11. GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
For a long time I had hoped to study medicine. Dr. Worstell, 1933
Dr. Worstell took the Clerk-Copyist examination under the U.S. Civil Service in Dallas, Texas, March, 1893, and received his appointment in April, 1894. He would report to the Bureau of Pensions in Washington, D.C. on June 25th and receive a salary of $900 per annum. He continues in his story:
George Washington University was founded in 1821 as Columbian College. The idea of a medical school as a part of the college was conceived almost immediately by Doctor Thomas Sewall from Harvard and Doctor James, a graduate in medicine from the University of Pennsylvania. Four years later the Medical Department opened with five professors at 10th and E Streets, N.W., in a building that had been built by the professors themselves. In 1844 the school acquired the use of the Washington Infirmary in Judiciary Square as a teaching hospital, one of the earliest in the country. The hospital reverted to government control at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 and was destroyed by fire six months later.
In 1867 a building at 1335 H Street, N.W., about at the intersection of H Street and New York Avenue near the White House, and accompanied by adjacent ground, was donated to the school by W. W. Corcoran. The structure, originally intended for an art gallery, had been used to house specimens for the Army Medical Museum. The university, now known as Columbian University, built a preparatory school in 1882. In 1887, $10,000 was received by the university for equipment and building improvements. The preparatory school was closed in 1897, and became part of the new University Hospital, which admitted its first patients in 1898. Also in 1898, an act passed which gave control of the University to the Baptist Denomination. A new Medical School building was started on the same site and opened for students in 1902. It was now known as George Washington University and George Washington Medical School.
It was during this exciting time of building and expansion that Gaylord Worstell matriculated for the fall term, 1894. The Worstells rented accommodations at 436 H Street, near the intersection of H Street and Massachusetts Avenue. It was about a ten-block walk to school, a little less to Union Station, and a little more to the Capitol. The Bureau of Pensions building, where he had his day job, now the National Building Museum, is at 401 F Street, near Judiciary Square, and just a couple of blocks from where the Worstells were living. Gaylord must have found it inspiring to be working in this magnificent building only seven years old. The building is Italian Renaissance, and remains one of Washington’s most spectacular structures. All offices are accessed from the Great Hall. The Great Hall features eight colossal marble Corinthian columns, soaring six stories, in a room full of light and a quieting water fountain. This expansive room has seen at least a half dozen inauguration balls.
About the work there, Gaylord wrote in an alumni letter, “We work from 9 to 4 and are allowed as much as thirty days sick leave with pay. Nearly 1800 men and women are employed in the pension office and it is said none ever resign and very few die.”
It was the opportunity for study that was the reason for Gaylord’s going to Washington. Gaylord’s academic work was cut out for him. He entered the medical department on October 1. The following information is taken from History of the School of Medicine, found in an alumni directory c. 1959:
Admission required a student to show that he is “fitted, by previous education, for the study of medicine, and for this purpose [he] must either submit [himself] to an examination or in lieu thereof present a satisfactory certificate of [his] attainments.” The examination included English composition, easy Latin translation, Algebra, and elementary physics. Those weak in Latin or physics could obtain instruction in those subjects during the Freshman year and take the examination before the second year. Gaylord was accepted based on his education in the Scientific Department at Valparaiso. The Medical School course offerings during the first year were: chemistry with laboratory, Materia Medica and therapeutics, anatomy with laboratory, and physiology. In 1899, evening classes started at 5:30 P.M., clinics started at 4:30, and the last class started at 8:30. There was one professor’s name that Dr. Worstell referred to so frequently that it became familiar not only to his son, but his granddaughter — that of Professor Carr. Dr. Worstell continued in his letter thus:
I remember that Prof. Carr on the opening night said that if all students knew how much work there is in a medical course there would not be nearly so many students matriculated.
Professor Carr taught physiology. He was Associate Surgeon to the University Hospital and Surgeon to the Central Dispensary and Emergency Hospital. The course description was as follows:
Physiological anatomy receives special attention, and is illustrated by charts, diagrams, working models, and anatomical specimens in all cases and by demonstrations upon anaesthetized living animals when necessary to a thorough understanding of the subject. Physiological anatomy is also taught by Professor Washburn in the laboratory, and an opportunity is given students to do practical physiological work as far as their time will permit.
There can be no doubt, as any married, working, enrolled college student can attest, as to the long days and nights that would be necessary for the satisfactory completion of the course work. It would take him five years, working days, school at night, to complete the four-year course. Gaylord continued:
When an old pedagogue goes out to set himself a task, he always does a good job of it. He is in such a way of putting others to work that he unknowingly sets himself a good task.
On February 21, 1895 Gaylord received word his father, Thomas Pittis Worstell, died. It may have been difficult for Gaylord to attend the funeral, if not impossible. The only picture extant of the Thomas Pittis Worstell family is one without Thomas present, probably taken after his death. It is taken outside in spring or summer when the family was most able to gather together.
The Cadiz Republican took note of the death and on February 28, 1895, reported, “Thomas P. Worstell, formerly a resident of Tappan, this county, died suddenly at his home at Westchester, Tuscarawas County on February 21st. He will be kindly remembered by many friends.” The family had moved again, to Westchester, about 8 miles south of Stillwater, the previously last known location. The paper kindly reported his death as “suddenly.” His death certificate said “death by suicide” and it was remembered by family and acquaintances as such. He had hanged himself in the barn with a rope. Of the many causes for depression, we will not know the cause in the case of Thomas. Frank McGuire would write that “Thru the Pittis family there have been cases of suicide — in fact my uncle Tom Worstell committed suicide about 1894 [sic].” Suicide episodes in the Pittis family centered around the family of Albert Pittis, a twin, who jumped in front of a train to end his life at age 45 in 1886. His son, H. Arthur Pittis, hanged himself at age 64. Arthur had two brothers close in age to each other. One of them committed suicide. Both these brothers died when they were about 45 years old. Arthur’s son, Elmer, threatened suicide, possibly brought on by WWI service and contraction of malaria. Henry (brother of Thomas) Worstell’s son James, who lived in Knoxville, had a granddaughter, Wilma, who committed suicide also.
Gaylord’s brothers who had already been attending Valparaiso University continued their schooling. Addison, 19 when his father died, enrolled in the university in 1896 and Dias, 16 when his father died, enrolled in 1899. William had been on his own since age 13 and was 18 when his father died. Dias, age 16, and Frank, age 14, were now the men of the house. The family had little monetary help available from the older brothers. Although Frank became a surveyor, he did not go to Valparaiso, nor did his sisters, Mary Etta and Jane, who were only 11 and 9 at the time. When their father died, the youngest sister, Jane, must have felt rejection and abandonment by the suicide. A certain bitterness remained with her for what she thought was an act of selfishness. “He shouldn’t have done that and leave his wife alone with all those children,” she said. However, it was Jane who later shouldered the responsibility for her mother. “I knew I had to get a job and take care of mother,” she said. Whereupon, she went to Pittsburgh to attend secretarial school. Upon completion she got a job with a large coal company and found an apartment close to work for herself and Isabel. Jane would go home at lunch time to check on her mother. For one thing, she feared that Isabel might sit too close to the gas heater where she liked to read and reread the few letters she got from her boys. Through the years Isabel stayed the longest with Jane, but she also spent time with her other children; for example, she spent one winter with her son Ed and his family.
The second year of medical school at George Washington University included histology, the microscopic study of tissues, as well as a continuation of the freshmen subjects. Obstetrics, bacteriology, pathology, more surgery, and a short three-month course on dermatology made up the junior year curriculum. The senior year included short courses on pediatrics, otology and laryngology, mental diseases, hygiene, gynecology, orthopedic surgery, nervous diseases, and medical jurisprudence.
Among the George Washington University students listed in the school catalogue as sophomores during 1895—1896 is G. Worstell from Louisiana. No information is available concerning Gaylord’s possible residence or employment in Louisiana. If he spent a summer working there, Elsie could have enjoyed that time with her family in Iowa as she often did. It would have been financially beneficial for the Worstells and emotionally beneficial for the Dales. In the summer of 1895 there were yet no children in Gaylord’s family, but Elsie was pregnant. As Gaylord’s story unforlds, one thing is certain; Gaylord liked to travel and experience new places.
February, 1896, the Worstell’s had their first child, a girl they named Grace. In a cursory check of records on both sides of the family, the name Grace is not used. The birth certificate issued by the District of Columbia records the birth of “a female child, born to Galord and Else Dale Worsdell” on February 22nd. This date is challenged by Grace’s daughter who remembers being told it was another date. Gracie adored her father and called him Papa, and she was the apple of his eye.
A major portion of the junior and senior year curricula consisted of clinics. A medical student needed to attend Clinical Instruction during at least two years of school and other clinics as directed. A certificate for such instruction was granted and needed to be furnished by the student when he presented himself for examination. Clinics were usually scheduled at 4:30 P.M. and conducted by members of the faculty at the University Hospital. Other special clinics, such as surgical clinics, medical clinics, and clinics on other specialties, were conducted at Garfield Hospital, Children’s Hospital, Emergency Hospital, and Lutheran Eye and Ear Infirmary, and were led by the various professors. Dr. Carr conducted surgical clinics at the Emergency Hospital. A picture of an operating room in the University Hospital shows a small amphitheater with five tiers of seats overlooking the demonstration area, which is furnished with various tables, basins on stands, glass-ware, etc.
Not listed among the courses offered is the use of the X-ray. The X-ray was discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen, who very early in his experiments adapted his glass Crookes tube in such a way as to be able to use photographic film to see the bones in his hand. A year later Thomas A. Edison invented the fluoroscope, which allowed the user (doctor) to place an object (patient or body part) between the X-ray and the fluoroscope or fluorescent screen. The shadows caused by the X-rays are cast on the screen and can be viewed by the doctor or practitioner directly. Gaylord definitely was interested in this machine and its uses, but he apparently did not receive instruction on its use at George Washington.
When school started in 1898, the Worstell family consisted of four members. Gracie had been supplanted, she thought, as the apple of her father’s eye, by a baby brother, who had been born during the year of 1897. They named him Gaylord Theodore, and they called him Teddy. As with Grace, there is no other Theodore in this line of the Worstell family. Theodore Roosevelt was yet to become the hero of San Juan Hill in 1898, but political insiders could not miss seeing this hard-working campaigner for President McKinley as a rising star in the Republican party. President McKinley was not anxious to have Teddy, whom he recognized as something of a maverick, in his cabinet, but because of Roosevelt’s political popularity, he appointed him as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Gaylord and Elsie may have made Theodore Roosevelt their son’s namesake. About the new baby, Gracie was right — Teddy had become the apple of her father’s eye.
By graduation time, Gaylord had attended classes “from 7 until 10 o’clock, six nights a week. He had some time off during the summer. During this five-year term he never took a night
off to attend a concert or for any recreation,” wrote his son, Richard Worstell. “He graduated in August 1899 in a class of 42, having been voted by his classmates as the one most apt to make the most successful surgeon. They presented him with a set of operating knives in a neat little case, a treasure which he was to prize during his life time.” Graduates listed in the catalogue for the year 1899 number 27, Gaylord’s name last on a line by itself. The number of students in Gaylord’s class when he was a sophomore was 52. The discrepancy between the class enrollment Richard reported and the actual graduating class size could be be due to any number of reasons. Gaylord took a longer time to complete the course than the scheduled four years. Also, there is normal class attrition during the last year or so. It is interesting to note that the name J. Clarence Tappan appears among the graduates that year, as it was a Dr. Tappan with whom Gaylord’s grandfather, Dr. Hiram Worstell, had studied. Gaylord closes his paragraph on his medical school years thus;
The course made a long pull but in the spring of 1899 I received my diploma all engraved and embellished and thereupon the congratulations and well wishes of all the professors.