Morris and Me
December 3, 2013
The famous internist Morris L. Jampol, MD, was born over 94 years ago. He is considered one of the great clinicians and medical educators of his time in New York. Despite the fact that I have practiced cardiology in South Florida for 28 years, I have serendipitously re-established a connection with this illustrious man. Here is my story:
In April 1974, I was a 22-year-old Yale freshman medical student planning to spend my first summer "clinical experience" at Yale-New Haven Hospital. However, my 45 year old mother, Renee, died suddenly of unrecognized aspiration pneumonia at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital three days after a hysterectomy for benign disease. Needing a last minute summer clerkship in New York so I could be near my father and two younger sisters, I sought the help of the Chief of Medicine at LaGuardia Hospital in Forest Hills, Queens (under the aegis of H.I.P. of Greater New York, which was my family's insurer for many years because my mother was, until her death, a Plainview, Long Island school teacher). That Chief of Medicine, Dr. Morris Jampol, became my clinical preceptor, a role that he generously and skillfully performed for me, for five (I believe) other Yale med classmates that summer, and for many other Yalies who first wore their short white coats on the wards in Queens over many other summers.
After running an internal medicine residency program at Cornell for 10 years, Dr. Jampol retired at age 80. He has since enjoyed an active and vigorous retirement, sailing, working out at the gym, writing, and listening to music, in Fresh Meadows, NY, and in Wynmoor Village, Coconut Creek, Florida. He lost his dear wife of 67 years in 2010.
In January 2011, I received a call in my Tamarac office from a retired internist who asked to be seen urgently for "possible pneumonia." He stated that his recently deceased former NYU classmate and friend, Dr. Emanuel Berson, my former patient, had advised him to call me if he ever needed a Florida doctor. (Dr. Berson, a dentist, was the younger brother of the renowned Dr. Solomon Berson, who had developed the technique of radioimmunoassay with Rosalyn Yalow at the Bronx VA Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital; if he had not died in 1972, he surely would have shared the Nobel Prize, which Dr. Yalow won in 1977.)
I picked up the phone, heard Dr. Jampol's name, and reminded him that I had been one of his young Yale students at LaGuardia Hospital in the summer of 1974. As always, his diagnosis was spot on: he had right lower lobe pneumonia. He responded to dual antibiotic therapy and avoided hospitalization.
Since then, I have had the pleasure of a renewed relationship with Dr. Jampol, whom I consider not just a patient, but also a colleague and a friend. I enjoyed meeting his son Mark. He sent me his beautiful essay about Beethoven's acquired deafness last year, and more recently, he sent me his personal story about Mahler's consultation with the young Dr. George Baehr.
Coincidentally, I served my internship and residency in internal medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. As a house office - and for all of my career since then - I have utilized a technique that I learned directly from Dr. Jampol in 1974. After interviewing and examining a patient in a hospital room or in my office exam room, I sit down with the patient to write my note in the medical record. Because I spend an extra five minutes in the patient's presence while doing so, we have time for casual conversation or for him to tell or ask me something that otherwise might have been forgotten. I owe this habit to my observation of Dr. Jampol - my first clinical role model.