As he flipped through a recent issue of VCU’s Impact, his eye fell on an article about transplant pioneer H. M. Lee, M.D., and the endowed lectureship that has been established in his name.
The sight reminded John Bagley, Jr., M’67, H’73, of one of his own favorite stories.
The Class of 67’s John Bagley, Jr. (on right), was drafted into the U.S. Army Medical Corps after completing his intern year. Sent 7,000 miles from his native Richmond to Korea, he had an unexpected encounter that reminded him of home.
After earning his medical degree in 1967, the Richmond native served his internship at Norfolk General Hospital. During that time, he was drafted into the U.S. Army Medical Corps.
“It was the height of the Vietnam War, but my orders were for Korea,” says Bagley. “I was stationed at Camp Red Cloud along with three or four other doctors.”
Camp Red Cloud was about an hour north of Seoul, just outside of the village of Uijeongbu.
“If you have ever seen photos of slums in places like Bangladesh, you can imagine what Uijeongbu looked like in those days. Mud streets with ramshackle buildings on either side.”
After he’d been there several months, a recommendation came down for the Army doctors to meet the local Korean doctor, whose responsibilities included the gynecological care of the thousands of prostitutes who lived in Uijeongbu.
“So off we go to town to meet the local doctor, an elderly fellow named Dr. Lee,” describes Bagley. “We are ushered into this dark, cramped office on the main street of town. It reminded me of Doc Adam’s office in Gunsmoke. There were anatomical charts on the wall in Korean and jars filled with Ginseng roots. So we’re sitting there waiting for the doctor and I notice this 8×10 photo on the desk of a young Korean boy in a cap and gown. I think to myself, ‘That guy looks familiar.’”
John Bagley, Jr., M’67, H’73
The Korean doctor spoke no English, and the Army doctors spoke no Korean. “We are chatting through an interpreter and during a lull in the conversation, I say, ‘Dr. Lee, I was noticing the photo on your desk. Who is that young man?’
“He replied, ‘That is my son.’”
“What does your son do?”
“He is a doctor in the United States.”
“Where in the United States?”
“When I recovered from my shock, I smiled and said ‘Dr. Lee, your son was one of my professors in medical school.’
“Naturally, he was as shocked as I was. I travel 7,000 miles from home to meet one of my professors’ father. That’s what I call my favorite ‘it’s a small world’ story.”
After that encounter, Bagley and the elder Lee got together several times over the next year. Lee even took the Army doctors to some of his favorite restaurants in Seoul.
In 1969, having listened in on the radio to the first moon landing (they had no television at the Army camp), Bagley returned to the states. He went on to complete OB-GYN training on the MCV Campus and set up practice in Richmond. After a 39-year career and an estimated 3,000 labor and deliveries, he is now retired and living in Providence Forge, Va.