Omega Gamma Delta Builds Medical and Scientific Progress
A lively social life and the truly rigorous study habits needed for academic studies in medicine, science and engineering are not easy to combine. But several Omegamen have succeeded.
Dr. Paul A. O’Leary was an early member of Alpha Chapter who became a prominent dermatologist and both Chief of Dermatology and President of the Staff at America’s chief research hospital, Mayo Clinic. A graduate of Dartmouth and the Long Island Medical College, his prominence eventually led to his election as Secretary-General of the Tenth International Congress on Dermatology. He also became an expert in the treatment of ALS and was Lou Gehrig’s personal physician during the last days of his life. Their recently unearthed correspondence played heavily in Jonathan Eig’s 2005 book, The Luckiest Man Alive . The actual letters from Gehrig to his friend and physician, Brother O’Leary, make heart-rending reading even today: http://espn.go.com/mlb/flash/gehrigletters. But it nearly didn’t happen at all.
In an interview taped more than 40 years ago, another early Alpha, Dr. Walter H. Kerby, Alpha ’04, told the story. “Ted O’Leary of Alpha Chapter had a younger brother (Paul, Alpha ’08) who studied medicine and became a skin specialist at the Mayo Clinic (in Rochester , Minnesota ) and one of the best in America . But the interesting point was that in about 1918 he received an appointment from Mayo Clinic to come out there to be a surgeon, a Resident Surgeon. And on the way out there, they stopped him in Chicago and told him the first choice, who had declined the appointment, had finally accepted it and that the job would not be Paul’s. But if he came out to Rochester they would give him a job as head of the proposed Dermatology Department which he could go on to develop himself with the help of the other doctors.
Well, he was stunned and sat down and simply cried. As he sat on a bench at the railroad station to decide whether to go on or not, he finally decided to go on and see what it was like out there, but he had in mind that he wasn’t going to take the job. He was getting a free ride anyhow and he might just as well see something interesting. But he changed his mind once he saw Mayo and started out this clinic from the basic foundation. And he developed it over time with tremendous assistance from everybody to such a point that it was arguably the best in the World.” Talk about making “second best” into “best!”
Paul O’Leary ended up leaving a mark on Mayo Clinic that persists today. In September 2009, the Department of Dermatology held its 27th Biennial O’Leary Symposium and Lecture. These were started on September 8, 1956 , a year after Paul’s death and originally called, simply “The O’Leary Meeting.” In March 2004, an O’Leary Society was founded at Mayo in honor of Dr. O’Leary to support research and continuing education at the Clinic. It is dedicated to “Dr. Paul A. O’Leary’s legacy of professionalism, personal integrity, scholarly teaching, and sincere concern for all patients entrusted to his care” and is noted for its success in obtaining the highest level of support of all the clinic departments from alumni of Mayo.
Dr. Lee Foshay joined Omega’s Iota Chapter in Montclair , New Jersey in 1911, and was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and its medical school. He became a medical researcher and Director of the Microbiology Department at the University of Cincinnati . During the early 1930s he began research on what was considered the United States ‘ only “native” disease, tular emi a or rabbit fever. He first developed what is still called “Foshay’s Test” to identify the disease and then a serum that effectively eradicated it. (In more recent times, the virulence of tular emi a has made it a favorite possibility for bacteriological warfare). Somewhat later he also developed the cure for Petzakis Disease (Cat Scratch Fever). Back in the 1930s, Time Magazine ran an article on tular emi a that ended with Foshay’s success in dealing with the disease: www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,746999-2,00.html.
Dr. Ferdinand Ripley Schemm was a member of Lambda Chapter in Saginaw Michigan . Brother Schemm followed his father into the medical world and received a medical degree at the University of Michigan . He became a heart specialist as a medical researcher at the Great Falls Heart Research Institute and developed the cure for dropsy or edema, still a major factor in heart disease. Brother Schemm’s wife, novelist Mildred Walker, achieved even more note during her lifetime. Here is the link to an article in Time magazine that mentioned both:www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,771332,00.html.
Dr. Joseph F. H. Volker was a member of Omega’s Nu Chapter in Elizabeth, New Jersey during the late 1920s. He attended Rutgers and then obtained a dental degree at the University of Indiana . By then he had developed an interest in original research and began his studies all over at the University of Rochester where he earned BA, MS and PhD degrees. After a period as a medical researcher (where he discovered the potential to prevent tooth decay by ingestion of fluoride), he became a professor of dentistry and youngest-ever Dean of the Dental School at Tufts University . After a short period at Tufts, he was asked to become the first Dean of the new dental school at the University of Alabama . Over succeeding years he became head of the medical school, first President of the new University of Alabama at Birmingham and finally, Chancellor of the entire University of Alabama system. As far as can be determined, Brother Volker is the only dentist to ever become head of a major university. His biography appears in detail at: http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-2057 .
Dr. Warren Bradley Spurge, Alpha Gamma ’25. After obtaining his dental degree at the University of Pennsylvania , Brother Spurge followed the lead of Brother Volker as a pioneer in fluoride research in dentistry.
Dr. Vincent A. Fischetti, Beta Chi ’56. Graduate of Wagner College , Long Island University and New York University , Brother Fischetti is an immunologist and head of the Immunology Laboratory at Rockefeller University in New York City . He also has served as Chairman of the Scientific Board of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). For details see:http://www.rockefeller.edu/research/abstract.php?id=40 .
Oliver Luther Austin Jr., Rho ’20. Brother Austin was a famed ornithologist, educated at Wesleyan and Harvard Universities . He was author of nine books including Birds of the World,which has been translated into seven languages. Austin was one of the closest friends of Brother Jerome Kern and directly involved in identifying the bird song used as the basic theme of Kern’s own favorite composition, “I’ve Told Ev’ry Little Star.” See Wikipedia article:www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_L._Austin.
Trygve Blom, Mu ’38. A graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brother Blom was the Manager in Charge of the Air Force Man in Space program that preceded NASA. He later was Technical Director of the Air Force Munitions Program that developed the Smart Bomb at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. For his work on that project, he was awarded the Meritorious Civilian Service Award by the Air Force.
Noel B. McLean, Alpha Alpha ’23. Graduate of Rutgers University who served as Chairman of the EDO Corporation, a major defense contractor. He received a “Distinguished Public Service Award” from the United States government for his work in sonar development, anti-submarine warfare technology and oceanographic research. After retirement he became Chairman, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, one of whose laboratories is now named in his honor.
Ronald R. White, Alpha Phi ’46, is a prominent meteorologist. After attending the U. S.Merchant Marine Academy , Ron served as a navigator on U. S. naval vessels during the closing days of the Korean War. As a navigator, he became interested in meteorology and obtained a degree in the subject at City College of New York while working for the U. S.Weather Bureau’s office at the Port of New York , recruiting ship-borne weather observers. After that he became a forecaster in Puerto Rico and then was promoted to be Director of the Pacific Weather Center in San Francisco . From 1972 until he retired in 1986, he was Chief Forecaster of the U. S. Weather Bureau at Miami , Florida , which also hosts the National Hurricane Center .