Television character Cpl. Max Klinger famously was from Toledo, but did you know that the man who inspired at least part of M*A*S*H character Capt. “Trapper” John McIntyre also called the Glass City home for 38 years before his death in March?
Dr. John M. Howard, after whom a professorship in pancreatic diseases at the University of Toledo College of Medicine has been named, was one of just two fully trained surgeons the Army sent to Korea after the outbreak of war there in 1950, Dr. S. Amjad Hussain, a UT professor emeritus of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery, said Wednesday during a special lecture about his long-time friend and colleague.
While working in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital behind Korea’s front lines, Dr. Howard pioneered vascular surgery to reduce the amputation rate related to severe limb injuries from 65 percent to 7 percent, Dr. Hussain said.
As director of the Army’s Surgical Research Team, he also introduced the use of helicopters for medical evacuation and, after creating makeshift dialysis machines with cellophane sausage casings for filters, established a renal care center for seriously wounded soldiers after determining that temporary kidney shutdowns were a major, curable mortality factor.
Dr. Howard would go on to become a world-renowned researcher of diseases and surgery of the pancreas, most notably during his 20-year career at the then-Medical College of Ohio, from which he retired in 1993.
But it was his work in the Army and, later, for 13 years chairing a federal committee on Emergency Medical Services that may have directly affected the most lives.
The committee’s recommendations, Dr. Hussain said, included creating the 911 emergency telephone number; developing emergency medical technician and paramedic programs; redesigning ambulances to allow medical care en route to hospitals; and modern emergency communications systems. In the 1950s, he noted, ambulances most commonly were operated by undertakers, and were designed merely to transport patients to hospitals, with insufficient roof clearance for anyone to attend to them along the way.
Dr. Hussain said he once asked his friend point-blank if he was the model for the Trapper John character on M*A*S*H.
“He would not give me a straight answer,” Dr. Hussain said. “Maybe he was too modest. And there are other people who can point to someone else as having been the real Trapper John. But it was clearly a composite character. His work had a lot to do with the inspiration for that character.”
Dr. Hussain, a regular columnist at The Blade, said Dr. Howard was visionary, independent, and stubborn, yet also generous, gracious, and elegant.
Dr. Howard died March 16, at age 91, in the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township, of heart failure.