Lifetime of service benefits hometown EXTRA Veteran perspective
on this article

Summer 2013 issue (pdf)

Dr. Algiers with President and CEO John R. Raymond, Sr., MD, and
Dean of the Medical School and Executive Vice President Joseph E.
Kerschner, MD '90, Fel '98.

The U.S. Navy did not share the vision a young James Algiers, MD ’53, GME ’63, had for his future. Had they known the type of physician he would become, they might have directed him to the medical corps instead of electrician’s school.

But one detour was hardly enough to keep him from his lifelong interest in medicine, and Dr. Algier’s hometown of Hartford, Wis., became the beneficiary of his dedication to his community and his craft. His 65 years of contributions to health and humanity have led to great admiration from his neighbors and peers. This year, they earned the Distinguished Service Award from the Medical College of Wisconsin/Marquette Medical Alumni Association.

Dr. Algiers was, in fact, born in the same Hartford hospital where later, he practiced medicine for 40 years. The first six years of his career was as a general practitioner in the small, southeast Wisconsin town. In the late 1950s, however, he became convinced that the future belonged to post-graduate preparation, especially in internal medicine.

“Changes in diagnostics, the multichannel blood testing, changes in X-ray assisted diagnosis, changes in therapeutics all spoke of ongoing transition in medicine,” he said.

Dr. Algiers became known as the “commuter” as he traveled between Hartford and Milwaukee for his internal medicine residency training while also maintaining a weekend call schedule, all with a wife and four young children. He transitioned into a solo practice but aspired to establish a multi-specialty group. This came to pass six years later in partnership with Michael J. Mally, MD ’62, GME ’66, as they built an association that eventually consisted of 14 doctors in a city of 8,000. Professional and civic outreach quickly became a staple characteristic of the practice, and Dr. Algiers thrived in this role.

Before the advent of CME requirements, Dr. Algiers’ group, Parkview Medical Associates, developed an annual “Doctor’s Bag” night that drew 30-75 physicians, nurses and ED techs to learn about emerging topics taught by medical school faculty as well as other visiting physicians. After the onset of modern CME conventions, they continued the event by creating programs for nursing staff, high school coaches and the developing emergency staff of the community.

When the community needed a champion, Dr. Algiers often answered the call. He helped create the first intensive care unit in the county and joined the local Lions Club in raising funds for the first monitored cardiac care unit in the area. In those days, hospital improvements were driven by community action.

“We became fundraisers, public speakers, donors and were occupied almost continually in the community as we worked, and fund drives were carried out for many projects,” he said. “These chores, along with practice, continued literally day and night.”

Dr. Algiers took particular pride in a fundraising and education effort that led to the Hartford Police Department being one of the first to have automated external defibrillators in each squad car.

“One might ask if practice in a small community is stimulating and rewarding,” Dr. Algiers said. “I answer, ‘yes.’ The service rendered is most rewarding, and family involvement produces rewards for all. One can be a ‘Man for all Seasons,’ a professional, a friend, a benefactor, a person of service, a participant, and a husband and father. And he can still maintain an association with his alma mater, to his and the Medical College’s benefit.”

MCW’s benefit has included Dr. Algiers completing two, three-year terms on the Alumni Association Board and serving on its Executive Committee. He has been on every Class of 1953 reunion committee and has participated in nearly 20 years of programmatic planning for the Alumni Association’s Symposium for Senior Physicians.

“My association with the Medical College and the Alumni Association has continued to be an anchor to the reality of medical progress and an aid in the prevention of early cognitive disease,” Dr. Algiers said.

His increased alumni involvement coincided with a short-lived retirement in 1990. He rejoined the practice ranks as a part-time Assistant Professor of Medicine at MCW and enjoyed working in outpatient clinics and with medical students for the next 10 years.

During this time he volunteered at the Albrecht Free Clinic in Jackson and chaired the development of an adult day care center in Hartford for patients with memory loss. He continues to visit patients there each week. He also presents articles on medicine and history via local television. In a small town, there is always plenty to do in retirement.

Veteran perspective

On Nov. 3, 2012, James Algiers, MD ’53, GME ’63, participated in an Honor Flight from Milwaukee to Washington, D.C., in recognition of his service in World War II. The following are his impressions in his own words.

“On Nov. 3, I was privileged to be a guest of the Honor Flight and to travel with my son, also a Naval Veteran, to the Memorial of WWII. The trip on Nov. 3 was remarkable in content, in organization, and most impressively in participation of, yes, thousands of interested men, women, and children, who stood in greeting to us at Mitchell Field and Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. The flight originated at Mitchell Field at 5 a.m. with registration, pictures, and IDs for the day. Think of 200 hundred old men in all states of health, each with an associate, a “Guardian” for the day; veterans in blue jackets and gray hair; guardians in red jackets, some young men or women, some middle aged, but all most attentive to the very elderly veterans. Simple arithmetic places those veterans in the mid-80s to mid-90s in age, not so simple an observation places the old Veterans in a mode of attention and appreciation and for a time to again recall, and think of the years gone by, of the friends of yesteryear, of the events associated with the years between 1941 and 1946; when “all were young”; to recall those who were never privileged to grow old and be able to recall.

After checking in—the registration was painless—entertainment by singing groups in the concourse helped pass the time until the flight took off. It was impressive to see alert men in their 80s and 90s, all aware of the opportunity of this late life event. There was no sleeping, no confusion or inattention; all were alert, oriented and aware. For that moment, all were young again, and were somewhat anxious and troubled to find that “hurry up and wait” was still the order of the day, seventy some years after the fact.

“Finally, the flight took off for Washington, D.C. Two planes, each with 100 veterans and 100 guardians, flew to Washington in about one hour and thirty minutes; many recalled railroad trips in the forties across the country which were measured in days, sometimes weeks.

"Introductions were made and conversations began, revealed years of events, lives so varied, and memories again stimulated by mutually shared remarks. All became aware that there were heroes among us, but most were of a common trend, just guys who were caught up in the events of the 40s, just lived out their lives fashioned by the “luck of the draw.” Again noted was the fact that heroes were not “made” but just happened, again by the “luck of the draw”. Mature judgment of the “old veterans” concluded that competition for stories could not compete with awareness of our present longevity, which is a God-given benefit, and for all of us, this flight was a benefit organized by remarkable people. The day was designed as a rewards program to the group, all of whom were humbled by the experience.

“The trip was fast, comfortable, and well-organized. We arrived at Dulles International on time, were disembarked onto a people mover and transported to the receiving area. There, amazingly we were met with at least 1,000 men, women and children from the Washington area. They lined the halls, greeted us with smiles and extended handshakes, always thanking each and every veteran for his or her service.

“The repetition of this greeting was embarrassing, initially, until one realized the greeting was truly sincere. Small boys and bright little 4- and 5-year-old girls smiled and greeted us, individually, repetitiously, and with true sincerity. Boy Scouts, youth groups, fathers and mothers, widows and widowers all thanked us and wished us well. We were initially embarrassed but soon maturely accepted the greeting and returned the thankful greeting. A politician’s rush was experienced by the handshaking and recognition. The reception was unexpected, but gratifying.

“From there we entered the buses, and our Washington excursion began. The weather was chilly, the day overcast. All initial activities were on the Mall of Washington. All was confined to the Mall between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial; the initial memorial visited was the Memorial of the 2nd World War, our connection to the past. It is the newest and recognized as the Jewel of the Mall. This memorial was long in making, but finally was completed and is a fitting memorial to the 15 million service men and women who served in World War II.

"We spent some time walking about, looking and appreciating our private thoughts. Group pictures were taken, quiet private conversations with the Guardians were revealing of many unspoken thoughts of the past. The Memorial will serve generations into the future and hopefully will be instrumental in some future war prevention activities.

“Following the World War II Memorial, we spent minutes to hours at the Korean Memorial, the hallowed memorial to the “police action” of the early fifties. This memorial was spiritually spooky. The setting is on a downslope, about two acres of low hedges, green in nature; interspersed are gray, slate gray figures of soldiers walking through the bushes, with rifle, bazookas and other arms.

“Each soldier is clothed in a slate gray poncho from head to ankles. Each is attentive and sad, is observant, cautious and fearful. Alongside the field is an eight-foot granite wall with etchings of the countenances of soldiers who had served in Korea. Pictures had been recorded and sketches of soldier’s faces are now etched in perpetuity on the granite wall. Rumor has it that soldiers who had served in Korea had located their pictures in the etchings. The atmosphere of this Memorial was haunting and on that cold November day shivers running up and down our backs were noted. Haunting, chilling, somber, and sad were the moments at the Korean site.

“The sadness was prolonged this day when the Vietnam Memorial was revisited. That hallowed walkway of 57,000 names etched in walls of shiny granite, serving as a walkway for women, children, and now what might have been grandchildren of all those victims of such foolish actions of our leaders, such a time of slaughter and degradation of fine young men; a time of death, a time of mashing and smashing of our youth with no sense or reason for such violence and no hope of retrieval of lost bodies and souls in the stagnate deltas of southeast Asia. I was reminded of one of my patients who had been a lost soul until one Saturday afternoon; he rid himself of his Vietnam horrors by reliving the details that he had made into the jungles of torture.

We next visited the National Cemetery where hundreds of thousands of service men and women now lie alongside Jack Kennedy’s Perpetual Flame. There we viewed the Changing of the Guard.

“Then a bus tour of the area, boarding of the return plane, somber thoughts and quiet talk and finally takeoff for a flight of an hour and one half, interrupted by “Mail Call,” an unexpected treat during which we received letters from our wife, children, friends and neighbors. What a wonderful send off from the memories of Washington. The plane was quiet; the backs of hands of the veterans were moist with tears, from thoughts of what had been, and from recall of times when family should have been allowed a closer insight into past lives and experiences.

“What a day, what a privilege to again be young of heart, but old of limb. The older one gets the more appreciative of a “pat on the back.” And to think that the best was yet to come. On arrival at Mitchell Field, there to be met by four or five thousand folks, by family, friends, and just plain people who took time from a Saturday night to come down and see a cadre of old men who had by the “Luck of the Draw” served, survived, and been fortunate to live in this country, the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

“What an honor to have loved, to have served, and now to experience outpouring of that love and an honored thank you.”



Comments are subject to approval. The Medical College reserves the right to edit comments for length, grammar, clarity and appropriateness.

Please include your first and last name. Alumni, please also feel free to include your class year(s). Your e-mail address will not be published.

Comments / Ratings

Superb Teacher
Mark Popp
08-01-13  12:45:29 PM

Jim was my resident physician when as a 3rd year student I had my first night "on call". I examined my first patient and did the best that I could to decide what the diagnosis might be. I finished and wrote on the order sheet what I had seen others do, CBC, Urinalysis, etc. I turned the case in to Dr. Algiers. He started going through the list, line by line. If I didn't have a good reason to order a test or expectations of findings, he lined it out. I always remembered that "lesson".

He taught me that you should never order a "routine" test.

The following required items were not provided or are in the wrong format. Please provide the required responses and submit again:

  Please enter your name
  Please enter a valid email
Comment Title:
Comment: 550 characters left
  Please enter a comment