Clinic Stories

A False Impression

When I began veterinary school I received work study money as a part of my financial aid. I was fortunate to get a job in the clinical pathology laboratory where most of the veterinary hospital lab work was done. When my work study money finished they hired me at a higher wage and I worked there until I graduated more than 3 years later. It was a great job for several reasons. Mostly I worked in the evenings after the regular crew left finishing up what they could not and running after hours blood work. As a result I got involved in many clinical cases and got to know most of the staff clinicians years before I was in the clinics as a student. When I had to stay at the hospital overnight the lab was my private retreat. I would sleep on the floor in quiet and never used the filthy, loud, flea infested student quarters. On top of that, the lab director added a very unexpected flavor.

Dr. Josephine Deubler was the first woman to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School in 1938. Her father and brother were also veterinarians. She was completely deaf and read lips. She was a nationally recognized dog show judge (terriers) including judging at Westminster in Madison Square Gardens. She was appointed as Lab Director so that her connections to influential people in the dog show circles could be exploited. Whenever a wealthy person showed up at the school, they would come to the lab and Dr. Deubler would wine and dine them in the hope they would donate to the school. A regular was Mrs. W. W. (Elizabeth) Clark, a modest, unassuming woman from Virginia. Her quiet and sincere demeanor contrasted sharply with the mostly brash and condescending visitors.

When I was taking an elective in pediatrics, Mrs. Clark reported that many of her puppies were dying. Commensurate with VIP treatment, a four seat plane was chartered and the head of pediatrics and an epidemiologist were dispatched. With the pilot, it left an empty seat. The pediatrics students drew straws and I was selected to go along. We landed on a country airstrip near Winchester, VA and Mrs. Clark pulled up next to the plane in her 10 year old Cadillac. She drove us to her unimposing home at the end of a long gravel driveway deep in the woods. She told us that her late husband was a dairy farmer on a nearby farm. Her housekeeper cooked and served lunch before we went to the kennels.

Mrs. Clark kept about 60 dogs plus several litters of puppies. Parvovirus had emerged a few months earlier and it had obviously reached her kennel. Samples were taken, the situation was discussed with her veterinarian and we left. Although she was a delightful person, the effort and expense of the trip did not seem to be justified. She seemed affluent but not excessively so.

About a year later in early 1982, construction was started on a new veterinary hospital at the university. Mrs. W. W. Clark contributed $5 million to the project. Hats off to Mrs. Clark who refused to flaunt her wealth and who did not allow money to weaken her personality or principles.

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