Thoughts from Warren doc

Some time ago (July 1, 2014) I wrote a community column about a quadriplegic friend of mine, the late Sid Latcham. Almost immediately, Dr. Rolf Nissen wrote me a note that he, too, was a good friend of Sid’s. He filled me in on Sid’s later life, and I subsequently included that information in a July 11, 2014, community column that told about “what happened then” with Sid.

After I wrote about air raid sirens this past July, I heard once again from Dr. Nissen. He told me that the wail of air raid sirens reminded him of the time when he grew up in Berlin, Germany. They heard a lot of air raid sirens starting in 1940 warning of the Allied air attacks on Berlin. “I believe Berlin went through about 350 air raids during the war.”

This begins a story about a transplant from Germany. Nissen was 12 years old when World War II started. At 16, in 1944, he was drafted and learned to run a searchlight (as a Luftwaffenhelfer) in a German antiaircraft artillery unit. Interestingly, I served in a U.S. Army antiaircraft artillery unit in the 50s.

After the war, Nissen completed his education in Germany, graduating from the University of Marburg with an M.D. degree in 1953. He then came to the United States on a student visa, arriving in New York City Dec. 27, 1954, aboard the USS America.

In spite of the fact that Dr. Nissen had completed his internship in Germany, he was required to repeat a rotating internship in 1955 at Bethesda Hospital in Cincinnati. Since he liked the fair and friendly exchange and advice between doctors on the staff that was so unlike the German “respect the chief” system, he decided to stay in the U.S.

Dr. Nissen served his residency in pathology at Aultman Hospital in Canton in 1956, and a residency in internal medicine at Timken Mercy Hospital in Canton in 1957. He then was offered a chief residency in internal medicine at Trumbull Memorial Hospital (TMH) here in Warren, where Jack Latcham (Sid’s dad) was the administrator. It was July 1, 1958.

Dr. Nissen takes the story from here: “Warren at the time was a relatively small city, however, with major steel industry I was plant physician for American Welding There was hardly any unemployment. The air pollution was really bad, on certain days one could hardly breathe. Today, there is hardly any steel industry left in town, but people can breathe. People are unemployed, but the air is clean. I guess that is progress?”

“Then the Eastwood Mall was developed. [It is] a wonderful place to shop with plenty of free parking, but [it] also produced collateral damage almost destroying downtown [Warren]”

Nissen remarked that he felt very much at home at TMH, which was a friendly family-oriented hospital where administration, physicians, nurses, and other supportive staff worked together for the good of the patients.

In 1961, he married Marianne Pich, Ph.D., an art and theater historian, whom he had met ten years earlier in his Marburg University days. She was a foreign correspondent for German newspapers before coming to the U.S. Both are involved with the Trumbull Art Gallery and Marianne developed the art collection at TMH.

Dr. Nissen, who also worked at a free clinic, was probably one of the last internists to make house calls. He retired in 1997 from his practice of internal medicine. He states, “I wonder how I ever had time to be a doctor. Marianne got me so involved in so many non-profit activities that my calendar is totally filled.”

“Well, so be it! This town has been good to us – and we shall stay involved right here.”

So there you have it! Warren is so much better off for having the likes of Dr. Nissen and Marianne. You don’t have to be born here to make a meaningful contribution to our community.

Mumford, of Warren, is a community columnist. Email him at columns@tribtoday.com