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Robert Joy Glaser, MD


There are many of us—associates and friends of Bob Glaser’s—who appreciate the Pharos’ offer that provides a chance to share a few reminiscences about Bob. I may be one of the older characters to contribute something.

I had just turned 22 as a Washington University medical student in the fall of 1952 when we were told that our newly appointed Head of Microbiology, the soon to be famous Arthur Kornberg, would not arrive until the following spring and our laboratory course in microbiology (yes, every pre-clinical course had, in fact, a quite instructive laboratory course in those days) would be different. Any professor throughout the school who grew or had ever grown a microorganism for any remote “laboratory” purpose was dragooned into taking a student or two to teach them some practical microbiology. It was my great good fortune to visit, meet, and be accepted by Bob for my apprenticeship. At that time Bob was in charge of the streptococcal clinic and followed patients with sequelae of strep infections that were at the time still very prevalent. The full impact of the wide use of penicillin in reducing rheumatic fever and glomerulonephritis was just being recognized. Type 12 streptococci had just been fingered as a (? the) culprit in glomerulonephritis and in my three months in the lab I finally managed, just under the wire, to learn to grow, count accurately, and inject I.P. a non-lethal dose of type 12 strep.

Steve Morse, a student at the Albany Medical College, was interested in rheumatic heart disease and he transferred to Washington University after the second year to work with Bob. We teamed up. Rabbits have submucosal pharyngeal lymphoid patches that resemble tonsils and we crafted a bent tongue depressor gadget that allowed us to give the bunnies a strep throat. Repeated bouts of infections and recovery plus the expert pathological analysis of our collaborator, Professor William Thomas, revealed that we had indeed initiated some sort of reactive modules in myocardial tissue. Steve and I bragged and kidded Bob that we had gotten him his new promotion to Associate Professor.

I always remained in touch with Bob and he tried several times to recruit me, but as a country boy will do, I had become attached to the east coast by that time (New York in particular). I did however serve on advisory boards at his bequest both in Denver when he was Dean at the University of Colorado and later as a Lucille P. Markey Charitable Trust consultant.

I saw Bob and Helen many times on California trips and saw Bob fairly often in New York. He chaired a session at my 60th birthday symposium at Rockefeller University in 1990). I know what a crushing blow Helen’s sudden and premature death presented for him. In his declining years, at his Palo Alto apartment he and I always enjoyed reminiscing about “the old days” which by now really are old days. Needless to say his passing leaves an unbridgeable emptiness for me.

James E. Darnell, Jr., MD
Vincent Astor Professor Emeritus
Head, Laboratory of Molecular Cell Biology
The Rockefeller University
New York, New York

About a year after Bob came back to his hometown, St. Louis, Missouri, from Harvard, he succeeded me as chief medical service resident at Barnes Hospital. The service was headed by Barry Wood, MD, and his appointment was made by Washington University Medical School of St. Louis, the hospital affiliated unit of the medical school.

Bob and I were medically unfit for duty in World War II and I had been chief resident almost two years.

Our friendship was a real pleasure and lasted until he left for his appointment at Colorado Medical School. As opposed to my favorite drink, scotch, he consumed large amounts of Oh-So-Grape. My wife kept a large supply at all times.

Aside from his great medical accomplishments he was a great friend and added fun to all our meetings, on a social level.

We, medicine and the world have lost a great individual.

Llewellyn Sale, Jr., MD
Washington University 1940, AΩA and Sigma Xi
St. Louis, Missouri

I did not know Dr. Glaser personally, but he has had a major influence on the lives of my generation of physicians, including me. His role, when he was at Harvard Medical School as is described in the current Pharos, was as President of the Affiliated Hospitals Center, which was the evolving Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. It was a difficult time because of the issues related to consolidating two hospitals with the Brigham (the Boston Hospital for Women and the Rebert Breck Brigham Hospital), and this was one reason why he left after only two years. As the co-editor of the book, in preparation, on the centennial history of the Brigham (1913-2013), I shall certainly describe his role.

Dr. Glaser also moderated an AΩA tape on Soma Weiss, including Paul Beeson Richard Ebert, Jack Myers and Eugene Stead, in 1994. Soma Weiss was for many years a member of the Harvard Medical Services at the Boston City Hospital before he became the Physician-in-Chief at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in 1939. He is one of my medical heroes, both because I am a graduate and former staff member of this Service at the BCH (1963-1977) and because he is simply one of my heroes. This tape is a national treasure, thanks in large part to Bob Glaser's efforts.

Peter V. Tishler, MD
Brigham and Women's Hospital

I appreciated the article on Dr. Robert Joy Glaser. His middle name was fitting, as it was a joy to know him.

When I was twenty-eight, my father died suddenly. Because of this and getting to know Dr. Glaser through a four year grant, "The Psychiatric Aspects of Medical Practice," from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, he became an important mentor for me as a young faculty member at UCSF. In addition to being bright, he was sensitive and kind. I imagine that my being a member of AΩA helped us bond. Dr. Glaser—Bob—was supportive of my career in academic medicine and psychiatry. He encouraged me to accept an offer from Dr. George Engel to work with him at the University of Rochester Medical Center. I stayed in touch with Dr. Glaser and I recall how he enjoyed the book, Medicine as a Human Experience. I took pleasure in publishing articles in The Pharos, which he made an outstanding journal.

What remains with me from knowing Dr. Glaser is that he was a mensch and integrity-full.

David Rosen, MD
Affiliate Professor of Psychiatry
Oregon Health & Science University

Recollections of Bob and Helen date from their years in Boston when he was responsible for the rejuvenation of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and its merger with the Boston Lying-In Hospital. Helen meanwhile taught at the Children’s Hospital where she provided a bright focus on the psychosocial aspects of pediatric illness, a refreshing aspect not previously highlighted as it became under her influence. They both left indelible marks on the tradition-bound Harvard milieu and were sorely missed by many of us when they departed too soon.

Samuel Katz, MD
W.C. Davison Professor. & Chair emeritus
Department of Pediatrics
Duke University Medical School

I became an Honorary Member of Alpha Omega Alpha in 1988 undoubtedly through Bob's recommendation and have enjoyed reading through The Pharos over the years.

I came to know Bob when he came to Stanford as Dean in 1965 and I was a young Assistant Professor. We somehow became friends quite naturally through his engaging and positive personality. He signed all my annual promotions including to tenure as Associate Professor and then promotion to Full Professor. We left Stanford at the same time, in 1970, I to return to England, but kept in touch after that.

When I was Director of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London he came to visit me and George Stark when he was setting up the Markey Fellowship programme. More recently, when I have again been visiting Stanford more frequently we would meet from time to time, perhaps over dinner. Sadly the last time we met about two years ago he was already not at all well. He had a full and fulfilling life, but it is always sad, nevertheless when someone you have known like that passes away.

Sir Walter Bodmer FRCPath, FRS
Cancer & Immunogenetics Laboratory
Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine
John Radcliffe Hospital

I was sorry to learn of the death of Dr. Glaser. I was a medical student at the University of Colorado during three years of his deanship there, and I remember those years well. He was accessible to students and interested in our well-being. As a medical student, it was reassuring to know that the Dean had a personal interest in our education. Also, he began the transformation of CU Medical School into a nationally and internationally respected academic medical center.

Watson A. Bowes Jr., MD
U. of Colorado Medical School '59

I am saddened by the loss of Dr. Glaser, but grateful for all he meant to the health care delivery system as well as to medical education. You see, I am a nurse-midwife/anthropologist and Bob proposed me for Honorary membership in Alpha Omega Alpha in 2001.

I first met Bob at the Commonwealth Fund in New York City where he provided consultation to the then president, Quigg Newton, who was an attorney by preparation. I went there in 1970 to present an appeal from the Maternity Center Association, whose first director had been Frances Perkins (1918), for funding to establish a refresher program in nurse-midwifery in order to be able to bring back into clinical practice those prepared professionals who had been unable to find positions due to lack of acceptance of the concept. It was at about this time that organized obstetrics through a Joint Statement, and under the leadership of J. Robert Willson, MD, FACOG, recognized the profession of nurse-midwifery, even though the first school had been opened in 1931 and subsequent schools had been established at Columbia, Hopkins, and Yale. The establishment of the professional association for nurse-midwives, the American College of Nurse-Midwifery, actually preceded that of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Bob's warmth and caring came through very clearly to me during our interview and at one point, I observed him pass a note to Quigg, with a smile at me. Need I tell you that we were funded and three programs were initiated, one at Downstate Medical Center, one at the University of Mississippi and the third at Booth Maternity Center in Philadelphia? It was the beginning of the resurgence of the profession as a complement to tertiary hospital obstetrical care and I will be forever grateful to him for his intent to "Be Worthy to Serve the Suffering" with and through his nursing partners.

Thank you for this opportunity.

Ruth Watson Lubic, CNM, EdD, Founder
Developing Families Center and
Family Health and Birth Center
801 17th Street NE
Washington, DC 20002

He was a wonderful character in medicine. He struggled with that weak leg and used his fine mind to direct a great Markey program. He had a keen eye for talent. And his late wife, Helen, a vital force in his life, was splendid too. He was in the tradition of Castle, Bauer, Janeway and Blumgart. Academic medicine will always miss that great genre. I certainly do.

David G. Nathan, MD
President Emeritus
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Bob Glaser played a major role in shaping my medical career and my future.

I had just finished my third year in medical school. It was 5:00 in the morning when the phone rang. "Hello," I said.

A voice said, “This is Dr. Glaser."

I said to myself, Oh, oh, what is going on?

Dr. Glaser said, “Marv, I want you to go down to City Hospital. You are going to be an intern.”

I said, "Dr. Glaser, I just finished my third year of medical school, I am not really equipped to do this."

He said, “Just don’t discuss this with me. I said you are going to be an intern at City Hospital." So off I went to City Hospital. It turned out to be one of the most educational and enjoyable experience of my career.

It was the end of my fourth year of medical school; it was time to apply for an internship. Dr. Glaser said, “Where are you going to intern?”

I mentioned a local hospital. He said, “No, you are not going there. You are going to intern at Barnes.”

Again his sage advice turned out to be one of the most important in my medical career. Barnes was one of the most eminent hospitals in the United States and was affiliated with Washington University. During my internship I met many outstanding professors. One became my mentor when I became a research fellow. I did a significant amount of research, resulting in many publications.

So thank you, Bob Glaser, for helping to make my medical career an exceptional one.

Marvin E. Levin, MD, FACP, FACE
Adjunct Professor Emeritus
Washington University School of Medicine

Updated on September 6, 2012.