The following account is essentially true, according to the Arizona History Museum in Tucson. In 1880, when the railroad finally reached the boom city of 7,007 inhabitants, Mayor Bob Leatherwood was so proud that he sent a telegram to the pope in Rome, rejoicing that Tucson was now connected with the Christian world. Who would think that His Holiness, thousands of miles away, would respond? Thanks to a few of the mayor’s wise-guy friends, he did—sort of.
The telegram the friends concocted read, in part: “Congratulations…but where the hell is Tucson?”
Not a question that ever occurred to internist and pulmonologist David Engelsberg, M.D., but southern Arizona’s biggest city did seem far, far away to a born-and-bred New Yorker. “When I was a kid,” he says, “I thought this was a place where they had cowboys.”
Then, with a degree from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, he signed on for training at the University of Arizona, arrived in town “and immediately hated the place.”
But things changed. “After I spent my first year in a pulmonary fellowship, I got to like the place, and after two years I didn’t want to leave. And I guess I still don’t want to leave.” In fact, “We don’t intend to move after I retire.”
He lists several reasons for staying. First, the obvious: The weather is “absolutely fantastic.” Because of the almost perpetual sun, Tucson is “a great place for doing outdoor sports. I hike, play tennis, fish and ski. We have all of that stuff in and immediately surrounding the city.”
Second: “Tucson is a real community and a unique community.”
Third: “I like the medical community. It’s collegial.”
Engelsberg currently cares for patients at St. Joseph’s Hospital, part of the Carondelet Health Network.
Fourth: “I like the informality of the town. …I like the fact (here) that I haven’t worn a tie in two or three years. And I’m still considered well-dressed enough to go anyplace in town.”
“I think the constant
sun exposure is good for your psyche
and your work ethic.” – Rainer Gruessner, M.D.
Fifth, and most pertinent in his field: “Tucson has good leadership in medicine. The university is an excellent place to get trained or retrained or educated. I think they set a lot of standards and guidelines. You can always get a second opinion there. If I really need a top chemotherapy opinion, I’ll send a patient to the university.”
As chairman of the surgery department at the UA College of Medicine, Rainer Gruessner, M.D., exemplifies the quality and scope of treatment and research there. Although directing a department of about 60 surgeons and 80 residents limits his actual OR time, he continues to treat patients with pancreatic and liver cancer, plus doing “all kinds of abdominal transplants.”
His “stock in trade” includes bowel transplants and complex resections of liver and pancreatic tumors, but one of the most unusual procedures he recalls was “a multi-organ transplant in a little kid 1 year old where we transplanted the liver and the intestine and the pancreas.” Another: “(In an adult) we removed a pancreas and isolated the insulin-producing cells and gave them back to him so that he wouldn’t become diabetic.”