John C. Herweg Oral History (OH079)
- March 2005
Candace O'Connor conducted the interview with John Herweg as part of her research in the history of the St. Louis Children’s Hospital for the hospital’s 125th anniversary publication. Approximate Length: 1 hour and 53 minutes.
O'Connor asked John Herweg to discuss his experiences at St. Louis Children's Hospital during the Alexis Hartmann era, 1936-early 1960s. As a medical student at Washington University in 1942-1945. he found the milieu at Children's Hospital was exciting, almost magical, because the medical and nursing staff were early adopters of each new antibiotic. Diagnosis was key in cures of children with meningitis and mastoiditis, who could be cured if caught in time. The pediatrician in-chief Alexis Hartmann Sr. and Jean Valjean cook provided guidance to the medical students in their sophomore, junior and senior years to save children’s lives.
Herwig reviews his experience as a student, intern, and resident of the Washington University School of Medicine in the early 1940s, and his memories of thrilling teachers such as Hartmann Sr. and Zebatine Hybias???? [Zentay?}. They knew medicine not only the laboratory aspects but clinical aspects. Hartmann brought patients and their mothers to the amphitheatre as well as the clinic where students saw clinical practice demonstrated. Herwig also rubbed shoulders with outstanding people who were research scientists besides the five research scientists, who were or were about to be Nobel Laureates including Carl and Gerty Cori, Joseph Erlanger, and Dr. Hershey in Bacterioiogy.
Hartmann insisted that Herweg stay for his internship and residency. Herwig was one of the bright medical students that Hartman recruited into pediatrics and nutured along. He helped them rise.
He mentions his first wife, Janet Scovill, who had finished her pediatric residency at Children’s (Which Children’s ) before him. [She died in 1958.} He also speaks of his present wife Dottie Glahn, who was head nurse of the infant ward at St. Louis Children’s Hospital from 1947-1959.
The interviewer asked him his recollections of Mrs. Langenberg, Gracie Jones and other women on women on the Board of Children’s hospital. He also briefly discussed interactions with Estelle Claiborne, the hospital administrator.
He recalls that World War II’s major effect on St. Louis Children’s Hospital was reduction of the number of house officers. The residents who were in charge of the hospital during the nighttime hours were consequently overworked.
The budget was very stringent at the end of the war. For example there were 2 glass syringes and they had to be autoclaved before use and they were in constant use. The staff cooled Patients were co by blowing a fan over a 50 pound cake of ice to make up for a lack of air conditioning.
Concerning the Butler Ward, the segregated ward for African-Americans, he admits the house officers might have integrated Children's Hospital earlier. He thought integration came about when Dave Golden called up Hartmann later and said he wanted to put an African patient on a ward by treatment needed rather than in the Butler ward. Hartmann agreed and Herwig thought that was the beginning of integration of St. Louis Chidlren's Hospital.
As to whether Hartmann sr. was prejudiced, Herweg didn't think so. He said Hartmann sr. had good relations with Helen and Homer Nash and later Alison Nash, Homer's daughter, at Homer G. Phillips Hospital. But he notes that Hartman wasn't an activist like Park White. He then recalls his impressions of Park White who he also admired.
Herweg, John C.