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Dr. Augustus A. White, III

Prominent orthopedic surgeon Dr. Augustus A. White III was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of a doctor and a librarian. After attending segregated schools in Memphis, White graduated from the private Mount Herman School in Northfield, Massachusetts, in 1953. White completed his pre-medical studies at Brown University in 1957, and in 1961 was the first African American graduate of the Stanford University School of Medicine. Receiving his Ph.D. degree in orthopedic biomechanics at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, White became the first African American surgical resident at the Yale-New Haven Hospital; he also served in Vietnam as a captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, earning a Bronze Star.

Specializing in care of the spine, White worked at Harvard Medical School as a professor of orthopedic surgery, and as the Ellen and Melvin Gordon Professor of Medical Education. For thirteen years, White served as chief of the orthopedic surgery department at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston; he also founded the academic orthopedic program at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

A noted author in his medical specialty, White co-wrote (with Dr. Manohar M. Panjabi) Clinical Biomechanics of the Spine and Biomechanics of the Musculoskeletal System. White also wrote Your Aching Back: A Doctor’s Guide to Relief; Back Care; Advances in Spinal Fusion: Molecular Science, Biomechanics and Clinical Management; and Clinical Biometrics of the Spine, a standard reference book for orthopedists. In 2006, White was awarded the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Diversity Award for his life’s work, and his contributions to his field.

White met his wife, Anita, during his Ph.D. studies at the Karolinska Institute; the couple had three daughters.

Accession Number

A2005.107

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/21/2005

Last Name

White

Middle Name

A.

Schools

Northfield Mount Hermon School

Brown University

Manassas High School

Stanford University School of Medicine

First Name

Augustus

Birth City, State, Country

Memphis

HM ID

WHI07

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

Ray Shepard

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Sweden

Favorite Quote

Life Is As It Is.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

6/4/1936

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Boston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Gumbo (New Orleans)

Short Description

Medical professor and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Augustus A. White, III (1936 - ) was the first African American graduate of the Stanford University School of Medicine. White taught at Harvard Medical School as a professor of orthopedic surgery, in addition to serving as the chief of the orthopedic surgery department at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, and the founder of the academic orthopedic program at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Employment

Beth Israel Medical Center

Harvard University Medical School

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dr. Augustus A. White III's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes his professional activities

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dr. Augustus A. White III lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes his mother, Vivian Dandridge White

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes his father, Augustus White, Jr.

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dr. Augustus A. White III recalls his childhood aspirations

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes his schooling in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes himself as a student at Memphis' Manassas High School

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes his neighborhood growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dr. Augustus A. White III remembers attending Mount Hermon School for Boys

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes his experience at Mount Hermon School for Boys

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes his jobs at Mount Hermon School for Boys

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes his religious life as a young man

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dr. Augustus A. White III reflects upon his time at Mount Hermon School for Boys

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes his social life at Brown University, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes his social life at Brown University, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dr. Augustus A. White III recalls a conflict with Delta Upsilon Fraternity

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dr. Augustus A. White III recalls being honored by Delta Upsilon Fraternity

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dr. Augustus A. White III remembers attending Stanford University School of Medicine

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dr. Augustus A. White III remembers deciding to become a surgeon

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dr. Augustus A. White III recalls his internship at the University of Michigan Medical Center

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dr. Augustus A. White III recalls his residency at Presbyterian Hospital in San Francisco, California

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dr. Augustus A. White III remembers his time at Yale New Haven Hospital

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dr. Augustus A. White III remembers serving in Vietnam with the U.S. Army Medical Corps

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Dr. Augustus A. White III remembers working in a leper colony, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dr. Augustus A. White III remembers working in a leper colony, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dr. Augustus A. White III remembers being awarded a bronze star from the U.S. military

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dr. Augustus A. White III remembers researching with Carl Hirsch in Sweden

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dr. Augustus A. White III remembers meeting his wife, Anita White

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dr. Augustus A. White III remembers starting Yale University's orthopedic biomechanics laboratory

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dr. Augustus A. White III remembers his appointment at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes his book, 'Your Aching Back: A Doctor's Guide to Relief'

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes his books

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes healthcare disparities

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Dr. Augustus A. White III reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes his future plans

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes his daughters, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes his daughters, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Dr. Augustus A. White III describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Dr. Augustus A. White III narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

6$2

DATitle
Dr. Augustus A. White III describes his jobs at Mount Hermon School for Boys
Dr. Augustus A. White III remembers being awarded a bronze star from the U.S. military
Transcript
What was your work assignment [at Mount Hermon School for Boys; Northfield Mount Hermon, Gill, Massachusetts]? You said everybody--$$Yeah, yeah.$$--worked.$$Yeah.$$What did you do?$$Interesting. And, and the, the good thing about the work, too, is like, like the outside world, if you did a good job and you worked hard, you, you kind of got--you know, you moved--you get--you got the better jobs. Everybody had to work to get the better job. My first job was cleaning toilets; that was my first job. And that was--you know, wasn't the best job. Wasn't the best job. And I had a racial incident around that as a matter of fact. And, but anyway, that was my first job. And I--what I wanted to do, I learned--I mean as, as I saw the jobs and I looked around, was to be a waiter, and there were several reasons for that. One is I knew I could satisfy my appetite in that position 'cause I was in and out of the kitchen the whole time. The other thing is I--part of the culture in the South that I grew up in, waiters, that was a very respected--I mean the--a respected job and you, you earned as much money as anybody else in the community basically if you were a professional waiter, if you were really good and you worked in--so it had a sense of sophistication, and I had learned some of that, again, sitting around listening to the adults. And, and the other way--the other thing was you had a lot more free time because you had to be at the dining room to eat anyway, so if you're waiting tables, you're, you're paying your dues and so, so anyway, I aspired to that and, and while I had a lot of trouble with my supervisor in the toilet cleaning job, I was--managed to be a substitute waiter and, and learn my way around the dining room, so ended up getting to be a waiter after the--after my first year. And then I moved on up and I got to be a faculty waiter, which is, you know, the elite waiters, and you--it--it's very nice. And, and, and, and again, I was bringing all this basic professionalism from my southern heritage and they thought--you know, they thought it was the greatest thing in the world, you know? Faculty members wanted to sit at my table, you know, and--because it, it was fun for me to do. And actually, that even--being a waiter--I, I worked as a carhop in the summers too, but I think being a waiter has helped me as a caregiver, a service provider, as a physician, you know? I mean, some of that stuff spills over and, and, you know, I'm, I'm comfortable with that, I enjoy it. So, and then even they had head waiters also, and head waiters, all you had to do is you put on a nice white coat and you just walk--the dining room was a very long dining room, about two or three basketball courts in length and the tables were all--and you just kind of walked back and forth and supervise and observe things. I was not a head waiter but I got invited to be a substitute frequently when the head waiters weren't there, so I would--they would ask me and I'd do that. So--but that was a good evolutionary process, you know? If, if, if you do the right thing and do it well, you know, you can--you can move up, whatever your color is, you know? So--$You were--finished your [U.S.] military service, what year? When were you discharged?$$I finished--well, I had finished that year, then I came back--that would've been '67 [1967] in Vietnam and then I did a year in, in Monterey, California [Monterey County, California], Fort Ord Army Hospital, and so I was there until '68 [1968].$$Okay.$$So I finished my two years with Uncle Sam in 1968.$$You received a Bronze Star [Bronze Star Medal]--$$I did, yes.$$--for--$$Well, I think it was a combination of my work in the leper colony, which interestingly, the military viewed it--I mean, not just in this way. I mean, obviously, from a humanitarian point of view, but, but the official military take on that was that this was a counter insurgency. In other words, the good will of what, in my military uniform and with military equipment and personnel what we were doing to help these patients, which indeed we were doing, was good will. And part of the military strategy when you're fighting an insurgency is to not just shoot at the people, but, but try to get the population to think you're a good guy and you're doing some good. So in the context of that, the humanitarian part, but really, frankly, more important the counter insurgency part of it, that was a major contribution as the military saw it. The other part of that is, the other part of my I guess the, the Bronze Star, was I, I went--they called into the hospital one day and they said, "We have a trooper up on the mountainside out here and that was outside the compound, outside the secure area, and he needs some medical support to get him down off the mountainside. He needs to be evaluated and prepared in a way that we can get him down, and, you know, we want some volunteers to do it, and preferably we'd like you to be a doctor." So I guess I was in a good mood or feeling strong or stupid or whatever, but I thought, okay, I think I can--I, I can do that. And I knew something--being an orthopedist, I knew something about how to splint people, you know, and, and, and they thought it was either a dislocated hip or fractured hip. And so I said, okay, you know. So I, I, I--the troopers got me and the, the--they got the radio contact or whatever, put me in a Jeep and took me out, you know, to the bottom of the mountain and said, "Okay, Doc, go that way." So I, I ran over to the first guy, you know, and he said, okay, Doc, come on. And he ran up the mountainside and I'm running behind him, and he went up, I don't know how far, let's say seventy-five or a hundred yards, and there was another trooper there, and this trooper stopped and said, "Okay, come on, Doc" (laughter). So I was like a baton (laughter).$$Like a relay race.$$Yeah, right. So there were about three or four of these guys. Finally, I got up to where the person was and, and was able to help to splint him and, and, and they did have a stretcher they--there. And, and it--you know, I--this brings up a--an aside. But the real heroes in Vietnam were the nurses and the helicopter pilots, and they were phenomenal. Anyway, the, the guy had to bring the helicopter in on the side of the mountain. He couldn't land it, but he had to bring it in. The mountain comes down this way, here I am with the splinted, got the guy settled down and splinted, and ready to be evacuated off the mountain. The helicopter had to come in, it couldn't land because of the slope, so it just had to hover. And then what we had to do was to take the guy (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Lift him.$$--and put him up into the helicopter. So we, we were able to do all that, but as, as the helicopter was hovering, I looked over the side of the mountain, and I could see the blade was about only a foot and a half from the side of the mountain, you know? And this is how good these guys were. I mean, he, he, he came in there and did that, we got the fellow on, and it was--it was a successful evacuation and so forth. So that was part of, of, of that volunteer effort that, that was--that was recognized, and that's what that was.