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Information About


Alumni Interview

Ralph Woodard, M.D., FACS

Portrait: Ralph Woodard, M.D., FACS

(51BA, 54MD, 59R-Surgery)

What is your hometown?

My hometown is Fort Dodge, Iowa, where my wife Martha and I both grew up and graduated from high school. Her maiden name was Pray and her father had a plumbing business. On his trucks was a sign that said “Pray for Better Plumbing”. Her folks went to Iowa State so she was sent there where she was in the Tri Delta sorority.

How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?

The teachers that I had in high school inspired me in science and medicine.

What interested you to pursue a career in medicine and medical education?

Before I went to the University of Iowa there were several physicians in Fort Dodge interested in athletics, and the teachers in high school made me want to pursue a career in medicine.

Please highlight your major career achievements, awards, discoveries, etc.

I practiced surgery at Fort Dodge Medical Center for 36 years. I helped start a program to do athletic physicals for the high schools and junior college for free. I was the team physician for the high school and junior college teams, and made some trips for road games. For this I received an award from the State High School Athletic Association that was presented at halftime at the state basketball tournament. The high school football team gave me an autographed Dodgers football at the end of the last game of the season.

In 1990 I was inducted into the Fort Dodge High School Hall of Fame for my achievements in high school athletics and scholarship. At the University of Iowa I received a Nile Kinnick scholarship award, a merit scholarship and a Finkbine Medallion Award, I was president of the Varsity Lettermen’s club that was started after the war.

After graduating from the medical school in 1954 I interned at Wayne County General Hospital in Wayne, Michigan, near Detroit. I then returned to Iowa City for a surgery residency. While in residency I helped Dr. Dick Lawton do the first kidney dialysis at the University of Iowa hospital. Later in practice I had a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association about a case I operated on regarding the spontaneous rupture of the stomach in a newborn.

Is there a teacher, mentor or UI Carver College of Medicine faculty member who has helped shape your education?

I would say that I was trained by physician teachers that were the best you could have! It would be hard to single out any one person but Drs. Edgar Brintnall (38MD), Monty Lawrence, Ignacio Ponseti (44R-Orthopaedic Surgery), Sidney Ziffren, Stuart Cullen, William Keettel and Rubin Flocks are a few that come to mind.

How or why did you choose the University of Iowa for your education and medical training?

I went to the University of Iowa on a football scholarship in the fall of 1945 and after the first semester was drafted into the U.S. Army. I had been chosen all state in high school so I had offers from both Northwestern University and the University of Iowa. A strong backer of Iowa, who was a hometown physician, said I was to go to Iowa.

When I was discharged from the service in 1946 I went back to Iowa and talked to the head football coach Dr. Eddie Anderson about a scholarship. He encouraged me, but said I would have to come out for spring football for them to consider my request. They got me a construction job during the day, and then I would run across the river and practice football late in the afternoons. My brother was already starting center and linebacker for the team and on a scholarship after he was discharged from the Navy. When we had our spring game I had played well and Dr. Anderson said I had my scholarship. This meant that I could save my G.I. Bill for medical school.

Years later during my senior year we played Purdue and I received a Midwest Lineman of the Week award for my play in beating Purdue. The next week we played Indiana for Homecoming and in the second quarter I was clipped going downfield under a punt by an Indiana player. I sustained an open fracture that was treated at the University of Iowa hospital. Physicians that treated me then, later became my professors.

What kind of professional opportunities or advantages has your University of Iowa medical training provided?

The training I received at the University of Iowa gave me the experience to handle all kinds of medical and surgical problems in practice. I held the office of Chief of Staff and Chief of Surgery several years in my practice. I also started thoracic surgery in Fort Dodge. I was a member of the Iowa Academy of Surgery, and the Iowa chapter of American College of Surgeons.

What are some of your outside interests?

I play golf and tennis. I follow Iowa athletics, and am on the Iowa Scholarships Board of the athletic department.

Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?

Do no harm! I’m retired but still maintain a license and belong to the American College of Surgeons.

If you could change one thing about the practice or business of medicine, what would it be?

I would have the physicians maintain more control.

What is the biggest change you've experienced in medicine since you were a student?

Fragmentation of the practice with too much control by outside interests.

What one piece of advice would you give to today's medical students?

Be your own self and treat patients as if they were friends and family!

What do you see as "the future" of the medicine?

The future should be bright with the technology we have, if the doctors maintain control.

Contact

Medicine Alumni Society
medicine-alumni@uiowa.edu
Phone: 319-335-8886
Toll Free: 877-MEDIOWA
Fax: 319-384-1746