John Morse Erskine, M.D.
[Originally published in CPMC Foundation’s newsletter Physician Advisor, September 2009]
- Graduate, Harvard Medical School
- Retired (1995), general and vascular surgery
- Member, CPMC Honorary Medical Staff
- Member, Legacy Society, since 2002 with his bequest
What led you to choose a career in medicine?
My family includes several generations of doctors, beginning with my great-grandfather, John F. Morse, M.D., who established the first two hospitals in Sacramento in 1849 and moved to San Francisco in 1863, where he became a professor at the first medical school. His son, John F. Morse, Jr., became a fine surgeon here. My maternal grandmother, Florence Nightingale Ward, practiced surgery and obstetrics at Florence N. Ward Sanatorium (which she helped found) and was one of the first women admitted to the American College of Surgeons. Her husband, Dr. James Ward, headed the Public Health Department during the 1906 earthquake and fire.
With this background, my decision to attend Harvard College and Medical School seemed a natural one. After graduation in 1945, I spent two years as an Army medical officer in Japan. I returned to Boston in 1948 to resume my surgical training in the present Brigham and Women’s Hospital and returned to San Francisco in 1954. For five years, I was with the Stanford Medical School and then I transferred to UC Medical School.
During my career, I taught surgery to medical students, worked with surgical residents and was a surgical consultant at Fort Miley Veterans Hospital. I practiced surgery using the hospitals that led to the formation of CPMC. I was fortunate to live through a unique period of medical developments and to participate in related activities and committees, such as the Medical Society, cancer consultative groups, the board of directors of the San Francisco Blood Bank and, for many years, the Greenbelt Alliance.
Fondest memory as a surgeon:
My work as a general and vascular surgeon was very satisfying in that problems tend to be solved promptly and with a direct approach.
Throughout my life I have always loved the high Sierras and other western mountains, where I hiked, camped and climbed. Today, I enjoy the mountains, the California countryside and unique San Francisco activities. I made use of my surgeon’s hands by making a model of the clipper ship Flying Cloud. The department of surgery of the UC Medical School honored me this year as a Distinguished Professor Emeritus. It has been a busy life and it still is.
Staying in touch:
I still follow what is going on in the medical world and, particularly, what is happening at CPMC.
Reason for supporting CPMC:
I believe in philanthropy. I have included the very fine hospital complex that developed as California Pacific Medical Center as a beneficiary in my personal trust.