run they are just as well ...as narrow a basis as a doctor wi11 do it on and a much more general basis. So we thought that anything that was repetitive enough could be done with a surprising little amount of formal training, compared to what the general notion was that you had to have all this education to do this little block of work. So from the point of view of theory, the doctor, when he went into practice was always afraid he might not be successful. And therefore, any patient that came to him got highly individual treatment. And the doctor did everything. He was his own receptionist. Anything that touched the patient, he did. And eventually he did this because he wanted the patient to be so impressed with him. The patient would say that the doctor was certainly interested with me and took a lot of time and effort, and whatnot, and I was very appreciative...why don't you go see him? And before long, the doctor had brainwashed himself. And many of them still do not believe that a PA can do what he does. They simply, in their own way of entering practice, personalized their relationship with every patient. And anything which had to touch the patient- one human to another- only the doctor could do it. And they were willing to accept x-ray technicians because they really didn't do anything. They just took a picture and went home. But if you are going to touch a patient, draw some blood, or do a pelvic examination, or a rectal examination, or even an eye examination, only a doctor could do it. But it just so happened that medicine had developed a whole lot of procedures and techniques which the doctor was beginning to do that was making the day fall very long. It was a time when people were beginning to say doctor's should have continuing education. Dean Davidson came to me and said, "I've never liked the way you did anything and I think your appointment was one of the three mistakes I made." The other two happened to be a man named Phil Hanler and the other was (inaudible) Woodall, a neurosurgeon, and myself. But he said, "I have to admit that students seem to like you and I don't understand why they do. And you seem to get results and I would like you to begin to take a hand and position and practice education as well as student education." And I said, "Well I'm not going to do it unless you do something." If you look at the situation, there are not enough doctors who are doing everything that other people could do without being trained to do, and the doctor is always tired. That is the characteristic thing about the practicing physician. And when he goes to any educational venture, he does one of the two things - he goes to sleep or he says I've got a little freedom. And he goes and swims and courts the next-door lady, and whatnot. But he doesn't get anything out of the continuing education. It simply does not work. I said, "Unless you can put time into the system, unless you give me a group of physicians who can take the day off and not go to sleep or not feel that this is a ... their freedom is so restricted that they've got to not do what you've given the day off for, I'm not going to touch the system." So we carried on a dialogue for a little while and the Dean said, "That is ridiculous." And I said that I would not move without it and we just sat still for a year. But the Korean War had ended and there were now more things for the doctor to do. And the more things that came which would normally be within part of their doing, the less time he had and the more tired he was. And then the people in the army had discovered rather quickly that you didn't need all that education to at least put a tunicate on a arm that was bleeding and stop the blood from running out. And Kennedy was very interested in caring physicians who could function behind the lines in Vietnam and elsewhere. This was one war before Vietnam. And therefore, he developed what were called Green Berets. One of the components of Green Berets specialized services in the army was the corpsmen. And the corpsman was taught to do emergency medicine behind the lines because in the gorilla warfare, which was essentially what we were fighting at the time, there wasn't any sure-fires. You never knew who was going to be hurt or killed, or at what place. And therefore, you could not depend on just having MDs because there were not enough of them and if you kill off the first group, you know you had trouble. He had to have a backup to the system, in which the military began to give short intensive courses in how to take care of sick people in the injury world. Many of these people became highly competent in what they did but when they left the army they had no way to profit. There was no civilian outlet for this kind of training doing what doctors did for people who didn't have an MD degree. And while individual doctors who could manage their patient well, they had always had trained personnel who did what they did. But there were not many of them, and if that doctor died, the people he had trained would not have anybody else to go to. In other words, there was no formal system to produce a group of people who could go from one area of the country to another area of the country and people would know that they were a person with professional confidences and he could do the same things in Oregon as he did in North Carolina. So essentially, what we did was to say, "Why don't we admit that we are throwing away the training of these people that the army is giving them up to a certain point, why don't we take the job of adapting that training to civilian medicine. And we are going to do something that physicians have never done. We are going to begin to train people to be a part of our organization, not a part of the hospital, or not a part of the x-ray technical service, or whatnot. These are going to be people who could handle the hands-on work to patients in a kind of relationship that only doctors have had before." (34:46)

RM: Dr. Stead, when you say "we", who were the some of the people you were collaborating with on this venture?

EAS: They were purely good people. I got a little help Mike Dibackie and I were on the National Heart Council at the time. And I gave Mike a hand in his desire to establish computerization of the medical library. And he gave me a hand in persuading people that this wasn't a totally goofy idea and he would like to see it explored. And the first time the title of 'physician assistants' appeared in a White House conference, which had been chaired by a man named Kogashel, which I happened to be a member of the conference - and the description of the recommendations or the discussion of that conference, the name 'physician assistant' began to appear and it always had the name, Stead, beside it. I was a peculiar person since I operated, essentially, in the intellectual areas in which people were much better educated than I was. I never had too much respect for degrees. I've operated all my life on an Emory degree and a Georgia medical license, which I've used to reciprocity tore-license in North Carolina. That is my only... there is the paper of my award. I'm not a cardiologist, a gastroenterologist, or whatnot. I'm just Gene Stead. So when we started the PA thing, I looked at how much education you had to have. I went back to my Emory experience and I said you have to want to take care of sick people. That is the first thing we've got to find. If you are willing to put up with the irrationality- all sick people make demands that don't make any sense when you are well and therefore, you've got to say to people when they are not functioning normally because of illness, they can make irrational demands on me, and I will not get mad. And I will accept the irrationality and deal within the system, which is quite different from how you deal with things if you are running a business. So we started on the other basis of high school equivalency, or high school degree for the people we wanted to train. Now actually, that was a good selection because these people had been through many, many kinds of experiences that a college graduate is never going to go through. And then mastered survival -they had won. (38:00)

RM: These were your corpsmen.

EAS: These were our corpsmen and we did not require any college experience. And the PA system would have been equally successful if we had never required any college, what we ran into was that these people...we had finally decided, that in spite of the fact that they had had very extensive practical experience in the world, they had really very little understanding why these practical experiences actually helped their sick people. And we decided from the very beginning that they had to have some knowledge of how the body really works and what was the science underlying medicine. And we finally decided they really had all that practical experience and the certain sense they need in emergency medicine, but they haven't had any experience in just taking care of ordinary people who had ordinary complaining. We finally decided on a two-year curriculum. So then one year it was going to be science, not taught by scientists, but taught by practicing physicians. And we were going to then have one year of apprenticeship in which these students would spend time in various portions in medical practices, mostly taught by people in practice interested in having better help. And we generally got those services free. Nobody else wanted these people but us. But time has really come in which the practice of medicine- just like I said about building a house, you simply needed more components to the system in order to do what needed to be done. And no amount of trying to put more load on people who already had their load wasn't going to work. You somehow had to increase the competence of the group and lighten the load. And once you do that you could begin to do post graduate education with doctors because they were not sleeping. And our model at the time was ask the wife of a man, whoever has one, or a doctor who has one, and for the wives of the university on our side. (40:37)

RM: Now what kind of certification did that leave you with in the physicians assistants program? Was it a bachelor's degree?

EAS: No. We just said, "You are now physician assistants." See, we started with three people in the first class. We were not a big organization.

RM: The graduating class was three people?

EAS: The graduating class was three people. Well, we had two other people that had continued working at something and therefore, instead of two years, took them four years. So we actually had five people in some of the classes, and three people in another.

RM: Do you remember what year those three people graduated?

EAS: It's written down.

RM: Approximately.

EAS: It had to be in the early 70's. We had to do some political work. The doctors didn't know what an assistant was because they had never thought about it. And if you would ask them could an assistant do what he does today, they would have laughed at you and say that nobody that was not a doctor could ever do that. (41:47)

RM: Oh, of course.

EAS: But it's perfectly obvious that they could and did and have. The older grade got the first students. It's because they took a pure gamble. The nurses didn't want them, the hospital administration didn't want them, and the medical school didn't want them. Just Gene Stead wanted them. And they were willing to take the gamble and say, "Okay we don't want to be truck drivers. We've had this period to grasp experience in the war. We think we've learned a great deal and done things and we want an outlet in the civilian world for the skilled who began to learn, and we don't want to be truck drivers, or whatnot. We really want to do something about taking care of people."

RM: Did you get to see the program grow there at Duke?

EAS: Oh yeah, we've always been number one.

RM: Number one from the beginning. (42:44)

EAS: Well we still are. If you would look at the national rating of medical schools, the only thing that Duke is number one year after year is the physician assistants program.

RM: I know you are very proud of that, with good reason.

EAS: Yeah.

RM: I know I appreciate the physician assistants that I see when I need healthcare.

EAS: Everybody does.

RM: I would like to ask you a little bit about your career as an editor. You've had a very illustrious career editing circulation, I believe, and also the North Carolina Medical Society journals.

EAS: But you see, I'm not a, I'm really not a card-carrying cardiologist. I've done quite a lot of work in just how when your hands get hot and cold, or how you sweat, and these kind of things, but I've never really practiced cardiology. I've just always, when I've had time from other kind of things, I just saw whoever wanted a doctor if I happened to be around. I honestly believe that over time, the only way you can do specialized medicine is nearly entirely by habit. You don't have time to think originally about every new patient you see. You've got to say this is what I did to the last patient like this and it looks like to me like they are pretty much the same. I will do the same thing over. If the patient doesn't complain, that's fine. If he does complain, I'm going to have to stop and think. But I'd rather think first because thinking costs a lot of money. There are no efficient thinking systems in the world. That's definition. (44:26)

RM: Let me ask you something. You were the editor of Circulation and I understand you had an editor's assistant, close at hand.

EAS: Yes I did. My wife is an excellent editor. In all the papers I've written that I felt were worth saving, she has always gone over them before I sent them, even if they were my own publications.

RM: Evelyn, what did you make it ... tidy? The doctor said he would take care of contents...

ES: Well, I suppose I did tidy it up. I checked for spelling, punctuation, and whether it made sense.

EAS: Now that was one of the things I was a great component of. I honestly thought if you really understood what you were trying to do, you ought to be able to write that in English, which anybody that had a good comprehension in English would know what you had written. Therefore, Evelyn could tell me that this is incomprehensible, go do something. So really, I have nearly always had my medical writings simple because I believe if you truly understand it, you could make it where anybody in the English language and a dictionary should be able to figure out what you are saying. There will be some words that you have to look up, but the general notions of what you are trying to say should eventually make enough sense so nearly everybody knows what you are saying. She was very helpful in keeping me ... (46:10)

RM: Keeping you down to earth.

EAS: I tell you what I did when the circulation obviously could not find an editor, so they came to see me. [Tape Ends]. I said, "Well, I've got time to do it, so I'll do it if you accept my limitations." I said, "First you've got to remember I'm not a card-carrying cardiologist, and I'm interested in a wider scope of biological problems that the average cardiologist is cause I've got more time than he has. And, therefore, things will begin to appear in the cardiology journal which you kind of think are a little queer, and think, "I wonder why that's cardiology", I said, "I don't have any apologies for this but I don't want to edit the journal unless I have this freedom." I had a superb support system at home and I had a superb support sytem in the office. See, I'm one of those believers that everybody should be able to make a first mistake, but only the privileged can make a second mistake - it was the same thing, why should you? If you cannot make any mistakes, you can't do much. But if you keep making the same mistake, you better get rid ... (47:41)

RM: In your support system, you said you've had a very easy life because you said you've had a wonderful support system, and that played back into your physician's assistants.

EAS: It does. I've always wondered how intelligent I was because I had relatively little schooling. And I've never honestly been able to figure it all out because I've always somehow drawn around me very intelligent people.

RM: Isn't it wonderful?

EAS: Well, there's no use for me to be very intelligent. I just had to sit and watch.

RM: You have a very broad vision and I think in every circle you've worked that's been a big contribution, and that sort of presupposes a lot of native intelligence. (48:34)

EAS: Well let me tell you my final interviews with the circulation committee. They said, "You've got to put up with the fact that I'll publish things you want to publish, two, I'll clear the office everyday"... this was a peer review journal that means that nothing can be put in the journal which has not been circulated to a select group of people to see whether they should be in the journal or not. In order to do that, you have to have a card list of who actually does review well and what kind of articles they would do well. And then you have to have a few dedicated people who on Sunday night I'd call up and say, "Look, we don't have this review in on time. This is an area of your competence. I want you to do this Monday morning." And they say, "I will do it for you, but don't ask me too often." And I say, "I will keep a record of all this and I will have the shortest turnover time of any major journalist. I will see that every article that comes in the morning and afternoon mail goes out on the mail the following morning to a person to give me back an evaluation of it. And that the applications to the journal wishing to use this means of communication, I will guarantee, will double in the first year. And then I've got one other thing that you're going to have to put with. If somebody comes out with a brand new original idea which is going to break some of the paradigm which everybody believes in, I will reject it like every other editor because that's been my experience. Every truly original idea I've ever put out has been rejected. (50:53)

RM: Oh my goodness.

EAS: They say, "Okay we'll buy you. We want you to do the journal for five years." I had a good time with it. I had a great staff. I had three associate editors and a manager and they were fun to work with. And then I produced some other managing editors. I insisted that everybody in the shop learn to do something they didn't know. Therefore, we had a secretary ... every week she had to have one article which she wrote to initial the evaluation of, and who was going to review it. And that had to be approved by the chief managing editor. They simply said, "That wastes our time and we don't want to do it." I said, "It produces the manpower we are going to need when you leave, and if you don't want to do it, you don't work in this shop." Nobody left. (52:00)

RM: You convinced them.

EAS: That was fun. I enjoyed it.

RM: Something else you have enjoyed, I think, is history.

EAS: Well, it's kind of an interesting thing. I was interested in history, in general when I grew up. I've always loved historical novels. I clearly, initially, learned conventional history, which was mostly presidents, big meetings ... and I ran into a much better educated person than myself. He went to undergraduate school at Hopkins and the medical school at Hopkins. He watched that I was interested in history, and he said, "You know, you've got a funny way to think about history." He said, "There is a big book written by Dorothy and Charles Spears and if you read that book, you'll see what history ought to be like." He said, "This is a history of how normal people live and what affects them, the way society is, what the industrial world is", which opened my eyes. I still have that book. I've never given it away. But I was not interested, particularly, in medical history as such. And I think this is a mystery related to some way as to how the brain ages. You really do get more interested in what went on before, I think, in general, as you get older. Certainly in medical school and I had a great interest in general history, but I had no interest at all in medical history. I don't know why, it's just ... you live through a lot of things and see the mistakes you make and try to learn a little bit from the past ... and then you begin to appreciate the number of ideas that you thought were your own you discovered. People long before had written it up better than you could write it up. And this was just a very slow development. My initial interest in history was general history. (54:29)

RM: I understand that you and Evelyn have a fascinating collection of lamps, for instance.

EAS: Well, and that just happens...I remember the first lamp we ever bought. And then we bought two little lamps and that was in the fall. And Evelyn gave me a book on lighting that Christmas. And this was the most expensive Christmas present I ever got. It costs me about $30,000.

RM: I hear you. The collection grew from that book, huh?

EAS: Yes. And it was fun. We've had our lighting period, so to speak. We don't travel like we used to travel and then we gave out of space one time, and then Evelyn is not as interested in taking photographs or writing descriptions for the catalog as she was. What was known about the lamp when we bought it, we have the information about any of the lighting books or periodicals we've had, which had anything that was related to this particular ... we have the price that we paid for it and it's all in several notebooks. (55:51)

RM: You have your own private lamp museum that is in better shape than most public museums.

EAS: But lighting is a relatively narrow ... we got caught just by accident. Like when you get your cat or your dog or canary, or anything else. But, it's given us lots of information. And then we selected other kind of things, like books that related to lighting. And we've got prints that are related to lighting. We have a lot of lighting things sitting around. But now since we've gotten old we don't have the energy we once had.

ES: Well, we don't travel. (56:47)

EAS: And we don't travel. We don't have any real personal ... we used to come home with nearly always some piece of writing. Since we don't go anywhere now, it's just a different time of life. Actually, I'd like to give that collection to somebody, but not in a since of somebody giving a collection in which I would like ... it's not like my books, which I really would hope they stay as a group. But the lighting, I'd simply say, since it's kind of an eclectic collection, you don't know which pieces of it go ... there is no need in anybody having lamps that don't go with the lamps they have.

RM: I see some symbolism here. You two are both great luminaries. Evelyn, particularly for your family. And you [Dr. Stead] for your medical professionals. All through your lives you've done that and I think your collection of lighting -artifacts- is sort of a reflection of that. (57:53)

EAS: I think this could be intelligently selected and the rest of it could be intelligently sold, not in one year, but over five years. I think it has the potential of being profitable, that whoever we gave it to, providing they understand that we look on this as a resource, in which they would like to pick out that particular piece or maybe just twenty pieces out of three hundred. In which, over time they'd like to see that the other lamps disappeared. And since they aren't paying for them and we are giving them to them. I don't think maybe many people look at things this way, but I think this is an eclectic collection. It doesn't have enough in any one area so that you could get all the things you might like to see if you took a narrower cut of things. (58:56)

ES: I think to some extent it's a history of life. We have a reproduction of Edison's first light.

RM: That's fascinating!

EAS: Well it's a reproduction. It's nearly all before electricity. We have very little in gas. I don't know how many people say ... when it was reproduced, I imagine most people lost... we have the original reproduction. I think if we could find the right group to give it to, I think they could have fun with it and they would not bear the responsibility of saying, "What is the donor going to say when we decide we are going to sell this?" (59:52)

ES: I think the collector should be delighted to have that in a place where people would benefit from it.

EAS: You've got to find somebody that will have some interest in lighting.

RM: Thank you so much for this interview today. Thank you for making this trip all the way from Bullock, North Carolina to Greenville. And thank you for sharing your books with us here in Eastern North Carolina. They will be on the shelves in a protective place because they have beautiful volumes, but in a place where they will be accessible.

EAS: But I wouldn't sweat it if somebody takes one and doesn't bring it back. But I think mostly they meant to bring it back and, mostly, I think they get something out of the book. I wouldn't be a really good librarian because my collection might be smaller after ten years than it was when I started, but I wouldn't cry about that.

RM: I know they will inspire many people to know more about the past.

EAS: Okay, we hope they do.

RM: Thank you. (1:01:00)


Title
Oral History Interview with Dr. Eugene A. Stead
Description
Dr. Eugene a. Stead was a physician and a professor at the Duke University School of Medicine. This interview gives insight into Dr. Stead's experiences as a professor at Emory Medical School and while setting up the Physician Assistant program at Duke. Also covered in this interview are memories of his service as an editor of "Circulation" and Dr. and Mrs. Stead's post-retirement activities. The information contained in this interview is relevant to the years 1920 to 2000. Approximately 62 minutes.
Date
September 05, 2000
Original Format
oral histories
Extent
Local Identifier
LL02.03.33.01
Creator(s)
Contributor(s)
Subject(s)
Spatial
Location of Original
Laupus Library History Collections
Rights
This item has been made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. Researchers are responsible for using these materials in accordance with Title 17 of the United States Code and any other applicable statutes. If you are the creator or copyright holder of this item and would like it removed, please contact us at als_digitalcollections@ecu.edu.
http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC-EDU/1.0/

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