Dr. A. Louis Dippel

1901-1991

A. (Delbert) Louis Dippel was born at Ehlinger, Fayette County, Texas, on July 10, 1901. Both of Dr. Dippel's parents were school teachers. His mother taught primary grades and his father mathematics and science. His grade school education was obtained wherever his parents happened to teach. His father was his high school teacher and taught him Latin at home. Because he lacked some entrance requirements for the University of Texas, he spent his first year of college (1919-1920) at Blinn Memorial College. His father had planned for him to be an engineer, but when "Bert" announced he would not be satisfied until he had a chance to study medicine, his father said that he would consent, "but if he persisted in that choice he would have to paddle his own canoe." In the fall of 1920, his father drove him to the University of Texas at Austin and waited in the car while Bert enrolled, paid his tuition, and arranged for room and board, all from money he had earned during the summer. When he returned to the car and told his father what his other expenses would be, his father replied "What is that to me?" and drove off. From that day on, Dr. Dippel supported himself. In college, he was a dishwasher, waiter, auto mechanic, chauffeur, tutor in math and science to other students, and science instructor at a nearby preparatory school. He was awarded his BA in June of 1924 and 2 months later received his master's degree.

Dr. Dippel began medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in 1924. While at medical school, he worked in a variety of jobs to support himself and pay his tuition. He graduated debt-free on May 31, 1928, and started his internship at Hermann Hospital in Houston the next day. During his senior year at medical school, he was so impressed by Dr. Willard Cooke, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, that he decided to follow in his footsteps. After the completion of his internship, he spent 1 year working with Dr. N. Sproat Heany at Rush Medical College in the Presbyterian Hospital in Chicago. It was his ambition to work with Dr. J. Whitridge Williams at the Johns Hopkins Medical School and finally, after being interviewed by Dr. Williams, accepted an assistantship in Pathology at Johns Hopkins for 1 year. He began his residency training in obstetrics and gynecology in 1932.

In 1933, during his third year of residency, he married Ann R. Bond. Ann was from a large Maryland family of tobacco growers and politicians and was then a senior in the Hopkins School of Nursing. They subsequently had two children, Mrs. Donald Davis Cherry (Patricia Ann) and A.L.,Jr., "Butch." After the completion of 7 years of postgraduate training, Dr. Dippel accepted an appointment at Johns Hopkins, where he stayed for 5 years and advanced to the rank of Associate Professor. During his years there, he developed, with a Radiology Associate, methods of x-ray measurements of the pelvis and a method of localizing the placenta with soft-tissue x-rays. These and other projects resulted in the publication of more than 25 peer review articles. He received awards at the national AMA meeting and at an American Roentgen Society meeting. In 1940, he moved to the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Minnesota, where he stayed until the University of Utah, enlarging from a 2-year to a 4-year medical college, recruited him as head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He stayed there less than 2 years, when he accepted an invitation to join Dr. Herman Johnson and Dr. Robert Johnston in practice in Houston (1944). Baylor College of Medicine had just moved to Houston, and Dr. Herman Johnston had recently been appointed Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics. Dr. Dippel accepted the position as an Associate Professor and was placed in charge of didactic teaching. In 1950, when Dr. Herman Johnston moved to a full-time position at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Dippel invited me to join him in practice. In 1945, Dr. Dippel was appointed Chief of Obstetrics at Hermann Hospital and was reappointed for 8 consecutive years. In 1965, he was appointed the Chief of Staff of Hermann Hospital, which position he held for another 8 years until 1972. He retired from practice in 1977. For many years, he was the only Houston member of the American Association of Obstetricians. He was a charter member of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, of the Houston Surgical Society, and the Houston Obstetrical and Gynecological Society. He was a member of the American College of Surgeons, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sigma Xi, the Theta Kappa Psi Medical Fraternity, and other professional organizations. He was a long-time member of Rotary and a member of St. John the Divine Episcopal Church.

Dr. A. Louis Dippel was uncompromising in his standards. I met him when I first came to Houston in late 1944. One of his colleagues informed me that "Dippel thought there were only two ways to do things -- his way and the wrong way." He made enemies easier than he made friends. He was a thoughtful clinician and a skilled operator, admired even by those who disagreed with him and respected by those who disliked him; when they got to know him, even they became his admirers. Residents who served under him formed the Dippel Society and kept in touch with him even after they moved out of the city. His patients loved him.

He was a very formal individual and never called patients by their first names. He was quietly generous. Ann was upset one time when somebody needed help and Dr. Dippel emptied their checking account without telling her. He loaned me the money interest-free to buy out Dr. Herman Johnson's furniture and equipment when I moved into the office with him. In the 1950s, he bought a small farm and raised Shetland Ponies. He sold that and bought larger acreage to raise prize cattle.

Dr. Dippel retired in 1977, and he and Ann designed and built a small house. He sold the ranch when she developed Alzheimer's disease. When Ann was placed in a local nursing home, he visited her every noon to feed her even when she no longer knew him. When his son Butch moved to Seattle, Dr. Dippel moved to a retirement home there, where he remained until his death in his 90th year on September 6, 1991.

Submitted by William A. McRoberts, MD

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