Dr. William M. Lees

Marilyn Reinish is the daughter of Dr. William M. Lees, who was Chief of Surgery at “the San” from about 1949 until its closing in 1974. Here she recalls some memories from her childhood experiences of the MTS:

My memories include Christmas Mass every year where Wanda Klos RN sang the most beautiful Ave Maria I had ever heard.  Of course being Jewish limited my exposure, but Wanda had a beautiful, beautiful voice!  I recently heard about Wanda through a friend, but was not able to reach her. Wanda worked along side my Father for all his time at ‘the San.”

Once I was in a car with several others, driving through the beautiful grounds of MTS and I remember Wanda seating me on several coats and trying to hold me up in the car so I would look bigger and older and the Security Guard would not question me. I was not 16 and none of us wanted  to have problems with Security.

One year, my Dad arranged for me to follow the Head of Lab around to gather data and material for a Science project. The project took First Place in the State Competition, thanks to all the help I received.  I remember a pair of “dried” lungs on a stand that my Father brought home from MTS and placed in our dining room. The lungs had lots of black spots all over them. Our family lecture that night was on the effect of smoking on lungs. That lecture and data quoted was years before the Surgeon General’s report on the hazards of smoking.

Years later, a friend of mine in college told my Father that he also grew up a few houses away from the San. He said he would always see people throwing paper bags  over the fence on the grounds and he wondered what the bags contained. My Father asked if he ever checked it out.”Of course,” said my friend, “It was a bottle of liquor.”  My Dad burst out laughing and acknowledged that was often an issue.

I had copies at one point of an article my Father wrote about his  concerns of a resurgence of TB and how Public Health would handle the problem.

My father died in 1981 and did not live to see so many of his concerns and predictions come to fruition.  He was so dedicated to his work, his patients and to his work family at MTS.  The staff seemed to care so much.  It is comforting to remember the good parts!

(Editor’s note: Governor Thompson’s father was head of the MTS lab and worked there many years.)

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3 Responses to Dr. William M. Lees

  1. Gilberto Gonzalez,MD says:

    Dear Mrs. Reinish.
    I enjoyed reading about your father, Dr. Lees. I worked at the MTS in 1962-63 as a resident in thoracic surgery. I always admired his surgical skills and his willingness to teach. At that time we did not have flexible fiber-optic bronchoscope only rigid ones. Nobody could come near his skill using the rigid bronchoscope. He was truly an artist.
    G. Gonzalez, MD

  2. Edward Paloyan says:

    As a surgical resident from the University of Chicago I had the privilege to be taught by the great Dr Lees for six months!
    Subsequently, in 1974 we were able to recruit him to Hines Veterans Hospital as the Chief of staff and my direct boss.
    He was kind enough to fund a trip for my late wife and I, along with Dr Ann Lawrence and her husband, to a Danube Cruise! I can go on and on…..

    • Frances says:

      Thank you Dr. Paloyan for visiting my blog and leaving your recollection. I’m sure Dr. Lees daughter would enjoy seeing your comment so I will try to forward to her. I haven’t kept up with the blog due to other demands; however, I do continue to have an interest in the history of the Chicago Municipal TB Sanitarium and offer tours of the ground once a year.

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