I read with interest my friend Richard Reynold’s account of the integration of the Osler medical wards. He correctly dates the event to the 1957–58 clinical year, which was my senior year in medical school. The event he describes, alas, did not end the segregation of the medical wards at Hopkins.
I served my clinical rotation on Osler in the spring of 1958, and subsequently served as an Osler intern in 1958–59, and a junior AR in 1959–60. I can state unequivocally that the wards were most definitely segregated by both race and gender for my entire time on Osler, as Dr. Reynolds describes in his essay.
I am not sure exactly when the wards were fully integrated; I personally wish it had happened while I was on the house staff! Many a time there would be three or four seriously ill patients in the emergency room — all of whom happened to be Black males. In the best of all possible worlds, one patient would have ended up on Osler 2, the next on Osler 3, and so on. But under that bad old system, I, that unlucky Osler 2 intern, ended up trying to care for a diabetic in acidosis, a GI bleeder, an acute coronary and a stroke victim, all at once.
My favorite item from Dr. Reynolds’ essay concerns Physician-in Chief A. McGehee Harvey’s response to the request to integrate the wards. That consummate physician and marvelous human being insisted that, in the end, the patient’s best interests be served. That, after all, is what Johns Hopkins is all about.
William H. Jarrett II, M.D.
Editor’s Note: Thanks very much to those who wrote with recollections of this period, including Larry M. Lieb ’58, who was an Osler resident in 1959, the year following the experience described by Richard Reynolds in “A Momentous Night.” Lieb recalled the wards still being segregated by race when he received a call one night from an attending resident. “He asked if I had a bed available for a new patient and I did. He said that the [Black] women’s ward was filled and that he had a sick patient who had to be admitted and was sending her up to the White women’s ward. Subsequently several women of color were admitted to my ward,” Lieb wrote.