Chapter Centennial Legacy Award

Centennial Logo

The Chapter Centennial Legacy Award celebrates ACP's centennial by recognizing one seminal chapter member whose service to the chapter had a significant impact on the chapter's viability. This individual should exemplify ACP's core values including:

  • Leadership
  • Excellence
  • Respect
  • Compassion
  • Professionalism
  • Responsibility

The California Northern Chapter nominates Dr. Ralph O. Wallerstein, M.D. and Dwight L. Wilbur, MD as the Centennial Award recipients.

Ralph O. Wallerstein was a truly remarkable physician, who throughout his career maintained a busy private practice as a hematologist and internist, was a renowned teacher, and also possessed extraordinary leadership skills that led him to become successively President of the American Society of Hematology, Chairman of the American Board of Internal Medicine, and President of the American College of Physicians. He also served on the Residency Review Committee for Internal Medicine.

Under an accelerated program in place during World War II, Ralph graduated from UC Berkeley in 1943, and from U.C. San Francisco School of Medicine in 1945. He interned at the San Francisco General Hospital and then spent two years in the United States Army Medical Corps, stationed in Japan. After completing his military service obligations, he moved to Boston, where he was a resident on the Harvard service for a few months, and then became a fellow in the Thorndike Memorial Laboratory under Doctor William B. Castle. The Thorndike was then one of the best sites for training young physicians, and Ralph's experience there certainly influenced the rest of his career.

After two years in Boston, he returned to San Francisco, where he joined his father in clinical practice. He specialized in Internal Medicine and Hematology. He was Chief of Hematology at the San Francisco General Hospital for nearly 30 years, and hematologist to the Children's Hospital, where he became Chief of Staff from 1968-72. For many years he was a consultant in Hematology to the Letterman Army Hospital and the Veteran's Administration Hospital.

In addition to his private practice, Ralph joined the faculty of the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. He was an excellent teacher, and had a particular interest in morphology. He was appointed Clinical Professor in Medicine and Laboratory Medicine in 1969. In those days, in addition to his practice and teaching, he was involved in clinical research. He carried out one of the early studies implicating the antibiotic, chloramphenicol, as a cause of aplastic anemia, and was one of the first to detect abnormal red cell precursors - vacuolated erythroblasts - in the bone marrow of patients with chloramphenicol-induced aplastic anemia.

The growth of specialization in internal medicine that occurred in the years after World War II led to interest in establishing new specialties, with important ancillary features, such as specialty societies and board certification. Hematology was one of these "new" specialties, and in 1958, the American Society of Hematology was founded. Ralph joined shortly after, and was an active, enthusiastic member. His participation was such that he was elected President for 1978-1979.

Further, in the 1970's the American Board of Internal Medicine began to prepare for certification of physicians with special competence in Hematology, and Ralph was asked to participate in this developing program. He was appointed to the Board in 1971, and served as Chairman of the Subspecialty Committee on Hematology that was responsible for preparing the certifying examinations. He continued to serve on the Board and was elected Chairman for 1982 to 1983.

Ralph also became active in the American College of Physicians in the 1970's, serving first as Governor of his district from 1977 to 1981, then as a member of the Board of Regents, and finally as President from 1988 to 1989.

In addition to the above, Ralph has been recognized with many honors, including election to the Institute of Medicine, and Master of the American College of Physicians. Upon retirement he was appointed Emeritus Professor at the University of California San Francisco. He served as Hematology consultant to Letterman Army Hospital and the VA Hospitals receiving the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal from the Dept. of the Army in 1981. He was chosen Physician of the Year, Children's Hospital in 1989. He was named Alumnus of the Year at UCSF, and recipient of the Charlotte Baer Award for Outstanding Teaching. His general knowledge extended well beyond Medicine and Hematology. Of particular use to the Committee was his encyclopedic knowledge of food and wine. We developed discriminating examinations, and we dined well.

In the 1980's he served on the Residency Review Commit-tee for Internal Medicine, that had responsibility for reviewing all residencies in General Internal Medicine and fellowships in the medical subspecialties. This was an important and busy committee, and Ralph's medical knowledge, and, in addition, his organizational skills and commitment to quality were impressive.

Dr. Wallerstein was also on the board of directors of the Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning, was devoted to the arts, and was a talented photographer. Images taken during his travels after retirement were shown at local galleries and published in medical magazines.

Dr. Dwight Locke Wilbur, a prominent San Francisco gastroenterologist was past president of the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians and the American Gastroenterological Association. who helped overcome the organization's aversion to Medicare as ''socialized medicine,''

In the 1960's, when Dr. Wilbur rose to leadership in the A.M.A., his profession, like the rest of the nation, was deeply divided over crucial issues. Medical insurance for the country's elderly was one of them, and he was considered a moderate in the A.M.A.'s determined struggle against Government encroachment in medical care. Medicare, the basic Federal health insurance program for everyone over 65, was enacted in Social Security amendments in 1965 in the Johnson Administration. The A.M.A., supported by private insurers and hospitals, pursued its own alternative, called Eldercare, as a comprehensive plan for the elderly needy. Upon his inauguration as president of the A.M.A. in June 1968 for a one-year term, Dr. Wilbur broke with his predecessor, Dr. Milford O. Rouse of Dallas, and endorsed the notion that adequate health care was a right of all citizens. Although he personally favored the private approach wherever possible, he had resigned himself to the Social Security-based program as a new fact of life, and the organization reluctantly went along.

Like his father, he was an outdoorsman and rugged individualist. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford in 1923 and received his M.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in 1926 and was elected to AOA. He completed his internal medicine training at Penn and GI at the Mayo Clinic and stayed on at the Mayo Clinic to teach for several years. During World War II, he served as chief of medicine at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Oakland.

A specialist in gastroenterology, Wilbur wrote more than 200 medical articles and edited the Journal of the California Medical Association for more than 20 years. He served as a member of the medical task force of the Hoover Commission and on President Johnson's National Advisory Committee on Health Manpower that predicted the number of physicians would be adequate but there would be major problems with specialty and geographic distribution. He served as president of the California Medical Association, American Medical Association, American Gastroenterological Association from 1954-55 and president of the American College of Physicians in 1959. He held teaching positions at the Stanford School of Medicine throughout his career of more than 50 years, rising to clinical professor in 1949, and retired from private practice in 1983. He founded both the San Francisco and the California Societies of Internal Medicine.

He held office in various other professional organizations and served in clinical and teaching assignments in and beyond California.