M.D.s and D.O.s in Early California

Dr. John E. Wykle, MD, interviewed by Dr. Michael A. Seffinger, DO

August 1, 2006

  • Dr. Seffinger:  Who are you? Please state your name and date of birth. Where were you born, raised, educated and trained?
  • Dr. Wykle:  I am John E. Wykle, M.D., and I was born May 5, 1918 in Waterman, IL. My father was a Presbyterian minister; we moved around a bit…when I was two, we moved to West Union, IA where my father had his first pastorate, and lived there for 6 years. When I was 8, we moved to Bucyrus, OH. My dad always wanted to get back to Cedar Rapids, IA so his children could go to Coe College where he and his brothers and sisters had gone. So, after six years in Bucyrus, just as I was just starting high school, we moved back to Cedar Rapids. I took my pre-med courses at Coe College.
  • Dr. Seffinger:  How did you become involved with the Osteopathic profession?
  • Dr. Wykle:  My interest in osteopathy occurred when we were in Bucyrus. My sister was run over by a model T Ford, and wasn't getting any help from anyone in the medical profession. My dad sent her to an osteopath, Dr. Mark Loveland. He sent her for an x-ray and found a vertebral fracture. He was a wonderful doctor and I thought that if I could be anything like him I would be happy. During pre-med, I was checking out all the catalogues of the osteopathic colleges because I wanted to become an osteopath. I was particularly interested in COP&S as it had more stringent admission requirements and the best clinical training. Also, they accepted my pre-med training, whereas the other colleges made you take those courses again at their college. Organic chemistry, for example, was required prior to getting accepted, whereas at other DO colleges, you had to take it after you were accepted. I didn't want to have to take all those classes again. This was in 1937. Betsy MacCracken and Dorothy Marsh lived across the street when we went to COP&S in Los Angeles…Dorothy actually was the one who taught me how to dance. Dorothy went on to marry one of our beloved faculty, Wayne Dooley. There is an endowed chair in OB/GYN at UCI for Dorothy Marsh. Linda Idins lived with them; she went on to practice OB/Gyn in San Francisco. She became famous for a song she wrote called "Three Little Fishes"..."they swam and swam all over the dam." I graduated in 1941. I did a year of internship at the clinic at the college. During that time I was also spending my nights in Bell Gardens, south of LA where Dr. Art Frost had an office, taking care of emergencies, and all types of problems. It was a very active and busy office, even at night and weekends. There were not any emergency rooms in those days. You took care of emergencies in your office. That was typical of the training back then, to work all day, then at night, and on weekends.
  • Dr. Seffinger:  What did you notice that was unique or different about DOs and the osteopathic profession at the time you began your association with them; did that perception change over time?
  • Dr. Wykle:  I already told you about Dr. Loveland. Our children were delivered by DOs. In 1945, Dr. Willard in Manchester, IA, then in 1947, Dr. Clement Garrett in LA, and in 1950 by Dr. Steve Teale in Stockton. Back then, post partum stays were 10 days in Willard's practice, but Teale had my wife home after only three hospital days. The DOs in California were well trained and capable of taking care of most of the needs of their patients. They were limited in practice privileges at some but not all hospitals. They were not able to get a lot of post graduate training opportunities. Most of us practiced osteopathic manipulation and the patients loved us and respected us for that and all the other care we provided. I have always been proud to be an osteopath and am proud of my training and the care I was able to provide my patients. The biggest problem with the DOs, especially after the amalgamation, is that they were afraid to admit they were DOs and did not do manipulation. The AOA fought to get their CA licensing board back, and then the school in Pomona opened up. Western University appears to be a fine school. However, I haven't found that the new graduates who come up here do any manipulation. They practice just like MDs. Consequently I am not convinced of the need to have that school, unless they train students to practice osteopathy.
  • Dr. Seffinger:  What was your role in the history of Osteopathy in CA? And What events were you personally responsible for that had an impact on the history of this profession?
  • Dr. Wykle:  I opened up an osteopathic general practice in San Andreas in 1948. There was a bond measure passed the day I arrived in San Andreas for a new hospital in San Andreas called Mark Twain Hospital. County Supervisor Dr. Teale wrote into the bond measure that there would be no discrimination of DOs who wanted to admit and care for patients there…but the hospital wasn't built until 1950. There were other hospitals that would not accept our patients, including St. Joseph's and Dameron in Stockton, CA. Vannousse Hospital, which was a DO hospital in Stockton, provided the only alternative in this area until the Mark Twain Hospital was completed. After that, Drs. Steve and Barbara Teale and I decided we didn't have to work together, so we separated. I took the patients in San Andreas and they stayed in West Point. We did our own surgeries in Mark Twain, including hysterectomies, hernia repairs, appendectomies, tonsillectomies. For anything complicated, we called over Joseph Cosentino, D.O., who was a fine surgeon, to help us. He practiced in Jackson, CA. I was the only person who had any training in anesthesia, so I did anesthesia for both the MDs and DOs at MTH. The former discrimination against DOs was wiped out at that hospital. The MDs surgical skills were less than ours, and Cosentino was better than anyone in the region. For example, we did vaginal hysterectomies, whereas the MDs still did classic abdominal hysterectomies. Also, we were used to giving our patients IVs afterwards to restore electrolytes and water; the MDs were using catheters up the rectum to replace fluids. So, we finally got them to let us put in the IVs for them. Another convert was Dr. Clarence Lucky from Stockton, an orthopedist, an ethical, honest man, was accustomed to covering Tuolumne, Amador and other surrounding counties, to do their orthopedic work, day and night. I was doing the anesthetics for him. I was the anesthesiologist for the county physician. For anyone with broken limb bones, Dr. Lucky would come up to take care of it…prior to that he wouldn't even take a referral from any DOs. He and Dr. Paul Noetling were supportive of us. Dr. Noetling was a Harvard graduate and practiced in Angels Camp. When he retired, he referred most of his patients to me. These were the two MDs that helped to break the discrimination barrier for DOs in the county. We were accepted into the San Joaquin County Medical Society (an exclusively MD society up to that time) upon their recommendations in 1954-55. I was a member of the COA. I was not a member of the CMA. Later, just prior to the amalgamation, Dr. Cosentino was to use this fact as an example for the CMA and their concerned members that MDs and DOs got along well in his district, sharing hospitals, patients and having DOs in the medical society in San Joaquin County.
  • Dr. Seffinger:  What were your responsibilities, goals, challenges, failures, and successes in your career within and/or outside of the osteopathic profession?
  • Dr. Wykle:  I loved my practice, I loved my patients, I loved manipulation. Rarely was there a patient that didn't get manipulation. I took care of all their general medical needs as well as their emergent needs. They loved the care and appreciated it. (See below for details)
  • Dr. Seffinger:  How were you able to accomplish your goals?
  • Dr. Wykle:  During World War II, as a D.O., I was not requisitioned to the army because D.Os were told we were more valuable taking care of the public at home. Actually, the armed services were discriminatory to D.Os then, and did not allow D.Os to be medical officers, which actually worked to our advantage. The MDs found out about that when they returned from service and found all their patients happily cared for by D.Os In 1944, on Christmas morning, my wife and I woke up to 20 below zero weather in Iowa, and that was enough for us…we came back to CA and moved to LA had an office at 8th and Wilshire for 3 yrs. But it wasn't very lucrative practice, so I went back down to Bell Gardens nights and weekends to get over the hump (pay the bills). We looked around, wanted to get back to the mountains, and we were told by the COA about Joe Cosentino, D.O., in Sutter Creek. I didn't like Sutter Creek too much, so I was introduced to Stephen and Barbara Teale, both D.O.s, who had a practice in West Point and also had an office in San Andreas; they were classmates of mine at COP&S. Barbara and I shared birthdays and we were in the same class at COP&S. Steve was a year ahead of us. Steve was 6'4", Barbara was 6 ft. and I was 5' 9"; I recall that all their shelves were high. They were really working night and day. They had a lot of industrial work from workers at the Bear River Reservoir and several lumber mills that needed medical care. They really needed help. There was an old doctor, very much behind the times, in San Andreas, when I arrived in 1948, There were also two other MDs in town, Bob Hopkins, and Everett Adams. Hopkins was friendly, but Adams was standoffish to D.O.s. He was busy with the State Detention School for Boys at which he was the medical director. Shortly after I came, Hopkins went into the army, came out as an ophthalmologist and practiced in Stockton. Barbara, Steve and I were so busy: we were making house calls, seeing patients in the office, and doing home deliveries. For patients that needed hospital care, we had to go to Stockton. There was a hospital built in Jackson that the MDs boycotted it because it allowed the DOs to practice there. Steve, Barbara, Joe and I went there regularly. We all went there to be on staff and take care of patients there. It was 15 miles from San Andreas. An amusing story comes to mind: Joe loved to pick tree mushrooms, take them home and eat them. One day, going between San Andreas and Jackson, he spotted one and tried to get it out of the tree. I came back later on my way back from Jackson and saw Steve with Joe on his shoulders, and he still couldn't reach that mushroom. A highway patrol came along, and then Dr. Albasio from Angels Camp came by. He was the county physician in Amador. He said, "I can get that for you"…. And he took out his shotgun and shot it out of the tree….we didn't have to cut anything up; it was all shredded already…I don't think anyone ate it, though. I closed my office when I was 70 years old in 1988 because I was doing a lot of anesthesia, and the insurance rates were so high, I contracted with the hospital, and they did all the liability insurance, took care of the paperwork, billing, and gave me a check for my services at the end of the month. I did that for another 10 years, maybe a little longer. I was pretty good until I was 83. Until then I would go up to my son's place in Idaho in the fall and herd cows all day long…I loved riding horses. I am 88 now, so retired only 5 years ago. I had a couple small strokes, and a bigger one last November, which affected my eyesight, and I couldn't pass my driver's license test anymore.
  • Dr. Seffinger:  Who were your mentors? Who were your supporters?
  • Dr. Wykle:  Dr. Mark Loveland moved to Hollywood in 1937 about the same time I moved to LA to attend the COP&S, so I was able to go and spend a lot of weekends at his home in the Hollywood Hills. I never lost my love and respect for him. He was a great manipulator (osteopathic) and he taught at the college. Steve and Barbara Teale, and Joseph Cosentino were great friends, colleagues, mentors and supporters. Sadly, in 1959, Barbara Teale and their boys were driving in Sacramento one day and their car was broadsided by a large hay truck. They were all killed. Steve needed help with the practice, and Dr. Dieudonne came up to help out. He was an obstetrician, practiced in Steve's office in West Point. He also came down and saw my OBs and I wanted to get out of doing so much OB at that time. But, Dieudonne had kidney problems, had to go on dialysis, left the area, then died in the 1960s. Widowed Steve later on married Shirley, started another family, continued his work in Sacramento as a state senator, and retired from practice.
  • Dr. Seffinger:  What were some of your greatest challenges in relation to the osteopathic profession in CA?
  • Dr. Wykle:  Mainly, overcoming discrimination and obtaining post-graduate education. In 1942 after internship, I went up to Burney in Shasta County. One of my colleagues had gone up to Fall River Mills near there and he told me that there were no doctors in Burney, so I moved up there to take care of the people there. Burney is east of Redding about 50 miles. It is a lumber town, with around 500 people. If a patient had appendicitis, he or she would have to go to Chico or Redding for treatment. There was a lumber industry-owned hospital at McCall, another nearby lumber town, and the doctors were hired by the lumber company. They were M.D.s, but they would take D.O. patients in consultation, or come over and see the patients with us, about 40 miles from McCall, and let us take care of the patient, or return the patient to our care. However, the county physician at Redding was very anti-D.O. I thought I had an office in Burney, even had the plumbing installed, and rented an apartment above the store next to the office. He came over to the landlady and he rented the apartment away from me saying, "No D.O. will be coming into Shasta County". I went over to eat at the restaurant across the street and the lady owner owned the beauty parlor next door that was not being used. It was a 20 feet x10 feet room, so she let me rent it to start an office. I divided the room into 2 rooms and worked there for a year. Then, I built a much bigger office with a couple of treatment rooms and a good size reception room and two rooms in the back where I had beds where I could recover patients. Although I had an unlimited Physicians and Surgeons license in California, I always wanted to get a physicians and surgeons license in Iowa, my home state. There was no reciprocity. So, I went back and took my Basic Science Boards, which was required there, and passed the exam to get my physician's license. But, I wanted my surgeon's license as well, so in 1944, I went back to Iowa and took a one year surgical internship at a small private D.O. hospital called Willard Hospital. It was run by Drs. Willard, a husband and wife team of D.O.s in Manchester, IA. I received my Iowa surgical license in 1945. When I came back from Iowa, in Los Angeles, I met Po Taylor, DO. He was the COA representative to the legislature in Sacramento. He was a very astute politician and able to keep track of anything that would affect the COA. While there, Po lost his office in downtown LA, and I invited him to share my office, he was an obstetrician. He turned his OBs over to me when he was off in Sacramento. It kept me current with the amalgamation process by practicing with him. I was never a politician and not active in the politics. Forest Grunigen and Po Taylor were involved. Our biggest problem was getting post-graduate work. The osteopathic board required more than the medical board. What was available was good, but there wasn't enough of it. The MD programs were closed to us. We always wanted to get into the UC CME programs, at Berkeley and San Francisco. It wasn't until the amalgamation that all CME was opened up to us. We took the MD degree so we could open up all the CME that was available. As far as I was concerned, it was the main reason to amalgamate. I didn't send my D.O. degree back to the AOA. I changed my degree to M.D. after my name. My patients knew what I was…it didn't make any difference to them what I was called. I had no problem getting along with any of the MDs or getting privileges in any hospitals after that. Fory and Po were so dedicated to keeping up our standards at COP&S so we would be acceptable to the MDs. So, when the amalgamation occurred (in the early 1960's), we were ready and were able to be accepted by the MDs. We were open to the avenues available to us. At that time, Steve was in the state senate, and held a very powerful position in the Senate, as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. He was able to get the California College of Medicine to be part of UC Irvine. So, I became an alumnus of Irvine!
  • Dr. Seffinger:  What advice do you have for future osteopathic physicians in training?
  • Dr. Wykle:  I want the future DOs to be trained as family doctors to practice with compassion and care and to practice osteopathic manipulation…you'd be amazed at how much good it does!
  • Dr. Seffinger:  What advice do you have for future allopathic physicians in training?
  • Dr. Wykle:  It is ok to go into a specialty, but I think they should go into family practice awhile before specializing to get a better picture of the whole patient.
  • Dr. Seffinger:  What documents do you have or know about that we should look up or reference to corroborate the facts you mention in your replies?
  • Dr. Wykle:  I might have some old books lying around…I will look into it and if I find anything I will send it along.
  • Dr. Seffinger:  Who else should we contact that was instrumental in the historical development of osteopathy in CA?
  • Dr. Wykle:  Just about everyone I knew has passed on already.
  • Dr. Seffinger:  Is there anything else you would like to talk about or discuss in relation to osteopathy in CA?
  • Dr. Wykle:  No, I think we covered it all. If I think of something I will let you know.