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Reaching for the Sky: How Kaiser Steel Helped Reshape San Francisco

posted on May 31, 2017

Topping out of Transamerica Pyramid, featuring Kaiser Steel, 3/28/1972.

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


Forty five years after the Transamerica Pyramid redefined the San Francisco skyline, the city is witnessing a new exclamation mark – the Salesforce Tower. The upstart’s roof is 970 feet above the ground, and a top spike sprouts another 100 feet. It’s easily the tallest building in San Francisco and the second-tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

Until now, the Transamerica Pyramid was San Francisco’s distinctive giant. And it was built with Kaiser Steel.

News accounts featured the Pyramid’s “topping out” (or “topping off”) on March 28, 1972. It was 863 feet tall, and would have been taller at an even 1,000 feet but for a taxpayer’s lawsuit and other community opposition. And its unusual shape, intended to reduce its upper mass and improve views, was denounced by S.F. Chronicle architecture critic Alan Temko, who sniffed it “…would be out of place, even in Los Angeles, or in Las Vegas, where it belongs. It certainly doesn’t belong in San Francisco.”


Last year the S.F. Chronicle’s architecture and urban design critic John King praised its glories – “… an unforgettable . . . high-rise in an unforgettable setting… [which] stands serenely above the clutter of overhead wires and sidewalk fuss.”

The accompanying AP wirephoto of the “topping out” ceremony clearly shows the final steel beam being hoisted by crane – both emblazoned with KAISER STEEL.

Transamerica Pyramid construction, 5/3/1971.

Of all the businesses built by Henry J. Kaiser, historian Mark S. Foster called Kaiser Steel the “linchpin” of the powerful Kaiser industrial empire. That global reach used to include aluminum, cement, electronics, and automobile manufacturing, but all that’s left now is the Kaiser Permanente health care program. The 1980s were not kind to the American steel industry. Kaiser’s massive Fontana steel mill, built to make plate steel for cargo ships during World War II, was shut down in 1983 and sold off in 1984. Within a few years the company was all but gone.

Jesse Lee Beeson, Sr., who passed away this year, was the longtime foreman of Kaiser Steel’s “raising gang.” That team worked on giant construction projects all over the world, and placed the steel and assembled the precast concrete outer surface on the Pyramid. Mr. Beeson always considered this to be his greatest accomplishment.

Another detail in the news story was mention that the last beam sprouted “… a 4-foot redwood sapling.” It’s barely visible in the photo, but “… according to local [ironworker] custom, [a sapling] must accompany the last unit of a skyscraper’s skeleton. The sapling will be taken down and later planted in a half-acre plaza at the foot of the building.” That redwood joined 79 other siblings brought from a tree farm in the nearby Santa Cruz mountains. The Cultural Landscape Foundation praises this urban oasis.

Rather than a “curious local custom,” topping out is a widespread early Scandinavian construction practice, and was also followed in a recent Salesforce Tower event, hosted by Salesforce CEO (and health care philanthropist) Marc Benioff.

Reaching for the sky, the Henry J. Kaiser way. Welcome to San Francisco, Mr. Benioff.


Did you know that Kaiser Steel built the transbay tubes for Bay Area Rapid Transit in the late 1960s?
More Kaiser Steel stories to come.


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Hot Off the Presses! Kaiser to Build Helicopters to Combat Submarine Menace

posted on May 17, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

U.S. cargo routes, World War II; from Fore ‘n’ Aft, 5/26/1944.

Headline, April 30, 1943: “Kaiser to build helicopters to combat submarine menace.” By the mid-1940s, it seemed like there was almost no project that Henry J. Kaiser wasn’t trying to improve. Kaiser’s innovation wasn’t inventing things, it was looking at an existing problem and unleashing massive human talent to solve it. That worked for dams, that worked for ships, and that worked for health care.

Reporter Blair Moody of the North American Newspaper Alliance wrote about the U.S. Navy’s interest in using ship-based aircraft or helicopters to defend convoys against their number one threat: Hitler’s  U-boats. Moody offered some of the deal details:

While the Army termed the craft “still experimental” and the Navy’s position remained confusing, Kaiser walked off with a contract to develop and build them for the lend-lease administration in response to British demand. The contract was announced by R.W. Seabury, president of Cargoes, Inc., a government corporation subsidiary to [Under Secretary of State] Edward R. Stettinius Jr.’s lend-lease administration.

The Bristol Courier in Pennsylvania blared this headline the next day: “Kaiser May Build Helicopters Here” at Bristol’s Fleetwings aircraft plant.

Yet despite the best of intentions and the enormous efforts by many parties, helicopter technology was just taking off in World War II and didn’t get used to the extent envisioned.  The Igor I. Sikorsky Historical Archives, representing the preeminent U.S. helicopter developer, concedes “…helicopters remained largely untested and undeveloped and thus never played the role that many envisioned for them during the war. Given the declining submarine threat, those that wanted to develop the helicopter found it difficult to shift national policy.”

Vought-Sikorsky VS-300, 1941. When mounted with floats it was the first practical amphibious helicopter.

“Experimental” is the operative phrase here. These aircraft were still in their earliest stages, and the demands of combat flying – especially at sea – were daunting. What’s more, the expedited development of war technology caused friction between the Navy and the Army, and there were accusations that Kaiser’s efforts to take on the Navy helicopter contract would “interfere with the Army’s procurement program.” The Army had contracted with the Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft Company, a subsidiary of the powerful United Aircraft Corporation, to develop their helicopter.

Henry J. Kaiser confirmed that his contract would not in any way subvert United Aircraft’s work, and declared:

In line with my usual procedure, whenever I am requested by any department of the government to perform any specific task for the war effort. I gladly respond, especially when I am convinced personally that the work will contribute to victory. I have agreed with Mr. Seabury to build helicopters for him and the engineering is already under way.

And it was.

Henry J. Kaiser had just purchased a controlling interest in the aircraft manufacturer Fleetwings of Bristol, Penn., a month before to become a division of Kaiser Cargo, Inc. Fleetwings had a long and proud aviation history, which included the limited edition XBTK-1 torpedo bomber as a technical response to the need for smaller aircraft that could work well on compact aircraft carriers such as Kaiser’s CVE escort carriers.

But as we know, helicopters were in their infancy and . . . experimental. Sikorsky built the first production helicopter in the world; the military prototype was the XR4, and its first ferry flight was January 14, 1942.

Fleetwings plant, Bristol, Penn., November 1944

Before Kaiser’s acquisition of Fleetwings had gone through, he’d already been working on the helicopter project. A confidential memo dated March 26, 1943, from Frank de Ganahl [vice president and general manager of Fleetwings] reveals that Kaiser was pursuing two development tracks. One was called the “Sikorsky-type” helicopter, to be headed up and engineered by Ralph McClarren, Secretary of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, to design a two passenger, 2850-pound helicopter.  By late May, they had transferred all of that work to Fleetwings, whose primary role was to supply 25 percent of the floor space in the hangar so that McClarren and his crew could work.

Another highly confidential helicopter project would be headed up by Frank’s brother, Carl de Ganahl [President of Fleetwings], and would consist primarily of engineering studies with minor experimental shop projects.

A memo from Carl to Frank on March 29, 1943, described a meeting Carl had with Lieutenant Colonel H. F. Gregory at Wright Field. Henry J Kaiser had asked Carl to explore obtaining a production order for helicopters. Despite his reservations that the Sikorsky XR4 [later the CR4 or R4 model] might not really be ready for production, Col. Gregory had placed an order due to the urgency of the submarine menace and sought to determine which changes would be required to make shipboard operation practical in collaboration with the British Navy. Carl wrote of the efforts to attract working prototypes beyond the Sikorsky model:

I understood from Gregory that all rotary wing aircraft made to date in the size category approaching the size of the experimental order now with Sikorsky have not been successful. Just why, nobody seems to know. Gregory does not know if there is some fundamental aerodynamic problem inherent with the size of the machine, or just what it is.

Sikorsky R4 in use during World War II

History proved Col. Gregory’s concerns to be unwarranted; the R4 served as the most successful helicopter of the war. Production started in the first quarter of 1943 and by the end of the war close to 130 R4s were produced and used in the Pacific theater in a variety of roles.

When Carl informed Mr. Kaiser of his meeting, Kaiser suggested that Carl go back to Col. Gregory to get an experimental order for one large Sikorsky machine and a smaller one.

“This, Col. Gregory flatly refused to consider. He said that if we wish to come to him with a proposal on a helicopter with adequate design figures and drawings that they would be very glad to consider same; and on its merits would or would not give us a contract.”

Among other reasons, Col. Gregory was concerned that it would take Sikorsky valuable time to educate the Kaiser team rather than applying Sikorsky’s efforts to the development of its own machines.

On June 1943, Admiral Vickery (Vice-Chairman of the U.S, Maritime Commission) announced that experiments were being made to add a helicopter flight deck to a Liberty ship being built in Baltimore, the first time that a cargo vessel would be equipped with “aerial auxiliaries.” Vickery claimed that helicopters had been successfully flown off of tankers, but the effort was never completed.

Kaiser Fleetwings XH-10 helicopter, 1945

By May 1944, the Kaiser team had designed and flown one of their prototypes successfully. It was called the XH-10 “Twirleybird” two-seater, with a standard configuration of three main blades and a tail rotor, and was very similar to Sikorsky’s R4. But the XH-10 was never evaluated by the Army Air Force, and by then the war was winding down. Unlike his ships and planes, Henry J. Kaiser’s helicopters would not be part of the victory, and he moved on to other projects.

In the late 1950s Fleetwings had one more shot to produce a military turbine-powered observation helicopter, but the project stumbled and the company closed aircraft operations in 1962.


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Mother of Invention: Henry J. Kaiser’s Inspiration for Building a Health Plan

posted on May 11, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


Mary Kaiser in wedding dress, 1873; photo from Henry J. Kaiser: Western Colossus, by Albert Heiner.

Every institution has a story about how it started. For the health care plan now known as Kaiser Permanente, it began with Henry J. Kaiser’s mother.

In his last published interview, three and a half months before he passed away on August 14, 1967, Henry J. Kaiser stated “I see the day when no one need die for lack of medical care, as my own mother died in my arms when I was 16 years old.”

Mary Kaiser, a practical nurse, was only 52 years old when she died on December 1, 1899.

It was a story told and retold. During World War II medical author Paul de Kruif helped bring Kaiser’s novel health plan to national attention in Kaiser Wakes the Doctors. De Kruif described Kaiser’s motivation:

It was the lack of a doctor – who might have saved her life – that had killed Kaiser’s own mother at the age of 49… He was raw about this medical injustice. [Later in life] it offended him that he and his family could command the best medical advice, while millions of human beings were medically kicked around.

Henry Kaiser himself was vocal about his motivation. At a speech he made before a doctor’s group at San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel June 9, 1948, he said:

Mother would not go to a hospital as a charity patient because she believed in giving, not taking, charity. … I propose to earn millions of dollars and put millions into hospitals and to devote my life toward helping my fellow citizens who, as my own Mother and Father did, suffer because they cannot pay for the full services they require.

Henry J. Kaiser speaking at dedication of Permanente Foundation Hospital, Oakland, August 21, 1942.

More details emerged over time. He later said that Mary’s specific condition was Bright’s Disease, a constellation of kidney diseases now known as chronic nephritis. In addition to relative poverty (Henry’s father also had health problems and was going blind), another complication for her care was that the family lived in small town in rural New York.

Historian Mark. S. Foster’s biography of Henry J. Kaiser points out some inconsistencies in Henry’s story. For one thing, Henry was actually 17 years old when his mother passed. And there’s no corroborating evidence that Henry was present at her death.

But all origin stories value mission over details, and this one is no different.

According to one of Kaiser Permanente’s founding physicians, Morris Collen, MD, Henry Kaiser told the audience at the dedication of the Oakland Hospital in 1942 “My mother died in my arms because she didn’t receive adequate medical care, and I vowed that I would do whatever I could so this wouldn’t happen to anybody else.”

The health plan that Henry Kaiser built has certainly been proof of a son’s love for his mother.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mary.


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Looking Through You: How a Kaiser Permanente Nurse Transformed Health Education

posted on May 4, 2017

Transparent woman on cover of 1967 Kaiser Foundation Medical Care Program report.

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


In 1967, wife and husband Bobbie and Morrie Collen toured Montreal’s Expo 67 and were transfixed by a pair of transparent mannequins that rotated and lit up to reveal organs and display physiology. They later purchased the figures and shipped them back to Oakland to become the centerpiece of a major Kaiser Permanente health education program led by Bobbie.

Frances Bobbie Collen (née Diner, 1914-1996; always called Bobbie, never Frances) was an accomplished professional as well as being the wife of Morris “Morrie” Collen, MD. She was a nurse with a master’s degree in health education, and was the force behind the groundbreaking Health Education Research Center at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland hospital.

Bobbie graduated from Winnipeg (Canada) General Hospital as a Registered Nurse in 1937 and worked at the University of Minnesota Hospital where she met her future husband, Morrie. They wed secretly when he was a medical student because the university hospital would not hire married nurses. Later they moved to Chicago where he interned at Michael Reese Hospital and she was the evening supervisor at the Meyer House patient wing. While there she also a graduate student at the University of Chicago in Nursing Education.

Bobbie Collen, RN, circa 1980.

In 1939 the Collens moved to California where Dr. Collen began his residency at Los Angeles County Hospital. When World War II began, Dr. Collen’s 4-F status due to asthma kept him from serving in the military, but the Permanente health plan was ramping up to care for defense industry workers. Dr. Collen was one of the first ten physicians hired by Kaiser Permanente’s founding physician, Sidney Garfield, MD.

Bobbie was a founding member of the Permanente Medical Wives in Oakland, an important support group during the challenging postwar years. Dr. Collen’s oral history credits the group as a key factor in the success of Permanente medicine.

But it was Bobbie’s role in patient education that would be her lasting legacy in the advancement of health care. Dr. Garfield asked her to be the Director of the Educational Research Center in the spring of 1967: “Start with the development of a Health Exhibits Theater as an adjunct to our planned health care program for the healthy in our Health Plan membership, because this first step will be the easiest.”

Dr. Garfield with transparent man in Health Education Center

In May 1967 Bobbie submitted her thesis “Factors Associated with Continuing Education of Adult Women” for a Master of Arts in Education at U.C. Berkeley. Then the Collens toured a dozen facilities on the East Coast, including the Cleveland Health Museum and the Lankenau Hospital Education Center in Philadelphia.

Her field work in reviewing health education displays led her to this conclusion:

In my opinion, they have all missed one important feature which is a further step forward in preventive medicine, and that is, to demonstrate not only what the body looks like on the inside, and how it functions, but also how to care for it to keep it healthy. Here I think exists the potential which, when materialized in the shape of a Health Exhibits Theater, will provide a service to our membership that is unique in the country.

The Health Education Research Center at 3779 Piedmont Avenue in Oakland (next to the Kaiser Permanente Oakland hospital) opened its doors in January 1969 as a supporting function for Dr. Collen’s Multiphasic Health Testing Services.

The Principal Investigator for the demonstration research project was Krikor Soghikian, MD, and Bobbie Collen was the Education Director. The U.S. Public Health Service partially supported the Center through the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute because of the research component and its potential application elsewhere in the nation.

One key feature of the Center was the Health Library which opened July 1969, equipped with 24 individual projection booths for viewing films, slide-sound programs, and videotaped TV programs.  A patient would visit the library with a physician’s “prescription” to see a specific program.  Adjacent to the Library was an exhibit area that featured the transparent man and woman, a variety of health exhibits, and a children’s area with educational games, toys, and play figures. Later, when the Center was relocated, the children’s section included a doll with leg braces, a stuffed elephant with a hearing aid, and a monkey in a wheelchair.

Caren Quay, MLS, started as the Center’s first librarian in 1970. She recalled that from the beginning visitors requested more information, so she began to build an extensive collection of books and audiovisual materials, with every title reviewed by Permanente Medical Group physicians.

The health librarian would retrieve the prescribed audio-visual program from the files and play it on the projector in the individual’s booth. The list of educational videos grew to over 250 titles; a notation on one of the librarian’s catalogs records that the most popular subjects were stress, nutrition, birth control, breast self-examination, headaches, lifestyles, and high blood pressure.

Health Education Library for Patients, librarian Caren Quay at desk, circa 1974.

The program was quite successful. Audio-visual requests grew from 98 in 1969 to almost 8,000 by mid-1973. Attendance for women was triple that of men. Dr. Collen reflected on how well it reached members of the community:

They would bring in schoolchildren from all over Oakland, who would come in and go through this health education center. They would look at the exhibits—there was a normal lung and a smoker, smoker’s black lung, and I think that helped a lot of kids realize what smoking can do.

After Dr. Garfield and Mrs. Collen passed away (1984 and 1996, respectively) the education display lost its primary advocates. The grant money ran out and the Oakland hospital needed the space. The transparent man and woman went to U.C. Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science. But what continued was an expanding role for health educators and the growth of health education centers at the Kaiser Permanente medical centers for patients and members of the community.

Health Education Library, 1978.

Ms. Quay later became the health information specialist in Northern California’s department of Patient Education and Health Promotion, and recently reflected on the legacy of the program:

The Health Library broke ground as the first library I know of in the U.S. to provide health and medical information to the lay person. It was the model and inspiration (and then flagship, resource, and consulting lead) for health education centers that provided health information (and more) for the Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers throughout Northern California and, eventually, for the other regions of the Medical Care Program. The library served as a model for Planetree in San Francisco and for others throughout the country.

Dr. Collen lamented in his oral history that “[Bobbie] doesn’t get enough credit . . . for all the things she contributed.”

On this Nurses Week we thank Bobbie Collen, RN, for improving public health through education.


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Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the World War II Shipyards

posted on April 26, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


VD posters in Fore ‘n’ Aft, 3/3/1944.

During World War II, venereal diseases were called “the enemy in your pants,” and soldiers were warned that “your carelessness is their secret weapon.” But ordinary workers on the home front also confronted these communicable diseases, and the Permanente Health Plan stepped up to reduce that harm.

April is designated STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) Awareness Month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of the research on pre-AIDS World War II focuses on venereal diseases in the military, but home front workers suffered as well.

Some of this threat appears to have been exaggerated at the time. An article in the Portland, Ore., area Kaiser shipyard newspaper The Bos’n’s Whistle dated April 14, 1944, about venereal disease on the home front reported an alarming – but false – statistic:

Health experts report syphilis and gonorrhea near top of list of most common communicable diseases; the toll since the war began is greater than total battle casualties.

Reviewing the actual numbers, this claim was both inaccurate and alarmist. U.S. military deaths for that war was 416,800. Home front data found in Vital statistics of the United States, published by the U.S. Bureau of the Census under “General Tables – Deaths from Selected Causes” gives us a total death toll for syphilis (the only STD singled out, which is unfortunate, since gonorrhea was also prevalent; a 1944 Kaiser shipyard article on illnesses in Washington state lists 1,666 cases of syphilis and 1,929 cases of gonorrhea) between 1942 and 1945 as 58,698. Still, that was a lot of people to see dying from a preventable disease.

“VD vs. Victory” in the Richmond, Calif., Kaiser shipyard paper Fore’n’Aft in early 1944 warned of the danger:

Four in every 100 industrial employees have syphilis… venereal disease is one of the greatest enemies of industry. The [California] State Federation of Labor considers it so important that the executive board has recommended a compulsory blood test for all union members.

A quack cannot cure you. You cannot safely treat yourself. The only way you can be sure you do not have syphilis is by a blood test. You should have a test once a year. If you find that you have caught the disease, it will still be in the early stages and a doctor can treat and cure you.

Blood test for VD in The Bos’n’s Whistle, 4/4/ 1944.

In the early years of the war the standard treatment for syphilis and gonorrhea were sulfa (sulfonamide) drugs, the first and only effective antibiotics available. The best cure – penicillin – wasn’t proven until 1943, when doctors at a U.S. Marine Hospital on Staten Island in New York successfully used it to treat four patients. And even then, this “wonder drug” was rationed for military use. It first was made available to home front workers in May 1944 to treat pneumonia, due to the efforts of Kaiser shipyard physician Dr. Morris Collen.

In language foreshadowing the challenge of treating the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, the Bos’n’s Whistle article concluded that the biggest obstacle in attacking the problem of venereal disease was the stigma attached to it.

The important thing to remember is that to have a venereal disease does not constitute a crime, but to transmit it to others is definitely criminal. Authorities emphasize that most of the individual problems of persons having a venereal disease can be handled without resorting to law enforcement.

VD didn’t just affect men- the new shipyards were full of women as well. Hannah Peters, MD, was the Kaiser Richmond shipyard gynecologist and she co-authored Gynecology in Industry” in the Kaiser Foundation Medical Bulletin, July, 1945. There she outlined what she’d learned during her first two years serving a workforce composed of as many as 23,000 female employees.

Dr. Hannah Peters, Kaiser shipyard gynecologist

Her section on VD education explains the scope of the problem and efforts to reach out to women. She noted that during the period between March 1, 1944, and February 28, 1945, 2832 new cases were seen in the Gynecology Department of the Permanente Field Hospital in Richmond alone. Among these, there were 390 cases of gonorrhea. This meant that 13 per cent of all new gynecological cases proved to be infected with gonorrhea. The article goes on to report that the high percentage of infected women led physicians to introduce an educational outreach program in the shipyards:

Venereal disease educational material was placed in all women’s rest rooms in the yards. Literature, folders as well as booklets, supplied by the Public Health Department, were made easily available in wooden racks which were hung in conspicuous places in every women’s rest room. We were encouraged to find how quickly the literature disappeared. We know that the pamphlets were not only taken out of the rack, but they were actually read. We cannot measure their educational value; however, innumerable women have come into the clinic asking to be examined for a venereal disease because they think they might have some of the symptoms described in the literature which they found in the rest rooms.

The struggle for quality, affordable health care was vital to the war effort, which included the crop of STDs that debilitated the home front workforce. And just as the Permanente health plan rolled up its sleeves and took on that battle during World War II, it continues to do so today.

Last year, Kaiser Permanente led the nation in 21 quality measures, including screening for chlamydia. On top of our preventive testing practices, our doctors encourage a healthy conversation about STDs. A recent Total Health Radio podcast “So . . . This is Awkward” by a guest expert from Sexual Health Innovations offers helpful advice on how to talk about STDs to friends and loved ones.


Special thanks to Michael Sholinbeck, Outreach & Instruction Librarian at the Sheldon Margen Public Health Library, University of California Berkeley, for guidance on U.S. Census data.

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The Permanente Richmond Field Hospital – Proud Reminder of Health Care’s Role in World War II

posted on April 17, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


Richmond Field Hospital matchbook cover, circa 1944; gift of retired Permanente physician John Igo.

A sprawling, single-story structure with a small tower sits at 1330 Cutting Boulevard in Richmond, Calif. Forlorn and all but forgotten, few know that it played a proud role during the World War II home front and in the subsequent history of the region. It was a humble, working-class hospital that opened August 10, 1942, and served thousands of patients until it closed in September 1995, when the new Kaiser Permanente Richmond Medical Center opened several blocks away.

When the United States was drawn into World War II in December 1941, Henry J. Kaiser was already running two shipyards in Richmond building cargo ships for Great Britain. Not only would the existing workforce composed primarily of healthy white men soon go off to war, the tidal wave of replacement workers were new to the shipbuilding trade, were performing under high-pressure conditions, and were often in poor health to begin with. Some 90,000 workers and their families migrated to the Richmond shipyards during the war, swamping all existing medical facilities. Enter the Field Hospital.

Lobby, Richmond Field Hospital, circa 1943. “Illness knows no color line here.”

There were six first aid stations in Kaiser’s Richmond shipyards for immediate care, and the newly refurbished, 70-bed flagship Permanente Hospital in Oakland was the health plan’s biggest facility. But in between, just blocks away from the yards, was the Permanente Richmond Field Hospital.

At first it only had 10 beds, but the demand for services was so high that before the year’s end a 75-bed expansion was underway. Sidney Garfield, MD, who was in charge of the medical program, later reflected on the nearly constant expansion during the war: “Most of our mistakes . . . came from underestimation.”

“They would be 20 deep in the hallways every day,” remembers Mrs. Bernice Brooks, who went to work at Richmond in January 1943.

Richmond Field Hospital under construction, 1942.

Mrs. Brooks was one of seven 25-year veteran Kaiser Permanente workers interviewed in a 1967 article celebrating the 25th anniversary of the hospital.

“We had five station wagons and three ambulances,” explains Ruth Schornick, a senior medical receptionist who spent 20 years in Emergency, starting in June, 1943. “Invariably, we couldn’t find a driver. I had a chauffeur’s license, so I would have to go down to the shipyards to pick up the injured. And we also had to use the station wagons to bring the nurses and other employees to work and to take them home.”

“It became routine for the ambulance driver to stop by and pick up the X-ray technician or anesthesiologist whenever he picked up a patient at night that might require one of us,” adds Olive Boyd, supervisor of Radiology.

Shipyard workers being treated, circa 1943.

The hospital was a significant asset to the Richmond community. An exhaustive survey of the Field Hospital produced in 2000 by the National Park Service includes this description:

The addition begun in the spring of 1943 allowed for families of the shipyard workers to be taken care of in the Field Hospital by their own physicians [on a fee-for-service basis, since they were not yet included in the Permanente Health Plan]. This provided a great service to the city, as its population was quickly outgrowing existing medical facilities. Up to this point, the hospital had been serving workers’ families only in cases of emergencies. The new facilities included “complete gynecology, obstetric, surgery, medical, orthopedic and all allied clinics,” which operated on a twenty-four-hour basis. Additionally, as an experimental program, families living in the Harbor Gate and other residential developments were invited to visit the hospital for emergency treatment and office appointments on a fee-per-service basis.

Recall that in 1942 many institutions, including all branches of the military, the United Service Organizations, and hospitals, were segregated. Not the Permanente facilities. “Illness knows no color line here,” wrote a reporter from the San Francisco Bulletin in 1943 about the racial diversity of patients in line for treatment and in neighboring hospital beds: “Red-helmeted men, women welders, Negroes, lined up for a checkup by the busy young doctors.”

Exterior, circa 1943.

An article titled “Berkeleyan Victim as Zoot-Suit Riots Spread” in the June 10, 1943, edition of the Berkeley Daily Gazette noted some of the racial tensions at the time, and the role of this stalwart care facility:

A young Berkeley Negro, Carl Oliver, said one of three unidentified sailors objected to his zoot suit garb and struck him on the forehead. Fearing serious trouble, he fled from the Richmond restaurant. At Richmond Field Hospital, Oliver was given emergency treatment and released. The victim is employed at Richmond Yard No. 1 as a burner, police said, and had stopped at the cafe on his way from work.

The commitment to inclusive care continued after the war’s end when the Richmond Field Hospital was again certified as a general treatment facility, accepting all inpatients regardless of race.  Black physicians returning from military service needed hospital privileges, and could get them at Kaiser because it had the beds.

In October 1945, Health Plan membership reached its lowest point – 14,500. Richmond hospital resources and staff were diverted to the Oakland hospital, which served most of these members. For a period of several months the hospital was run on an outpatient basis only with a skeleton staff of not more than 20-25 employees. Later, a laboratory for comparative biology research was set up under the supervision of Ellsworth Dougherty, MD, in February 1959, with a staff of 30 people.

Richmond Field Hospital renovations, circa 1953.

The hospital got a new lease on life in 1966, when it became the site of the Kaiser Foundation Psychiatric Center. One section was remodeled and refurbished to accommodate a 12-bed intensive care unit offering individual, group and occupational therapy. The center provided both inpatient care and day-care.

Eventually the hospital’s condition degraded, and in December 1973 the Kaiser Company purchased five acres in downtown Richmond to build a new hospital, a doctors’ office building and a parking structure.

The new medical offices opened in 1979, with many departments moving there from the Field Hospital. Remaining at the old facility, now referred to as the “Richmond Medical Center,” were an emergency department, inpatient services, physical therapy, a pharmacy, a laboratory, radiology department, and night and weekend clinics.  In September 1995, with the completion of the last segment of a new $56 million four-building Kaiser Permanente medical complex in downtown Richmond, the Field Hospital was finally closed, and its remaining services were moved into the new structure.

The site was purchased in 1999 by the Islamic Community of Northern California, which planned to renovate it into a community center and mosque, complete with Islamic architectural features. However, that conversion never happened and the site remains mostly vacant.

A nomination for the Field Hospital to the National Preservation Registry was drafted in 2004, and although it is not listed by itself, the facility is registered as an element in of the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historic Park. The Historic American Buildings Survey concluded with a powerful appraisal of the importance of the Richmond Field Hospital:

As one of the remaining World War II-era structures in Richmond, it represents an important historical moment, when thousands of workers converged on the small city to produce the hundreds of Liberty ships that helped to lead the Allied forces to victory. The Field Hospital is an outstanding contribution to the important narrative of the World War II American home front, demonstrating the great efforts made to provide social services to the thousands of men and women who labored in the defense industries during the war.

Ordinary people, doing extraordinary things.


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Scooter Too – Henry J. Kaiser’s Monster Speedboat

posted on April 6, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


Henry J. Kaiser at wheel of Scooter Too, 1955.

What has 24 cylinders and goes 180 miles an hour?

One of Henry J. Kaiser’s hydroplanes, of course.

The industrialist founder of Kaiser Permanente and his son Edgar loved racing boats at Lake Tahoe, and in 1955 hired famed water speed artist Bartlett “Bart” Carter (a Kaiser employee) to build something extra special. At the boat’s heart was a veritable beast of a powerplant – a 24-cylinder Allison V-3420 capable of putting out a staggering 2,885 horsepower. For comparison, muscle cars of the 1970s pumped out between 400-500 horsepower; the triple-expansion steam engines that powered Kaiser’s World War II Liberty ships put out 2,500 horsepower. Kaiser’s new water rocket was named the Scooter Too.

Scooter Too engine, Allison 3420 cubic inch 24 cylinders.  Auburn, Calif.; Gary Larkins photo.

After World War II, many kinds of military airplane engines were readily available at a bargain, but this was special. It was an experimental design built by General Motors, a Frankensteinian jam-up of a two Allison V-1710 12-cylinder engines with a common crankcase. The 12-cylinder, water-cooled engine had been used in American fighter aircraft such as the Curtis P-40 Warhawk, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, and the initial versions of the North American P-51 Mustang.

Only 150 of the V-3420s were built, as aircraft power became more effectively produced by jet engines. Kaiser dropped one of them into the 28-foot-long U-10 Scooter Too (the “U” stands for “unlimited,” a racing class with fewer restrictions than standard hydroplane racing).

This boat began as Henry J. Kaiser’s Scooter, powered by two powerful Cadillac engines and described as a “real plush boat.” But when Scooter was smoked by a “little kid with a B-class hydro” Henry resolved to amp it up. He added a larger engine, but the boat couldn’t handle it.  Famed driver Jack Regas (also a Kaiser employee, who’d worked for Kaiser Rock, Sand and Gravel) said this about her first race:

Scooter Too in Pasco, Wash., warehouse, circa 1960.

“After I won the 1954 Mile High Gold Cup, I brought the boat in and she sank. The Allison shook the seams all apart… So Mr. (Henry) Kaiser Sr. said, ’Don’t worry about that, boys. We’re going to build a new boat.’ So we built the Scooter Too.  We built it in the shop at Livermore, California.”

One challenge was linking the V-3420 powerplant to the single 13-inch propeller. The two engine output shafts aimed forward, fed a custom gearbox that tripled the rotation speed, whereupon the single drive shaft ran back under the engine and cockpit. The torque was enormous. After several shafts broke, Kaiser ordered one made out of titanium. And those 24 cylinders were very thirsty – on one of her first races she ran out of gas just shy of the finish line. They promptly added two lateral auxiliary tanks.

Alas, this beast never performed as hoped. She threw propellers, sank six times, was derisively nicknamed “the submarine,” and never won a race.

Gary Larkins in his workshop.

Regas described her qualities in an interview with Thunderboat magazine:

“The Scooter Too had too much weight. The boat weighed close to 8000 lbs. I had that big engine and all the extra fuel I had to carry and gas is 8 pounds a gallon. It was just a heavy boat…The problem with the Scooter Too was that I was throwing props all the time — just too much power on and off the throttle too fast… But the Scooter Too was a good riding boat.”

The Kaisers sold her in 1957 to Stanley Adams and John Owsley for $4,500 and she was trailered to Pasco, Wash. The sale include numerous spare parts, including 72 pistons, 18 connecting rods, and an incomplete second engine.

She was raced as the U-10 but renamed Adios, and later still under a third owner as the U-26 Miss Moses Lake and the Miss Tri-Cities. She ended up with her engine gutted and ignominiously mounted on a pole at Columbia Park in Kennewick, Wash.

Scooter Too rebuild, Auburn, Calif.; Gary Larkins photo.

But rotting as a seagull perch was not to be her final fate.

This boat is being lovingly restored by Gary Larkins in Auburn, Calif. Gary’s not really a boat guy – he’s a renowned airplane salvage expert who’s traveled all over the world rescuing vintage planes from swamps and glaciers. But the Scooter Too has an aviation heritage beyond just the engine, and Gary embraced this project with all his passion. Aircraft components abound – Gary was amused to discover that the external oil tank was pulled from a P-51 Mustang.

What’s more, Gary appreciated Henry J. Kaiser’s spirit of innovation. He commented on a recent blog post about Kaiser’s foray into postwar civil aviation: “It doesn’t surprise me though, that he would tackle the aviation industry, he was fearless and always pushed the very limits of everything he did. Thus we have the Scooter Too which was as large a piston engine as anyone has ever put in a race boat.”

Open frame of Scooter Too under restoration, auxiliary fuel tank in foreground and gearbox in center.

Gary was drawn into the project by his neighbor Richard Carter, son of the original builder and young pit crew member of the Scooter Too. Gary bought the gutless hulk, found another Allison V-3420 engine, and is in the final stages of restoring her to her midcentury glory. Gary wryly comments, “The original goal was to just preserve it but that has grown to restoring it, if I live long enough. LOL.”

She’s been displayed at Lake Tahoe’s South Shore Boat Show, and is seeking a museum for permanent display.

Henry J. Kaiser and his son Edgar would have been proud of Gary’s efforts.




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World War II Shipyard Artist Sketched Physicians with Care

posted on March 30, 2017


Lincoln Cushing
Heritage Resources



Dr. Sidney Garfield, by Reginald “Reg” Machado, circa 1943.

A framed set of caricatures hangs in the lobby of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, described with this caption: “Drawn in 1943 by Mr. Machado, a Richmond, California, Kaiser shipyard employee treated for a hernia repair.”

The beautifully drawn and painted figures depict three key physicians who provided care for Henry J. Kaiser’s World War II shipyard workforce in Richmond, Calif. – Dr. Sidney Garfield (1906-1984), Dr. Morris Collen (1914-2014), and Dr. Cecil Cutting (1911-2008).

Dr. Collen’s oral history explains how he discovered these pictures while he was in the company of Dorothea Daniels, the first female hospital administrator at the Los Angeles Permanente Foundation Hospital in 1953 and first director of the Permanente Foundation Hospital School of Nursing in Oakland:

Dr. Morris Collen, by Reg Machado.

One day on rounds [probably in 1952, at the Oakland Hospital], Miss Daniels and I went through the basement storage area. In a dusty corner I saw a stack of pictures. It turned out that they were about fifteen framed caricatures drawn by the cartoonist for the shipyard paper while he was a hospital patient in Oakland. He sketched all the physicians he had met, and they all hung in the Oakland doctors’ dining room for several years. One day, they painted the dining room and must have put all the pictures down in the basement, where we found them. Most of them were now broken or stained with dirt. I took them, of Dr. Garfield, Dr. Cutting, and myself, and had them restored. They have been hanging in my office since that time.


Dr. Cecil Cutting, by Reg Machado.

The Kaiser Richmond shipyard newspaper Fore ‘n’ Aft reveals more about the artist, Reginald “Reg” Machado (1911-2004). He designed silk screened posters and launch programs, and was an artist for the newspaper. A biography on him published February 5, 1946, explains further:

Reg Machado probably has advanced in his own line of work as far as anyone in the shipyards. He has always been an artist. Reg came to the yards in December of 1941 with an idea … and in order to get his idea across, went to work in Yard Two as a sign painter. But it wasn’t long before he had developed what is known as the large and valuable Graphic Arts Department of which he is the Director. Born in the San Joaquin Valley, Reg swears he has never been farther north than Sausalito, nor farther south than Carmel. “However,” he said, “I hope to make a long trip soon.” We checked on the possibilities of this and learned he is slated to leave for the Kaiser-Frazer automobile plant at Willow Run. He will be in charge of a bigger and better Graphic Arts Department there.

Reg Machado painting posters, Fore ‘n’ Aft, 9/3/1942.

Reg Machado at his desk with launching program for SS Marine Leopard, Kaiser Richmond shipyard, 1945.


Mr. Machado later returned to the San Francisco Bay Area and operated the Reg Machado Advertising Art studio for 20 years before retiring. He returned to the Monterey Bay Peninsula with his then-wife Betty, built his own home and others, and took up landscape painting. He eventually moved to the Sierra foothills.

Further research in the Kaiser Permanente archives revealed no support for the hernia operation part of the framed images caption, and a physicians group photo with Machado’s caricatures on the wall of the doctor’s dining room is dated 1942. But at least we now know more about Reginald.

Just like noted California artist Emmy Lou Packard, Reg Machado used his artistic skills in the service of winning World War II while working in the Kaiser Richmond shipyards. His contribution will not be forgotten.

Permanente physicians, Oakland Hospital doctor’s dining room, circa 1942. Machado’s caricatures hang on the wall.

Launch program cover by Reg Machado for SS Marine Leopard, July 27, 1945; C4 ship, the largest cargo vessel class built by the United States Maritime Commission. Arthur S. Hatch was the Western Regional Manager for the Ford Motor Company.


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Kaiser Permanente and Group Health Cooperative – Working Together Since 1950

posted on March 22, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


“Permanente pediatric clinic at 515 Market St, San Francisco – nurse giving Patricia Nisby, daughter of ILWU Local 10 member Wiley Nisby, a shot.” ILWU Dispatcher, 10/13/1950.

It’s official. Kaiser Permanente has acquired Group Health Cooperative, making Kaiser Permanente Washington our newest region, the first in over 30 years.

Although this merger is brand new, the two organizations began collaborating more than 65 years ago. Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound (they dropped the “of Puget Sound” in 1995), like Kaiser Permanente, was always a mission-driven organization that approached health care in a very different way from traditional fee-for-service medicine.

In fact, few know that our common roots go as far back as 1950, just three years after Group Health Cooperative’s founding.

The relationship began in 1949 when the International Longshore and Warehouse Union [ILWU] approached Kaiser Permanente (then called the Permanente Health Plan) about taking on their membership. Initially it was the 20,000 members in the San Francisco Bay Area, with the understanding that it would soon be all of their members on the rest of the coast, from Seattle down to San Diego. Permanente and the ILWU had been in discussion since 1945. Among the many advantages raised was “The hospital’s facilities are open to all groups with no segregation of patients because of creed or color.” Imagine that.

“Permanente Health Plan Recommended by Oakland Council for Future Contracts,” ILWU Dispatcher, 6/15/1945.

In a 1974 interview, Kaiser Permanente founding physician Sidney Garfield, MD, reflected on this earliest relation between Kaiser Permanente and Group Health Cooperative:

We were rather anxious to get the membership of course, but we couldn’t spread our service that far. We did have a service up in Portland, so that was fine. We got the doctors up there to accept those members, they wanted to do it too. In Los Angeles we had no service. We had it in Fontana, which is quite a distance away, maybe 70 miles from San Pedro. In San Diego we had no service.

[In the Northwest] what we did was arrange with… a prepaid plan up in Seattle, Group Health Association [Cooperative] I think they call it, so we talked them into taking on Longshoremen up there and there was a prepaid plan down in San Diego, a small one, and we talked them into taking on the Longshoremen, and we tackled the Los Angeles, San Francisco, Bay Area and the San Pedro area…

An article in the ILWU newspaper The Dispatcher January 6, 1950 proclaimed: “ILWU Coast Longshore and Shipsclerks Welfare Plan Goes Into Effect.”

The Pacific Maritime Association began making a 3 cents per man hour contribution to the Welfare Fund on December 26, 1949.

Hospital plans go into effect as of February 1, 1950. Permanente Foundation’s Health plan will cover the San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland – Vancouver areas. There is already a setup in Portland similar to the one in the San Francisco Bay Area. Permanente will open a clinic in Wilmington, Calif., immediately upon the ratification of the Welfare Plan by all locals.

In Seattle, Wash., the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound made the offer of medical care on the same basis and at the same price as Permanente.

By year’s end, 90 percent of eligible ILWU member had signed up for the plan. It was voluntary; the Permanente Foundation Health Plan was committed to offering “dual choice” to groups, so that no member would feel resentful at having something forced on them.

Group Health Cooperative communicator Pat Bailey adds this point:

This contract for 2,200 ILWU enrollees for Group Health came at a time when the Cooperative was cash-starved. But as already noted, with the new enrollees came pent-up health needs. Before long, the waiting list for hernia operations numbered as many as 50.

“Anne Waybur of the ILWU Research Department interviewed more than 125 longshoremen, clerks, foremen and their wives in San Pedro, Calif. to find out what they think of the Permanente Health Plan coverage and service.” The Dispatcher, 1/5/1951.

It’s hard to overstate the deep impact that this contractually-negotiated benefit made in the lives of the ILWU members.

When the plan began, there was a big rush for treatment of such illnesses as hernias and hemorrhoids, conditions the men had suffered with and lived with for many years. They hadn’t been able to pay for medical care on their own. A 1951 brochure produced by the ILWU about the Multiphasic testing examination noted that “…many of our members have not been to the doctor until they practically collapsed on the job.”

A March 10, 1950, article in The Dispatcher put it this way:

“The Welfare Plan is the greatest thing since the hiring hall.” That’s the opinion of D.N. (Lefty) Vaughn, Local 13 longshoreman, hospitalized here under Permanente. Vaughn told Local 13 visitors last week that if it wasn’t for the Welfare Plan he would have had to sell his home in order to pay for the major operation he’s getting for nothing through the Plan.

An editorial three weeks later further explained:

Life can be beautiful if you’re healthy is the way the ad men put it. There’s no doubt they’ve got a point, though it’s oversimplified. Health is no fringe issue, not when you are required to make a choice between an operation which will allow you to go on working and living, and the home you must sell to pay for that operation. Longshoremen no longer have to make such choices. More than one home has been saved since the medical coverage section of the Welfare Plan became effective two months ago.

Kaiser Permanente and Group Health Cooperative– partnering to help working American families get good health care since 1950.


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hanks to Robin Walker, ILWU archivist, for help with this article.

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Screening for Better Health: Enter the Computer

posted on March 15, 2017

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer


The Automated Multiphasic Examination
Second part, follows “Screening for Better Health: Medical Care as a Right


IBM 1440 computer processing room at Kaiser Permanente, circa 1964

Last summer a major medical news story splashed across the world: “Historic Kaiser Permanente Data to Aid in Long-Term Study to Determine Extent of Ethnic Disparities in Brain Health and Dementia; new $13 million study funded by National Institute on Aging will revisit patients who were first screened as long as 50 years ago.”

Where did this remarkable trove of data come from?

In 1961 the U.S. Public Health Service awarded the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute a grant to study the automation of the multiphasic health testing it had been conducting manually for 10 years. Members would now go through the screening stations with computer cards that got marked along the way.  At the end of the session, which took a couple of hours, there would now be a computerized medical record of their current health status. The Automated Multiphasic Health Test was born.

Multiphasic stations, from “The Multitest Laboratory in Health Care,” by Drs. Morris Collen and Lou Davis, Journal of Occupational Medicine, July 1969.

The first AMHT center was at a new building on the Oakland Hospital campus at 3779 Piedmont Ave. By the end of 1966, Kaiser Permanente had enlarged and updated its testing facility and laboratories nearby at a state-of-the-art center at 3772 Howe Street, and expanded the computer center and offices in the Piedmont building. A second center in San Francisco was linked to the mainframe computer in Oakland.

Dr. Collen, in the Journal of the American Medical Association (1966), accurately predicted that “The advent of automation and computers may introduce a new era of preventive medicine … [The computer] will probably have the greatest technological impact on medical science since the invention of the microscope.”

AMHT questionnaire card about occupational health

The AMHT continued to be seen as a vital tool in the diagnosis and treatment of occupational and industrial illnesses. A 1967 article in the Archives of Environmental Health discussed the employment data gathered, which included a list of 170 occupational titles and a battery of work-related health questions. “The computer storage of data on more than 40,000 adults annually permits extensive epidemiological research, especially directed toward the preventive aspects of chronic disease.”

It wasn’t just union members who benefitted. The Modern Hospital, May 1966 called the periodic health examinations to more than 4,000 patients monthly “… an impressive investment in the concept of ‘health medicine.’”

AMHT station 4 skin fold thickness test, a much more accurate indicator of obesity than BMI.

The test expanded to about 20 stations, measuring everything from hearing to heart function. It even went beyond mere testing – if recommended, a patient could get a tetanus booster via the new high-pressure injector system.

A 1970 article by Dr. Garfield in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine with the provocative title “Multiphasic Health Testing and Medical Care as a Right” began with this abstract:

Although no long-term evidence exists that the course of disease is influenced by multiphasic health testing, this is largely irrelevant. Such programs are essential for other very important reasons. The existing and spreading concept of medical care as a right, with its elimination of personally paid fees, is creating a demand for periodic health checkups and health appraisals. This demand cannot be met by traditional methods totally involving the physician without great waste of doctor time.

Multiphasic health testing can help separate the entry mix of patients into the well, the asymptomatic sick and the sick. This separation makes possible optimum use of physicians’ services, which can be devoted to the area where they are most needed: the care of the sick.

The efficiencies of the AMHT were sufficient that these programs were sometimes adopted by private practice, large companies, and public health agencies. Dr. Collen remarked:

It is still of great interest to me and much personal satisfaction that the AMHT is still flourishing in Japan, Taiwan, and in China; and in the past when I visited them I found the AMHT centers in Japan to be primarily employer-sponsored for employees. I found the newest AMHT centers in Taiwan and China to be for-profit, marvels of efficiency and associated with health education centers open to the public, and with a high level of provider and patient satisfaction.

“Multiphasic Screening Comes to Portland,” Healthgram, Winter 1976

But despite the AMHT’s popularity, it was discontinued by Kaiser Permanente by the late 1970s when a federal grant supporting the work dried up and Kaiser Permanente declined to commit further resources.

Dr. Collen himself noted some of the challenges to quantifying the benefits of screening:

…Epidemiologists required us to report on gross mortality, and since the potentially postponable conditions comprised only about 15 percent of all the causes of death, most people died from other conditions … some of the criticism of urging checkups is based upon the fact that one does not decrease total gross mortality. That is, everyone eventually dies from something.

Gary Friedman, MD, former director of Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research, recently explained additional medical limitations to the AMHT:

Kaiser Permanente silent film showing the Automated Multiphasic Health Test process, circa 1970. Click to play.

Initial enthusiasm for multiphasic health screening was tempered by experience in using it and by scientific studies that did not confirm benefits vs. costs of specific screening tests.  For example, it was initially hoped that routine chest x-rays, included in AMHT, would lead to early detection and increased curability of lung cancer.  Studies did not confirm this benefit.  A yes/no question about chest pain provoked by exercise and relieved by rest was included in the AMHT symptom questionnaire.  Although a yes answer seemed almost diagnostic of angina pectoris, this often did not prove to be the case in the follow-up examination by the physician, who could question the patient in greater detail, consuming valuable time.

Clearly however, the value of some screening tests has been amply confirmed.  Finding and treating high blood pressure in asymptomatic individuals prevents strokes.  And screening for colorectal cancer by the various tests available can lead to early detection and cure, or the removal of polyps that could later progress to cancer.

Despite these issues, Dr. Collen defended the value of the AMHT in a 1986 UC Berkeley oral history by Sally Smith Hughes:

…The study [on AMHT] did clearly demonstrate that for those conditions that are potentially postponable, there is a significant decrease in mortality.

He went on to note larger policy and commercial impediments to the AMHT:

Blue Cross/Blue Shield and other indemnity insurers to this day still do not pay for checkups. They take the position that periodic health checkups are schedulable and elective, so are not insurable events. Medicare to this day does not pay for checkups. The contrast, in other countries, like in Japan and in France, their social security and governmental supportive systems pay for periodic health checkups for well people, but do not pay for sick care. Just the opposite from the U.S. So if our Public Health Service is so interested in

Dr. Morris Collen at Multiphasic registration counter, circa 1966

preventive medicine, why do they fail to support the financing of checkups? A very key reason that multiphasic testing has not proliferated in the United States is because it is not reimbursed by any of the insuring agents. That has been reported by vendors who try to sell the systems.

I should point out that the Public Health Service had asked us to patent the system because it was an invention. Whether I was right or wrong, I refused to do so. I felt that it should be in the public domain, and it is. It’s never been patented.

Dr. Collen concluded with deep pride in the accomplishments:

We actually developed the most comprehensive inpatient and outpatient medical information system in the world. And this book, Hospital Computer Systems, describes that. There were only a half-a dozen others in the world that were doing that.


As the 2016 medical news story about the persistent value of the AMHT data shows, this was a significant accomplishment in medical practice. Thank you, Dr. Collen.



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