- Associated Press - Monday, August 22, 2016

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) - “Amazing” and “gorgeous” are words that Dr. Edgar Marks uses to describe the new Bowman Gray Center for Medical Education.

“I was in this building when it was a tobacco factory,” Marks said on a recent visit to the center in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter in downtown Winston-Salem. “It doesn’t resemble a factory now.”

The building, now Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s recently completed medical education building, is unrecognizable to him, “period.”

Marks, who is 94, is one of the first graduates of Wake Forest School of Medicine after it moved to Winston-Salem in 1941.

As he sat in the Bowman Gray Center’s atrium, he talked about some of the changes in medical education and health care since he graduated from Wake Forest School of Medicine in 1945. Back then, the school went by Bowman Gray School of Medicine.

This was Mark’s second visit to the Bowman Gray Center. He toured the building last month and got to take a photo with first-year medical students.

No comparison

Marks joined the Army through the Armed Specialized Training Program while in medical school.

“We drilled just as if we would if we were in the Army,” he said.

He said that because there was such a need for doctors in the armed forces, he received his four-year degree in three years. He went on active duty as a first lieutenant in 1946 and remained in the Army until 1948. He served as director of public health and welfare for the U.S. military government in South Korea immediately after World War II.

In 1950, Marks started his medical practice in Greensboro and practiced internal medicine there for more than 40 years. He retired at the age of 70.

Looking back over the past 70 years, Marks said that there is no comparison between his early years in medicine and now.

He recalled how he used fans in medical school, going without air conditioning.

“This is more modern, spacious and air-conditioned,” he said of the Bowman Gray Center. “We had none of that.”

He remembers smaller classes.

“We were a class of 50 instead of 150 today,” he said.

There was just one woman in his class compared with 69 females in the first-year class of medical students (Class of 2020) at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Marks isn’t familiar with the medical school’s current curriculum but said when he was in school, students didn’t get vacations because they were needed in the military.

“Our first year, we took one subject for three months and that was anatomy,” he said. “The second three months, I think, was biochemistry.”

He said medical students didn’t get a chance to be on hospital wards until their third year.

When he started medical school, his tuition was $450, plus $30 for room and board.

Currently, for the medical degree program, yearly tuition is $53,354 - which is near the national average among private medical schools.

When he started his practice in the early ‘50s, there was no treatment for high blood pressure or ulcers, and the only treatment for cancer was aspirin and compounds from aspirin, he said.

“For cancer, the only thing we had at that time was radiation,” Marks said.

His office visits were $3. That’s the equivalent of about $30 in 2016, adjusted for inflation.

And he made house calls, which cost $5.

Today, he said, people live in a world of instant gratification and a lot of things are instantaneous, while doctors had to practice patience years ago.

“Diagnostics are completely different,” Marks said. “We had only X-rays. Now, everything is digital. But at that time it was film, and you had to develop the film.”

When asked what he thinks of the new technology, he said he likes it then asked, “Have you seen an encyclopedia? What did it look like?”

He said he had lectures in school, used books and still has his encyclopedia from 1929.

“Now, all that’s in here,” he said holding up his iPhone.

He saw his first computer at the New York World’s Fair in 1939.

“It added, subtracted and divided,” he said. “That’s all. It occupied a big air-conditioned room to do that.”

Marks believes that doctors were closer to their patients when he was a practicing physician than they are now.

“You knew them by first names,” he said of patients.

He also believes he probably saw more patients than the average physician sees today.

He said patients were friends back in his day and you could joke with them.

“You couldn’t joke now,” he said.

In his early days as a doctor, there were no plastics.

“Our tubes were rubber,” he said.

He credits penicillin - “right or wrong” - for people growing taller and living longer than before its discovery in the 1940s.

Life today

Marks is still active, saying he drives, swims, goes up and down stairs and is “capable of just about everything, except playing golf.”

“I can’t swing the club that much anymore,” he said.

He rattles off most long-ago dates and memories as if they happened yesterday.

His son, John Marks, said his father has always had an exceptional memory.

“He will tell you his memory is going, but then he’ll sit here and tell you everything from 85 years ago that we can’t remember 30 days ago,” John Marks said.

He spoke of how his father was always caring with his patients.

“I remember when he came home with tears in his eyes because one of his patients wasn’t taking care of himself,” his son said.

Edgar Marks expects continued growth in the medical profession.

“The hospitals are growing,” he said. “The medical schools are growing.”


Information from: Winston-Salem Journal, https://www.journalnow.com

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