Link: University of Iowa

Information About

Alumni Interview

Albert Mintzer, M.D.


(53BA, 56MD)

What is your hometown?

West Des Moines, IA

What is your official title?

I am semi-retired clinical instructor at the Gynecology Clinic within Broadlawns General Hospital.

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

My parents emigrated from Europe with only limited schooling and placed a high priority on education, which they passed on to me and my siblings. They created a ranking of professional importance which was, 1) teacher; 2) clergy; 3) physician. Undoubtedly, parental influence, in part shaped my decision. When I was in elementary school I knew I wanted to be a doctor.

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

I had an older brother who had cerebral palsy and required multiple surgical procedures. Our family spent many hours at the University of Iowa Orthopedic Department from 1936-1938. Through the efforts of Dr. Arthur Steindler, who was the head of the department, my brother was able to walk. In my mind's eye Dr. Steindler was somewhat of a deity – I still can visualize his striking appearance. These experiences added to my motivation to become a physician.

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

During my military tour of duty I was Deputy Hospital Commander, Chief of Professional Services and Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Kincheloe Air Force Base, Michigan. I also served as Chairman of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at Iowa Lutheran Hospital for over ten years.

As board president of a geriatric nursing facility, I gained appreciation for the medical and emotional needs of the elderly and arranged for the family residency program at Iowa Lutheran Hospital to provide care and 24 hour call services to fill the void.

I was the first physician in my community to promote husband coached child birth, to allow fathers in the delivery room and to permit fathers to attend Cesarean Sections. The last two of these accomplishments were met with resistance because of an unfounded fear of liability. These achievements are the most gratifying of my career.

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

Dr. William Keettel, who was the head of the Obstetrics and Gynecology department while I was at Iowa, was a great inspiration. His gentle manner and passion for the specialty was infectious and was reflected by a large proportion of our class pursuing this specialty.

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

The University of Iowa has always been an outstanding center of education in Iowa, affordable and easily accessible from Des Moines. I also was fortunate to receive scholarships to cover my tuition.

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

Because of the reputation of the medical school, it gave me a competitive advantage in selecting an internship and residency program.

Also, having knowledge of the faculty and their expertise gave me an avenue to seek consultation and to refer patients with complicated medical problems as needed in my own practice.

What still resonates with you today about your training at Iowa?

The opportunity to receive a wonderful medical education and the exposure and inspiration of faculty who helped shape the lives of so many people. To name a few – Drs. James Van Allen (36MS, 39PhD), William Bean, Arthur Steindler and Ignacio Ponseti (44R-Orthopaedic Surgery).

Please describe your professional interests.

I am interested in improving obstetrical and gynecological care of the underserved women in our community.  I also am committed to sharing my knowledge and clinical skills with the medical students.

I believe that to maintain the excellence of our university it is important to financially support the University of Iowa Foundation, scholarships for merit and need, and medical research projects.

What are some of your outside interests?

Three of our four children live in Des Moines and three of our children graduated from the University of Iowa.  My wife and I enjoy spending time with them and our nine grandchildren.  We frequently play duplicate bridge and travel to tournaments several times a year.  I have several close friends with whom I play golf and I am an avid reader and enjoy classical music and opera.  I continue to be an ardent Hawkeye fan and seldom miss watching their athletic events.

Are you involved in service to your alma mater through volunteer activities, serving as community based faculty, etc. or have you had any opportunities to work with or train UI medical students?

After retiring from a very active practice of 41 years, I was offered a position as a clinical instructor one day a week in the Gynecology Clinic at Broadlawns General Hospital. We usually have third or fourth year Iowa medical students rotate through the service every six weeks. The day spent with them is my favorite of the week.

I am interested in supporting the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine not only because of the excellent education that I received, but also because of the superb and caring treatment that our family has received at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

My wife and I are on the Iowa First Campaign committee for fund raising for the University of Iowa Foundation, and I recently was appointed as a member of an advisory board for a research project in the Ophthalmology Department.

We created a need based scholarship endowment fund for a medical student and have also made a commitment to the University of Iowa Foundation in our estate planning. This includes gifts which are specifically earmarked for the medical school and the research programs of UI Health Care.

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

If my efforts can leave this world a better place than when I arrived, then I will consider my life a success.

If you could change one thing about the health care system in the United States, what would it be?

To make quality medical care available and affordable to all.

What are the biggest changes you've experienced in medicine since you were a student?

The introduction of highly effective drugs including chemo-therapeutic agents, the use of new technologies for less invasive surgical procedures, the emergence of out patient surgical centers and short term hospitalizations, the computerization of medical records, the development of sub-specialties in all medical fields and the initiation of Continuing Medical Education programs and certification requirements to ensure physician competency.

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

Listen carefully to the patient – most often it will lead you to the correct diagnosis. Don't make moral judgments and don't be hesitant to seek a second opinion. You need to recognize fallibility and be forgiving of others and yourself.

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

I think we will see more Tele-medicine and have the ability to diagnose and treat at sites distant from the primary care center. I also see stem cell application and the development of new vaccines having a profound effect on treating diseases.


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