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1904 graduate practiced medicine on the western frontier

Charles Johnson Kinsolving1904

C. J. Kinsolving at his 1904 graduation from University College of Medicine. Scroll below for a slide show of more photos provided by Doc Kinsolving’s family.

Shortly after earning his medical degree in 1904, adventure-loving Charles Johnson Kinsolving packed his bags and headed west. His goal was the Alaskan frontier.

Before that, the Abingdon, Va., native had been to South Carolina to work in a cotton mill. And he’d made the 300-mile trip to Richmond to enroll in the University College of Medicine. Founded in 1893, UCM would merge with MCV in 1913.

On his westward trip, Kinsolving would occasionally interrupt his travels with short-term assignments. By the fall of 1906, he’d already worked for a time as a staff physician for mine operations in both West Virginia and South Dakota.

And on a Sunday in October, he was again making the most of his adventure, taking a roundtrip excursion on a steamboat. He departed from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where he’d taken a position as a staff physician at the local hospital. He disembarked on the docks of St. Maries for some lunch and to wait for the return trip.

As his grandson Laurence Kinsolving tells the story, “word spread that a doctor was in town.” Soon, he received an urgent request to treat an injured man at a waterfront hotel. He always carried his black bag with him, but he did need to restock his medical supplies. “He set out to visit a local drugstore,” his grandson continues. “When the druggist learned that the visitor was a physician, he asked Dr. Kinsolving to look in on several loggers with serious injuries residing in the rooms upstairs.”

An afternoon spent in treating broken bones and other injuries left Kinsolving so concerned for his patients that he missed the return trip to Coeur d’Alene, and spent the rest of his life in St. Maries. “He never made it to Alaska until after retirement.”

Kinsolving briefly returned to Virginia in 1909 to marry his childhood sweetheart, Julia Elizabeth Eanes. He carried her west to the frontier where, her grandson says, she found it astonishing that a town of 1,100 inhabitants could support 11 saloons.

University College of Medicine

The University College of Medicine was established by Hunter Holmes McGuire, M.D., in 1893 just three blocks away from MCV. It was first known as the College of Physicians and Surgeons. In 1913, MCV and UCM merged through the efforts of MCV Professor of Surgery George Ben Johnston, M.D., and Hunter H. McGuire’s son Stuart McGuire, M.D., who was president of UCM at the time.

Their home doubled as a medical office. Kinsolving – known simply as “Doc” around town – was accustomed to making house calls far outside St. Maries, sometimes accepting nothing more than chickens, venison or eggs as payment. In his career, Doc would face Idaho’s fires of 1910, treating injured fire fighters and going four or five days without unsaddling his horse or getting any rest. In the end, the fires would claim the life of his and Julia’s newborn daughter.

He also battled the deadly flu pandemic of 1918. “He treated over 500 flu victims,” reports his grandson, “many under quarantine, but was proud to say that he did not lose one patient.”

In 1945, Doc Kinsolving closed his black bag for the last time and fully retired to his Goosehaven farm. He was known, though, in those later years after retirement to sometimes keep office hours at the Elks Lodge where he was a charter member and to give fistfuls of silver dollars to his grandchildren, including Laurence Kinsolving, of Marianna, Fla.

Our thanks to Laurence Kinsolving for sharing his grandfather’s story with us.

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Alumna Marcella Fierro’s continued service to forensic medicine featured in Richmond Academy of Medicine newsletter

Marcella F. Fierro, M.D.

Fierro retired in 2007 from her post as the state’s Chief Medical Examiner, where she investigated the results of some of the nation’s most notorious crimes.

Retirement hasn’t hindered how alumna Marcella F. Fierro, M.D., is impacting the future of forensic medicine. Following a 34-year career and serving as Virginia’s Chief Medical Examiner, Fierro has remained a steady influence in her field. Recently featured in the summer issue of the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s quarterly newsletter, Fierro describes her current work educating others and advocating on behalf of the profession that she dedicated her life to serving.

Fierro’s recent work includes the 2009 publication of a book she co-wrote with her colleagues on the NAS Committee on Identifying the Needs of the Forensic Community: “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward.” Fierro shared her thoughts on the publication of the book for the Richmond Academy of Medicine’s Ramifications, “If you asked me what’s the most important achievement of my career, this had to be one of them.” The book outlines basic infrastructural necessities in the field of forensic medicine and is being used to garner support from Congress to address those needs.

Widely known as the inspiration for Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta book series, Fierro also has appeared on TV including a recent PBS special on New York’s first trained medical examiner. Asked how she’s coped with what she’s witnessed as Virginia’s CME, Fierro compared it to trauma surgeons and other physicians who help accident victims. She told Ramifications: “You realize what the patient needs is not your emotions or your outrage. What the patient needs is your care, and no one but you can provide it. The discipline is you know you can do something—you can speak for that patient.”

Fierro has multiple connections to the medical school. She completed her residency and fellowship training with the School of Medicine in 1973 and 1974 respectively. She also served on faculty and as the chairman of the Department of Legal Medicine and Pathology until her retirement in 2008.

Read more about her recent activities and her plans for the future in the Ramifications’ summer issue, page 14.

By Eleana M. Legree


Alumna Mary Beth Steinfeld recalls her father’s tenure as Dean of the Medical School

Jesse Steinfeld, former dean of the medical school and former U.S. Surgeon General

Jesse Steinfeld, former dean of the medical school and former U.S. Surgeon General

Jesse Steinfeld, M.D., the 11th Surgeon General of the United States and former dean of the School of Medicine, died Aug. 5 at age 87.

Never reluctant to take a controversial stance when he knew he was right, he stood up for the health of the nation in Washington, D.C., and for the role of the physician in Richmond, said his daughter, Mary Beth Steinfeld, M.D., a graduate of the Class of 1981.

“He spoke to our class on the first day of medical school. He remarked on the general appearance of the class. He said, ‘You all wore suits and were clean-shaven and professional looking when you came for interviews. Here you are now in shorts with long hair and beards. You don’t look like the same people.’ He told us our appearance and behavior will reflect on MCV. If we were going to be physicians we needed to look the part. It embarrassed me at the time, but later I realized how appropriate it was.”

He wasn’t one to mince words for a cause he believed in. Jesse Steinfeld’s passionate and outspoken fight against tobacco use put him on the national radar – and eventually led him to the MCV Campus.

A cancer researcher and top official at the National Cancer Institute, he was named Surgeon General in 1969 by President Richard Nixon. In office, he was outspoken about the dangers of smoking.

Under his leadership, cigarette manufacturers were required to strengthen the label on cigarette packs to the familiar, “Warning: The Surgeon General has determined that cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health.” He advocated for a ban on smoking in restaurants, airplanes and other public places, a visionary concept that took several decades to come to fruition.

By all reports, it was for these radical ideas that he was forced out of office by the Nixon administration.

When recruited onto the MCV Campus to be dean, Steinfeld had reservations about taking a job in the heart of tobacco country, said his daughter. “It was remarkable, given he was the former surgeon general and so prominent in his anti-tobacco stance.

“He questioned the Board’s wisdom. One of the board members told my dad that they wanted to prove that MCV was an academic center with academic freedom and that they had the power to appoint whomever they wanted. “I knew it was a big deal, but I didn’t realize how conscious the people who recruited him were about that freedom,” said Mary Beth Steinfeld, who serves as an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the UC Davis School of Medicine.

And surprisingly, said his daughter, Steinfeld had no conflicts or confrontations with area tobacco companies during his time in Richmond.

“I’ve been working in academic medicine most of my career and so over time I’ve come to appreciate how remarkable his jobs and achievements were.”

Jesse Steinfeld with his wife Gen and their daughters (left to right) Susie, Mary Beth and Jody

Jesse Steinfeld with his wife Gen and their daughters (left to right) Susie, Mary Beth and Jody

Steinfeld’s tenure on the MCV Campus, which ended in 1983, was marked by significant achievements, including increased research funding, increasing the number of residency positions, equalizing practice plans and stressing preventative medicine.

Though always professional and demanding of excellence in his students and staff, Steinfeld had a lighter side, recalled his daughter. “My class was full entertainers. They made up songs about our med school experiences.

“My mom and dad enjoyed having the med students over to their house at graduation for a barbecue, with chicken, beans and so on. The students seemed to like it, too.”

And so the Class of 1981 composed “Cold Beans at the Dean’s.”

“My father loved that song,” recalled Mary Beth Steinfeld.

Leaving Richmond for the Medical College of Georgia was a bittersweet time for the family, said Mary Beth Steinfeld. “They really liked Richmond.”

One of her fondest memories is sitting with her family at dinner, discussing ideas and people. “We had an ongoing habit of constantly debating ideas, and we were always trying to make our father laugh and be proud of us.”

Jesse Steinfeld was proud of Mary Beth’s medical career. “On my first clinical rotation, I took care of an elderly woman who was hospitalized due to heart failure. She needed to gain weight, so I stayed by her side and fed her a milkshake and talked to her. It took hours.

“I remember feeling sad for her when she told me her family didn’t visit. The next morning I told the intern, with pride, that she’d gained five pounds! The intern panicked, saying, ‘Oh no, her lungs are filling with fluid due to congestive heart failure!’

“Nevertheless, my father always remembered that I took the time to feed her that milkshake and listen to her. I think it made him proud of me.”

Jesse Steinfeld was a tireless advocate for preventative care and the importance of diet and exercise. When he was leaving in 1983, he told The Richmond News Leader, “As a faculty, we have to have both the time and the inclination to teach preventative medicine. Physicians, as a rule, think somebody else is telling patients about prevention….Kids are supposed to learn about health in school. But grade schools do a very poor job in teaching about the body and health.”

In later years Mary Beth Steinfeld learned that her father liked to share the benefits of his role as dean. Harold Maurer, M.D., then-Chairman of Pediatrics, recalled that when Main Hospital was built in 1982, Steinfeld got control of the emptied East Hospital. Mauer wrote to Mary Beth Steinfeld to share a memory: “He called a chairs meeting, at their house, to distribute the space. I took two floors, which allowed me to recruit a new division of cardiology. I recruited students to paint the floors on the weekends. Hal Fallon (Chair of Internal Medicine) took two floors and Lazar Greenfield (Chair of Surgery) took two floors. Cary Suter (Chair of Neurology) didn’t want any. What heady times! There are many great stories about Jesse as Dean at MCV.”

By Lisa Crutchfield


Last seat holds great honor

Bentley Massey

Bentley Massey

Bentley Massey had given up hope of entering medical school this fall, convincing himself instead that the delay was the best thing for him.

“I kept telling myself that it gave me time to mature, to work and to spend time with my family,” he said.

Bentley had been on the waiting list at VCU since early this year, but with July nearly gone and no call, he figured he’d stay in North Carolina, continue teaching middle school science and perhaps enter EMT school. But then, on July 21, Michelle Whitehurst-Cook, M’79, now associate dean for admissions, called with exciting news.

“She asked me how I’d feel about coming to VCU,” Bentley said. “I was so excited, I think I actually started stuttering.”

A typical response from students on the waiting list, Whitehurst-Cook said.

“He was so happy,” she said. “The competition is very heavy, so when they make it, it is very exciting. It’s life changing for them. For me, it’s exciting to be part of that.”

Bentley was not only off the waiting list, but was named the recipient of the Dr. Miles Hench Scholarship. Endowed by Larry Schlesinger, M’71, the scholarship is awarded to the last person admitted to the incoming medical school class on the MCV Campus.

“That last seat has true honor,” said Schlesinger, the last student selected for his class, but who graduated tied for first in class. “It certainly doesn’t define you as least. The last student selected is ahead of thousands of others who will never deliver a baby or help save a life.”

Bentley isn’t sure of his specialty quite yet, but plans to take Schlesinger’s advice to study hard, sit in the front row and wear a tie to class.

The class of 2018

Total number of applications: 7,830
Total number of interviews: 1,024
Total number of students accepted: 216

“I’m just so proud to be here,” Bentley said. “Whether you are the first one in or the last, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what you do once you are here.”

He can only hope that the next four years go as smoothly as his first few weeks. Because he was not accepted until July, Bentley had a little more than a week to move from his hometown of Wilson, N.C., to Richmond. He wasted little time. He found an apartment on the first day he visited, and a week later his father and girlfriend helped him move. He even got an assist from an unexpected source.

“We were trying to get this big couch up the stairs, and I wasn’t quite sure we were going to make it,” he said. “Then I saw these two athletic guys walking down the sidewalk, so I asked if they could help. They carried that thing right up there and got it situated for us.”

He offered them each $20, but both declined. Then Bentley discovered who they were – Washington Redskins’ cornerback Bashaud Breeland and wide receiver Ryan Grant, in town for training camp.

“Boy, did I feel silly offering them $20!” Bentley said “They were so nice and gracious. I love Richmond!”

Bentley, 24, was a double major – chemistry and math – at Barton College in North Carolina, where he also played baseball. He is an avid volunteer, working with youth baseball groups, Meals on Wheels and with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. He has shadowed orthopedic surgeons including the Class of 1995’s Robert N. Satterfield who also lives in Wilson.

“I have always dreamed of being a doctor, and now that dream is coming true,” Bentley said. “I’m starting a new chapter in my life, and I couldn’t be more excited. I don’t think I’d be here without the support of my family and friends. I’ve had so many people on my side pulling for me. I just want to make them proud.”

By Janet Showalter