Eugene A. Stead Jr. A life of chasing what I did not understand
My Story
The End of a Chapter
Postscripts from Stead's World
My Photos
Mostly My Thoughts
Thoughts from housestaff and friends
Thoughts from Others
For the Curious

From the housestaff - one side of the story ...

Title: Coming of Age

Contributor: Robert Myles

Coming of Age in Samoa was a study made in the 1950's by anthropologist Margaret Mead. Published as a book, it became a hot item. The title became a byword portraying a right of passage. Coming of age at Duke was when Dr. Eugene Stead finally called you by your given name.

Once, when I was the resident for female medicine on Osler, we did rounds after "Sunday School." We always had to "go see the girls" after the Sunday morning presentations by the house staff, and it was virtually impossible to sneak out the door.

Three hours later, as we walked out of the ward, Dr. Stead commented, "The girls all seem to be in good order, Bob." I had come of age.

Title: The Nickel Bet

I had often heard "bet a nickel" stories made by Dr. Stead with his house staff. The house staff rarely won.

One time we had a patient on female medicine with an extremely complex problem. One feature of her symptoms was an enlarged spleen. The student, intern, and I had all felt the spleen, but Dr. Stead did not. He bet me a nickel that the spleen was not enlarged and had nothing to do with the diagnosis.

On the next session of rounds, we positioned the patient lying on her right side, pillows at her back and the curtains closed. We mentioned that the second case of the day had an interesting physical finding, took Dr. Stead to the bed, introduced him to the patient (always done), sat him in a chair at the bedside, and asked him to feel the abdomen.

As he palpated the abdomen we saw his finger pop over the edge of the enlarged spleen when she inhaled. We knew that the nickel was won, and it was. Dr. Stead stood up, turned to us and said, "Dr. Myles, I believe I owe you a nickel."

I was under Dr. Stead's tutelage for two full years. It was the only nickel I won.

On our way to Duke to attend Bess Cebe's celebration in 1977, we stopped over in Denver. Browsing the shops between flights, we found a three-inch replica of a nickel. Jean said, "Lets take that to Dr. Stead." We gave the large nickel to him before the celebrations started, and darned if he didn't toss that nickel in the air the whole day.

Title: Living at and Leaving Duke

We became a part of the medical world at Duke. It would have been easy to stay, but home and families were in the West. We returned to California with our small daughter, just as she was beginning to speak with a very pronounced southern accent.

Coming from the West, we made no discrimination when we invited people for parties at our Poplar apartment. Students, residents and interns in every branch of medicine were invited, as well as secretaries, social workers and professors. A classic bit of repartee was heard at the door one evening, when a surgical resident met a guest from the social work office. "What are YOU doing here?" he blurted. "Well," she said, "I was invited. How about you." That over, they both enjoyed the party and getting to know each other.

Before we left, we gave a pizza party. The only pizza we could find then was in Chapel Hill, where, to our dismay, they made pizza with Bisquick. Jean quickly learned to make pizza, and passed the recipe on. Years later, "Nobby" David remarked that his family was still enjoying our pizza recipe.

At our farewell party, we had a large 30 x 60 x 18-inch packing box sitting in a corner, waiting to be filled with items to go with us on our drive across the States. The box just fit on top of our station wagon. Someone printed a sign and tacked it to the box, "PEOPLE ARE NO DAMN GOOD."

Dr. and Mrs. Stead were among the guests. As there was no furniture, everyone sat on the stairs, the back porch, or on pillows on the floor. At one point Dr. Stead was found calmly sitting in the box under the sign, eating his pizza and listening to the conversations around him.

Don't let anyone ever tell you that Dr. Stead has no sense of humor. The book, "E.A.Stead, Jr., What this Patient needs is a Doctor " edited by Drs. Wagner and Rozear, and Bess Cebe, Stead's long suffering, dedicated secretary and friend, is testimony to Stead's love of life, his love and respect of family, his love of medicine and the patients that came under his care, and his wonderfully droll sense of humor. We give the book as a gift to young friends entering the field of medicine. Dr. Stead had an uncanny memory for faces, names and places. He knew the names of each of his house staff, where they came from and the names of their girlfriends, and later, their wives and children. "Old Icy Eyes" as he was called, could freeze you in your tracks with a glance, but underneath it all he was, and is, a kind, generous, and wonderfully caring man, a gentleman in the true sense of the word, a physician who believes that every patient and every medical student, intern and resident is vitally important, and that there is a future to the art of medicine.

Title: Reminiscences from a Physician's Wife

Contributor: Jean Myles

We came to Duke through the influence of Dr. Wm. P. Wilson. We met Dr. Wilson at McGill's Neurology Institute, and I worked for him at the VA Hospital in Durham. His family and ours became life-long friends.

Our time at Duke is one of wonderful reminiscences. Dr. Stead firmly believed that his house staff should be available 24/7, and did not have the time to pursue their medical careers and fulfill the duties of marriage and family at the same time. Any intern or resident who married before, or while on, his service hid that fact, and was severely tried if he found out. There truly wasn't time. Demands on his house staff came at any hour of day or night, and they had better be available -- and be prepared.

When we arrived at Duke in July, 1955, Bob and I had been married for five years. We were led to believe 1955 was first year that Dr. Stead allowed or recognized marriages among his house staff.

During Bob's internship at McGill, I had spent a holiday with him during a rotation in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Bob was the only intern at the local hospital. For several days I shadowed his footsteps, but when the phone rang at 4:30 AM on the 4th morning, I said, "You're the doctor." I slept all that day, waking just in time for dinner. With that experience behind me, I deeply respected Dr. Stead's feelings, and made good use of the time Bob and I had together at Duke.

Bob and I ate dinners at the hospital, and visited in the Sarah Duke Garden. We got to know North Carolina on two-day road trips. Thank goodness cell phones did not exist. In the garden, we could quietly play with our daughter, born at Duke Dec. 3, 1955, with no disturbance. With no phone to wake him on weekends out and about, he slept while I drove.

Dr. and Mrs. Stead were warm and welcoming hosts. In June 1956, we attended their annual garden party to welcome new members of the house staff, with 6-month-old Lora in her stroller. Dr. Stead met us at the gate, and he and Lora immediately established their own rapport. Off they went. It was a memorable experience.

To paraphrase Art Linkletter - Life as a house staff wife was "not for the faint hearted." Wives spent long hours without their husbands, but it was never lonely. We gathered for photography, jewelry, ceramic and sewing classes -- with trips to Haw River to purchase mill end fabrics. We gathered for children's birthdays and for no reason at all. We supported each other, exchanged stories, recipes, special places to shop, found maids for newcomers who had to work (as most of us did), formed Scout troops for the older children, and shared baby sitting chores. We learned to be independent, yet supportive of our physician husbands. Times together were precious, but we even shared those. Family celebrations, new babies, impromptu picnics and rainy day potlucks brought families together to share special moments.

On our first Thanksgiving at Duke, and our second year away from family and home, I cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner. Bob brought home eight interns and residents who were also far from home. We ate around a card table in our apartment at Westover, on hastily borrowed chairs. Westover was just minutes from the hospital, and everyone walked back as soon as the last crumb of pie was eaten. We became friends with George Laurence Donnelly from Roseville, Australia (Cardiology, 1955-57). The bond of friendship between Bob, Laurie, and Kenneth Gough (56-57) was long lasting. Both became a part of our family at Duke. Laurie visited us in Reno many times. A world recognized cardiologist, and peripatetic world traveler, Laurie died in Australia in the early 1990's.

Ken Gough and his physician wife, Pauline Bland, became our son Elliott's family when Elliott attended school in England. Ken, was unable to attend this gathering, but sent his greetings and well wishes on to everyone.

We send thanks to Dr. Eugene Stead for his superb guidance into the mysterious world of medical care, and in living within the medical world. He had a profound influence on those who came under his tutelage. Bob never gave up on a patient during his 30 years of practice. We treasure years of Christmas cards and letters from one special patient, an alcoholic that Bob stayed with at hospital for five long days. After the patient's recovery, Bob went with him to an AA meeting, and said, "I've done my part. What happens now is your decision." The patient regained his self-respect, the respect of his family, remarried his wife, and lived a long, full life.

There were other difficult patients during those years, ones that other, less patient or tolerant physicians would, and did, give up on. With his background of training, Bob did not.

One year, at a California Medical Society meeting in Yosemite, another physician found that Bob had studied at Duke. "Good Lord, Myles, you must be one of Eugene Stead's Iron Men." When Bob admitted that he had spent two years working under Stead, we thought the man would never stop shaking Bob's hand, patting him on the back, or proclaiming the fact to everyone around us. A bit embarrassing, but a tribute to Stead's reputation as a hard driving professor, a reputation that has not lessened in any way over the years.

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