50 Years a Country Doctor. By Hull Cook. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press,
1998. Pp. +20o3. Preface. ISBN o-8032-6389-9. $12.oo, paper.)
Dr. Hull Cook's collection of a country doctor's day-to-day experiences pro-
vides enjoyable reading for the layperson as well as for someone in the medical
field. Although Dr. Cook did not spend his entire career in Texas, his internship
was at the Robert B. Greene Memorial Hospital of San Antonio, Texas. The
young doctor moved to Nebraska after completing his medical training.
Dr. Cook chose Greene as his training hospital after a conversation with a
medical book salesman who was also a school acquaintance of his mother. The
book salesman told the young medical school graduate," If you go to one of
those big fancy hospitals, you'll not even get close to a patient in surgery. The
first assistant and the second assistant will both have to drop dead before you
can get close enough to get a hand in the wound. All you'll get to do is watch. At
the Greene you'll be the surgeon" (p. 32).
The book covers a period of time beginning in the late 1920s to mid-1930s.
The author did not specify particular years, but the incidents he relates are obvi-
ously during the middle portion of the twentieth century. On page 21 Dr. Cook
says, "We had available to us perhaps 2 percent of the diagnostic tests that are
available today." Then he explains "This paucity of laboratory aids was not all
bad. It forced us to obtain a careful history and to hone our sense of sight,
sound, smell, and touch [even taste] to a high degree of sensitivity" (p. 21).
Dr. Cook's experiences at the Greene and subsequently in Nebraska provide
interesting, yet sometimes uncomfortable, reading for someone with a queasy
stomach. He does not mince words in describing conditions of patients and situ-
ations under which he had to work. One of the young intern's early lessons at
the Greene was how a knife wound is different from an ice pick wound, the lat-
ter appearing to be a relatively harmless puncture, yet in reality could cause a
great deal of damage. In addition to having to treat fight wounds, Dr. Cook dealt
with superstitions of some of his Mexican patients along with regional ailments
and accidents such as cases of hookworm and cotton gin injuries.
Particularly interesting are the conditions under which Plains doctors had to
practice during early times. Readers who are accustomed to having diagnostic
technology helping to determine treatment will marvel at how early doctors
diagnosed and treated patients prior to the technology era. While Dr. Cook's
career takes place on different parts of the Plains, his experiences as a rural doc-
tor were probably fairly universal. The statement in the preface that the content
"is more personal than general" is accurate. However, because the material that
Dr. Cook presents is true, this easily read book provides insight to the practice of
medicine over the past fifty years.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101220/. Accessed April 24, 2014.