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Reiss, Oscar 1925-

REISS, Oscar 1925-

PERSONAL: Born February 14, 1925, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Abraham (a butcher) and Rose (a homemaker; maiden name, Goldenberg) Reiss; married Elinor Shatzman (a newspaper columnist), October 3, 1953; children: Stephen, Marcia Reiss-Franklin, Michael, John, Alice Reiss Malone. Ethnicity: "Austrian-Hungarian-Jewish." Education: New York University, B.A. (cum laude), 1947; State University of New York—Downstate Medical Center, M.D., 1951. Politics: "Moderate." Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Reading history.

ADDRESSES: Home—10305 Rue Chamberry, San Diego, CA 92131. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Physician, educator, and author. Private practice of internal medicine in Bristol, CT, 1955-75; Veterans Administration Hospital, Phoenix, AZ, worked as ward physician, resident instructor, then chief of General Medical Service, 1976-83. Yale University, clinical assistant professor of internal medicine. Military service: U.S. Army, medic, 1943-46; served in European theater; became sergeant.

MEMBER: American College of Physicians (fellow), Phi Beta Kappa.


Blacks in Colonial America, McFarland (Jefferson, NC), 1997.

Medicine and the American Revolution: How Diseases and Their Treatments Affected the Colonial Army, McFarland (Jefferson, NC), 1998.

Medicine in Colonial America, University Press of America (Lanham, MD), 2000.

Contributor to Journal of the American Medical Association.

WORK IN PROGRESS: The Great Land Grab: Native Americans in Colonial America; The Smallest Minority: Jews in Colonial America; research for a book to supplement Medicine in Colonial America.

SIDELIGHTS: Oscar Reiss once told CA: "I left private practice due to poor health. I took a job at a Veterans' Administration hospital to help start a teaching program for interns and residents in internal medicine. I retired from that in 1983 due to a worsening of arthritis. I started to write so that my epitaph would say, 'He was a good doc and he wrote books.' If I had not become a physician, I would have wanted to be a history teacher in a small residential college. I became interested in colonial history from a college course."

Reiss later added: "I was born in the first quarter of the twentieth century in New York City, long before the technological and information revolutions. It was a period when old age was respected, and the eighteen-to thirty-four-year age group kept its silence. I received twenty-four years of education in that city with a three-year hiatus during World War II, where I served as a medic in the European theater. After the completion of my education, I took my then-small family to Bristol, Connecticut, where I started a practice in internal medicine. My health deteriorated, and I moved my then-large family to Phoenix, Arizona. The dry heat in the desert helped me extend my productive life eight more years. I decided to retire when I found I had more pain than my patients. After many operations, I found I was able to walk and stand without pain and decided to embark on a second career—as a researcher and writer on American colonial history.

"I completed five books on colonial history. Three have been published, and two are in the hands of my agent. After a morning spent swimming, the only exercise permitted by my neurologist, I do research in the medical library of the University of California at San Diego. At the present time I am researching a supplement to my book on medicine in colonial America. I plan to contact the publisher to ask if I can add small anecdotes to the new manuscript to make it lighter and more rapid reading.

"My wife of nearly fifty years would say I was a workaholic during my years as a physician. Perhaps my writing is an attempt to avoid the loss of precious days at this late time of my life. I spend far more time researching than writing. After I have satisfied myself on the completeness of my research, I read and collate the material. It begins to fall into place, and the writing is relatively easy.

"Over fifty years ago, I took a college course in American colonial history. It was a new subject, and no textbooks were available. The professor told us to read one book, monograph, or essay on any subject pertaining to this era. Throughout my years in medicine, where I had to read many journals to keep up with the literature, I tried to find a little home for my avocation. Now, in retirement, I can spend as much time on the subject as my old eyes and brain will permit.

"I have achieved my wish for immortality in the numbers in the Library of Congress and books on a bookshelf in a public library."

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