A Physician's Worthy Journey

Physician's Money Digest, October15 2003, Volume 10, Issue 19

I'm afraid I've reached an age whenmany of my senior relatives andfamily friends are passing on. Althoughmy attendance at funeralsthis year has been all too frequent, as aresult, my respect for America's "GreatestGeneration" has grown.

I recently attended a memorial servicefor my uncle, Arthur G. Hopkins,MD, who died in July at age 87.Although I mostly remember him as adistant relative with a dry sense ofhumor, I've subsequently learned thathe was quite a physician.

Like my physician-dad, my UncleArtie was born in Brooklyn, graduatedfrom Fordham University and the LongIsland College of Medicine, and served inthe US Navy in World War II. A man ofvaried interests and abilities, Uncle Artiealso earned his wings as a flight surgeon.

To the Pole

Philippine Sea

In 1947, he accompanied AdmiralRichard E. Byrd on his last expeditionto the South Pole, serving as his personalphysician. Admiral Byrd's flagship onthat last journey was the aircraft carrierthe USS . The 2 men, whobecame friends, would walk the flightdeck together.

The US Navy-supported journey,called "Operation High Jump," was thelargest expedition ever sent to theAntarctic, with 4000 men and 13 ships.His first South Pole exploration tookplace in 1928. A man of heroic proportions,Admiral Byrd is also creditedwith being the first man to reach theNorth Pole in 1926. He died in 1957,regarded as the premier explorer of ourplanet's Polar Regions.

Postwar Medicine

My dad was an intern when myUncle Arthur was the head resident atKings County Hospital in Brooklyn justafter World War II. The 2 young doctorsbecame fast friends. My dad introducedUncle Artie to his future wife Arline, mymom's sister. They were happily marriedfor 52 years and had 6 children.

In the 1950s, my uncle took over thePark Slope medical practice of mygrandfather, Dr. George Sheehan, Sr,where he carried on the tradition ofrarely sending bills to patients.

Dr. Seymour Thickman of Wyoming,a fan of this magazine who recently contactedme about another column, suppliedsome memories. He, my dad, andUncle Artie had their medical trainingtogether in New York City in the late1940s, where they studied under therenowned clinician William Dock, MD."Art was sharp, witty, fun, and inquisitiveabout patient care," Dr. Thickman said."He was able to cut through all the fluffand get to the meaningful stuff."