1940 Diary of a Virginia Psychiatrist Who Trains and Works with Giants in the Field at Johns Hopkins and the Medical College of Virginia

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On offer is a sensational piece of medical history, being the 1940 diary of the psychiatrist and professor, Dr. Patrick Henry Drewry Jr. (1907-1980). The son of Virginia Congressman Patrick Henry Drewry (1875-1947), Drewry Jr. was an alumnus of Johns Hopkins Medical School (class of 1932). His training took him to London, New York and, finally, back to Johns Hopkins for a fellowship, working under the “founder of child psychiatry”, Dr. Leo Kanner, and a pioneer in pediatric speech therapy, Dr. Philip J. Glasner. Following his education and fellowships, Dr. Drewry Jr. spent 30 years teaching at the Medical College of Virginia and directing the psychiatric clinic the MCV Hospitals. SEE BIO NOTES AT END OF LISTING. 

This diary covers the period of Jan 1-July 14, 1940. From January until mid-March, Dr. Drewry and his wife, Thelma, live in Baltimore for Patrick’s fellowship at Johns Hopkins. Upon the completion of his fellowship, Patrick and Thelma move back to Virginia, where Patrick begins his permanent position at the Medical College of Virginia (MCV). 

Drewry Jr.’s diary provides remarkable insight into the state of psychiatry in the first half of the 20th century. He writes of his patients, his insights on contemporary mental health illnesses, and his research and hopes for publication. He writes of his fellowship, working at both the Johns Hopkins outpatient psychiatric clinic and the Harriet Lane Hospital (HLH). He writes of his time shadowing Dr. Glasner and his stuttering and stammering patients, and about the progressive leadership of Dr. Kanner, who is encouraging of the young Dr. Drewry’s work on the topic of “nervousness”. Once he is installed in his position at MCV, Patrick writes of the behind-the-scenes politics of academia and medicine, of his role in committing mentally ill patients to asylums, and of his work teaching disinterested medical students. As a political enthusiast, Drewry Jr. also keeps a close eye on the Winter War between Russia and Finland, noting its progress at regular intervals (including the signing of the peace treaty on March 13). He also updates his diary with the moves of the parties involved in WW2, a war in which he would later serve for the USA. As well as being a young psychiatrist at the cutting edge of his field, Dr. Drewry was also a young husband, struggling to start his adult life, and requiring significant financial support from his father. The challenges Patrick faces in affording furniture and his utility bills are reminiscent of the struggles the young face today. Drewry Jr. writes of his father, Congressman Drewry, multiple times, mostly focusing on his father’s health struggles and the financial support he provides. 

Some excerpts give the flavour of Dr. Drewry Jr.’s writing, but the breadth and depth of his entries are difficult to capture in short snippets. 

“Began work with Mr. Glasner today. He teaches speech to stutterers, stammerers, etc. Having had and still having, to some extent - a speech defect, he is evangelistic in his enthusiasm. It is his belief that speech defects usually begin before the age of 9, and then develop. Since most people with these defects seek help some time later, he does not believe that it is of great value to seek the original cause. It is also his belief that the personality problems presented by stutterers when they come to see him are due to the defect - thus, correction of the speech defect relieves the problems. Certainly, the case histories he presented to me bore out his theory…” [Jan 29].

“...Much to my irritation, I was called out at a little after 10am to take the history on an epileptic girl I had seen in Harriet Lane. It was not clear why the HLH interns had referred her to us…At Glasner’s office in the afternoon. His private patients appear to offer no objection to my presence” [Jan 31]. 

“...Saw several negro patients with Dr. Masters. One, a feeble-minded girl with congenital lues [syphilis], was supposed also to have paresis. Acting on the theory that increased metabolic rate, rather than fever itself, brought about improvement in paretics, an intern had given her a number of treatments with dinitrophenol. She had improved, though she’s nothing to brag about. It would be interesting to see a better case treated by that method” [March 4; on March 5 Dr. Drewry commits this patient].  

“To the library this morning to look up material on botulism. It is [Dr. Robert] Finley Gayle’s idea that botulism might, under controlled circumstances, be given to relieve spasticity in such cases as post-encephalitic Parkinsonism. Apparently no work of this sort has been done as yet - and from what I saw in the literature, it may be very dangerous…” [March 15]. 

“Finished outlining my lectures, and also finished the ‘nervousness’ paper. Clinic in the afternoon - saw an interesting negro girl who was having anxiety attacks, which I believe are unusual in negroes” [March 22]. 

“...Daddy called me aside and said [Charley Pollard] had suggested that the governor might appoint me to the State Hospital Board in the place of [Dr.] Gayle. I told him to tell the Governor not to do so, since I felt sure it would make difficulties for me here, and that I thought it would be better if G were reappointed” [March 24].

“Dr. [William Branch] Porter asked me to come in and talk with him…He said that he thought Gayle and all the rest of the neuropsychiatric were poor psychiatrists and that Shields was the only competent neurologist in the group. He considered himself a better psychiatrist of any of them, and as good a neurologist…I was rather surprised…especially since he is the lecturer in Medical Ethics here” [March 23]. 

“Germany occupied Denmark yesterday with no fighting and is occupying Norway today! The British and French, without waiting to be asked to aid, are apparently fighting the German fleet and have said they will aid in the defense of Norway. Germans say they are taking over the two countries “for protection”, and blame the British because they laid some mines near Norway…” [April 9].

BIO NOTES: Patrick Henry Drewry Jr. (1907-1980) was the son of 4th District Virginia Democratic Congressman (from 1920-1947) Patrick Henry Drewry (1875-1947) and Mary Elizabeth Metcalf of Petersburg, Virginia. He attended Randolph-Macon College (class of 1928) and the Johns Hopkins Medical School (class of 1932). Drewry Jr. completed his psychiatry training from 1934-1937 at New York Hospital, Westchester Division and then worked on their staff for two years. He studied at Guys Hospital in London on a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship and completed a fellowship at Johns Hopkins University under Dr. Leo Kanner and Dr. P.J. Glasner in 1940. The rest of his career was spent at the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) Hospitals (1940-1970) where he became Director of Outpatient Psychiatric clinics and was a professor of psychiatry at MCV. Drewry Jr. Published frequently on clinical psychiatry in Virginia Medical Monthly. Some of his publications include: “Mental hygene and Psychiatry” (1942), “The early recognition of psychoses” (1949), “Management of delirium in the general hospital” (1950), and many more. He was a member of the Richmond Academy of Medicine, Virginia Medical Society, American Medical Association, Virginia Neuropsychiatric Society, American Psychiatric Association. He served as a Major in the US Army during WW2. Drewry Jr.  was married twice; first to Thelma Hennessey (1907-1951) on Jan 21, 1933 and later to Tennie Erwin Daugette (1906-1974), a social worker, in October of 1952. He had no children. 

The diary measures approx 7x11 inches in a lined, spiral-bound composition book. There are 62 pages of writing (31 pages, front and back). Patrick does not write every day, but he writes consistently from Jan 1 through April 25, and returns for a long catch-up post on July 14. The diary has no major faults but for some light age toning. Overall VG.

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