Title: That's All Right with Me
Contributor: Robert Adelstein
Like so many of us, I feel very lucky for many reasons not disclosed in these small anecdotes that our paths had crossed during a time that was, for me, a formative time of my life. I join my colleagues in wishing Dr. Stead continued success, happiness and good health.
I was never supposed to intern at Duke.
I was a quarter way through my internship at Bellevue Hospital in 1959 when Sandy Housman, a fellow intern, approached me one day to say that he was supposed to have interned at Duke, but, because of the death of his father, was reluctant to leave his mother alone in New York City.
Somehow he knew they were still one intern short at Duke.
"Would you consider taking his place?" he asked me.
I approached my chief of medicine, Lewis Thomas, who was another "unforgettable" person, but not in the realm of clinical medicine. He was most enthusiastic, since coverage at Bellevue was significantly higher than at Duke at that time.
So I flew down to Durham to discuss the possibility of my interning starting in January 1960. It was my first meeting with Dr. Stead, whose reputation had preceded him even to New York City.
I will never forget his answer to what I thought was my generous offer to help out. "Well, Dr. Adelstein," he drawled in his best Georgia accent, "if you want to come and join us here at Duke, that's all right with me, and if you don't, well, that's all right, too."
I was completely taken aback, felt myself challenged and decided that there was no way I wouldn't come. Of course, it turned out to be one of the smarter decisions I ever made, even though I didn't know it at the time.
Title: No "Black Beds" on Long
A second meeting occurred in 1964 when I had returned for my second year residency following a stay at the NIH.
A black patient, who had had a myocardial infarction while he was in the Outpatient Clinic was forced to remain in those cramped quarters for a number of hours because there were no "black beds" available on Long Ward.
I had already talked with the New York City-born physician who was in charge of the OPC, and received no satisfactory response and no indication that it couldn't happen again.
I went to Dr. Stead and we discussed the issue quite meaningfully and extensively. He told me that in two or three months the wards would be totally integrated. He had some serious reservations about what this might do to the population of patients on Long. He was concerned that it would be dominated by hypertensive and end-state uremic patients.
Despite his reservations, total integration of the patient population was about to occur, and it did. I very much appreciated that chat I had with him for it showed a very human and sensitive side of his character in what was, admittedly, a time of major change for Duke.