Dr. Baker, WWI veterans and tuberculosis …

For my first author event in Alexandria, where my grandparents lived in the 1930s, I did a bit of research and made a quick visit to the veterans hospital across the river in Pineville, where my grandfather worked.

Dr. E. S. Baker had been a horse-and-buggy doctor in Indiana and a small-town doctor in Arkansas. He joined the Veterans Bureau medical corps after service in World War. He received special training in chest diseases at Tulane medical school and was assigned to the veterans hospital in Pineville, treating patients with pulmonary tuberculosis. The disease ravaged world war veterans, many of whom suffered lung damage from poison gases. They were also susceptible to bronchitis, heart disease and asthma.

In 1927, an estimated 53,000 veterans had active TB, and most were under age 40. Only 7,000 were in government hospitals. Morbidity rate was one in 10.

The Pineville hospital developed recreational, educational and occupational programs to keep patients active during their long periods of convalescence, typically one to two years.  Originally a Public Health Hospital for veterans, became part of the Veterans Administration in 1921. At that time, 473 of its 518 patients had tuberculosis.

Until 1938, my mother’s family lived in a house on the government “reservation.” Her father walked across the road to work. He was in charge of a colored ward in Building 9, at the far side of the campus.

In “Courtship” we read how the family moved into town – a house on White Street Alexandria—in the spring of 1938. My parents were married there in 1939. We also read of Mother’s interest in public health, sparked, no doubt, by her father’s government service.

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