Today, I read Dr. George Dawson’s blog post, “How I ended up in a high-risk pancreatic cancer risk screening clinic.” As usual I was impressed with his erudition, scientific literacy, and rigorous objectivity, even as it pertained to a deadly disease which runs in his family genetic history. I couldn’t help admiring his courage.
And, whether this is a random connection or not, this somehow led to my remembering Dr. George Winokur, a giant in the scientific study (including genetics) of psychiatric diseases, especially mood disorders. He died of pancreatic cancer shortly after he was diagnosed with it in the spring of 1996.
Dr. Winokur was chair of the University of Iowa Department of Psychiatry from 1971 to 1990. He remained on faculty, actively involved in research and teaching up until the day of his death in October of 1996.
I was a resident in psychiatry at University of Iowa from 1992-1996 and I have a clear recollection of meeting with Dr. Winokur in his office during my last year, when I was preparing for job interviews. I knew he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
He had been actively recruiting me to accept a position in the department and did so even as we spoke briefly. I remember noticing that he gripped an electrical conduit on the wall next to his desk so tightly that I wondered if he were in pain.
He was the main reason I stayed in Iowa. He had a great sense of humor. All of us residents loved him. There was even a list of his “commandments” all new residents received when they began their residencies at Iowa.
Winokur’s 10 Commandments
- Thou shalt not sleep with any UI Psychiatry Hospital patient unless it be thy spouse.
- Thou shalt not accept recompense for patient care in this center outside thy salary.
- Thou shalt be on time for conferences and meetings.
- Thou shalt act toward the staff attending with courtesy.
- Thou shalt write progress notes even if no progress has been made.
- Thou shalt be prompt and on time with thy letters, admissions and discharge notes.
- Thou shalt not moonlight without permission under threat of excommunication.
- Data is thy God. No graven images will be accepted in its place.
- Thou shalt speak thy mind.
- Thou shalt comport thyself with modesty, not omniscience.
I never got the impression that George Winokur recruited me because I was black, although it was pretty obvious to me that I would be the first black University of Iowa psychiatry department faculty member. He had too much class to make that an issue.
I’ve known a few classy psychiatrists. Maybe the connection is not so random.