Chapter 02: College and Medical School

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Chapter 02: College and Medical School

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In this chapter, Dr. Hicks talks about the economic realities behind his decision to go to college and to medical school at the University of Kentucky (MD, 1982). He tells stories about doing one of his rotations in Appalachia and the dedication and compassion of the physicians there. He shares stories of his mentor in medical school, Ward Griffin, MD, as well as his skills in visual thinking.

Identifier

HicksM_01_20180417_C02

Publication Date

4-17-2018

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Interview Subject's Story - Educational Path; Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents; Professional Path; Formative Experiences; Professional Practice; The Professional at Work

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Disciplines

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Oncology | Oral History

Transcript

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Well let’s not hurry through a lot of this. Tell me about choosing your undergraduate and what drove you there.

Marshall Hicks, MD:

I was very practical.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah.

Marshall Hicks, MD:

I’m from Louisville, Kentucky and my brother was already there. My parents were not wealthy. It’s a state school, it was inexpensive, and I walked on the baseball team and thought I wanted to play for a little while, did that for a year and then—but it was a practical decision. I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to do, obviously. I was still trying to figure it out and so I just did that, but I took math and science and chemistry classes and always loved that. So I was still interested in science, challenged by science, driven by it. But I loved history –the fun stuff for me was that, that I actually never really got to. So I was only there three years, applied early to medical school. My brother was applying after five years because he was a few years ahead of me, so I thought, well I’ll just apply at the same time and see if I can get in early and I did.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Wow.

Marshall Hicks, MD:

I got into the University of Kentucky and he got in at the University of Louisville, so we were the same year but in different schools.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So how did that work in terms of the early application to medical school?

Marshall Hicks, MD:

The minimum number of hours you needed --I guess it depends on the school-- was 90 for University of Kentucky, and so I never really got an undergraduate degree. In some ways I regret it, because like I said, I loved history. I loved some of these other classes that I could have really had fun with my last year there, but you know otherwise, medicine is a long journey and it kind of gave me a little bit of an early start there. I guess I was probably 21, 20 or 21, when I was starting, it was ’78. Yeah, I was 21 when I started medical school, and the average age was 26.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

What year did you start medical school?

Marshall Hicks, MD:

Seventy-eight.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay, ’78, wow. Did you have any sort of sense, when you started med school, what you were going to specialize in?

Marshall Hicks, MD:

No.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

You mentioned you drifted into surgery first, or I shouldn’t say drifted.

Marshall Hicks, MD:

No, I didn’t. In fact, every rotation I went through --the first two years is a lot of classwork, and we actually had to rotate out and do some clinics in between in the summer, which was a good experience, out in the state. They actually had a rotation, a mandatory requirement in the state, that you had to go to a rural area, because they were trying to get people to go to the rural areas. So my brother and I went up to rural Eastern Appalachia --it’s a rough existence up there-- and got exposed to a lot of primary care rule of medicine.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

That must have been eye-opening.

Marshall Hicks, MD:

It was. It was almost like a third world, because it was a time --of course there wasn’t cable TV then or anything like that, it was just starting I guess, but you couldn’t even get a radio in some of those places because of the hollows and the hills. Yet these physicians would be up there working in these hospitals and working in these clinics and just working hard and seeing patients that had a pretty rough life, a lot of coal mines, things like that up there.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Were there any of those experiences that were sort of ah-ha moments or real learning moments, that had an effect on you?

Marshall Hicks, MD:

I fainted during the first surgery that I saw. I won’t tell you the procedure, because it was a patient who wasn’t—off the record—properly anesthetized and was suffering and I just, for a moment there I was that patient and just—

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh my gosh.

Marshall Hicks, MD:

That was awful, but there are also just the … I think it was the compassion that the physicians there showed, because when you’re in an academic medical center and it’s a tertiary center and you’re seeing—the centers are you know, pretty new facilities, nice facilities. Then you get out into really seeing --the first time for me anyway-- being out into an area where patients are struggling just to exist. I remember one patient came in there, he had done something to his thumb and had chronic thumb pain and he just said, “Just take it off,” he was like, “I just want to keep working, just take it off.” I did some other things so I didn’t have to do that but it was for them, very—it was a hard life in the hills up in Appalachia. That always stuck with me, the dedication and the compassion, yet in the middle of this—you know most of them probably were from there and they had a motivation to go back and help. It was beautiful, a beautiful area, you know it’s Appalachia, in the mountains.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So a great opportunity.

Marshall Hicks, MD:

Yeah, but it was hard, you know the resources were tough. They had a nice hospital and they did a lot of great work, but it was a little too … At a time when specialty medicine was starting to come into play, they were doing a lot of stuff that you realized was just being done because they had to. They really weren’t in some ways trained to do it or qualified. This is in a day when somebody would do maybe a year of general internship and then go out and do appendectomies and all sorts of stuff, all sorts of surgeries and things. They just had to kind of learn as they went, and that was to me, a little bit scary, being in a situation like that, where I don’t know that I—it was an eye-opener in terms of how medicine was practiced, as opposed to the way you think it’s practiced at a medical center. And you go out there and see the real world, in some of these very underprivileged areas where it’s not.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So tell me how your interests began to take shape during medical school.

Marshall Hicks, MD:

Well med school, I had another great mentor. The chair of the department there, Ward Griffin was his name and he had a big blue Cadillac with WOG, his initials, on the license plate, so you couldn’t miss it, a wonderful guy. He just, he was one of those people—you know, I did extra surgery rotations. I had no idea that he knew who I was, but then when --you always wanted to get a letter from him. But I just enjoyed surgery, I enjoyed the ability to go in and fix things and make things better, the patients better, they go on with their lives. I never really had the patience for internal medicine or some of the other specialties where you’re really sorting through a lot of medications, a lot of chronic diseases and dealing with that, I just don’t think I was built that way. What appealed to me, I was also very visual and manual, and wanted to be able to use my hands, which goes back probably to my youth of construction and doing all sorts of stuff in the summers.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So you did that kind of stuff.

Marshall Hicks, MD:

Yeah. I was a cook at Waffle House.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh really?

Marshall Hicks, MD:

Yeah.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

It’s amazing, how those—I mean, I remember when I walked into Raphael Pollock’s [oral history interview] office, there was a little carved boat behind him and I pointed it out and he goes, ‘Oh, I made that,” you know those manual skills come all kinds of ways.

Marshall Hicks, MD:

Yeah. I remember making some speakers when I was in high school, because I loved audio, I loved hi-fi and wanted to have some really nice speakers and I couldn’t afford them, so I built them. I got into medical school and just really loved that aspect of it. I was ready to see the world, so I don’t even think I applied to University of Kentucky, but applied to a number of places. At the time, University of Kentucky had a lot of trainees that had gone either to Medical College of Georgia or to Savannah, a small program in Savannah, and it was a place where you could go and operate early in your residency, as opposed to by the time you’re doing it, you’re four or five years in and then if you don’t like it then you’ve invested a lot of time. I just wanted to get in and go back to Kentucky and be a small town general surgeon. I remember applying to Dartmouth [College]. It was between Dartmouth and Savannah, and I ended up ranking Savannah first. I often wonder, looking back, because it was not a pleasant experience. I thought if I had ranked Dartmouth first and ended up there, it would have turned out differently but you know, I ended up ranking surgery in my fourth year of medical school, after I had already matched, and then got exposed to radiology and thought this is pretty cool, but by that time I was already committed.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Right, right.

Marshall Hicks, MD:

Anyway, Dr. Griffin wrote a really nice recommendation letter for me as though he knew me, and that always impressed me. I always think back, he really helped launch my ability to get into the program and from there, I just always—it’s one of those things where that’s always stuck with me, as well as the mentors I had later on at Indiana and other places. It really shapes people and you never know what you say or how the kindness that you can show towards others in training that are—you know for us, it seemed like just you’re saying hello to them, that may mean the world to them that day, that you’re trying to help them out or do something for them.

T. A. Rosolowski, PhD:

And the fact is it can mean the world, it can open doors.

Chapter 02: College and Medical School

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