Photo: Colin Hackley
Alex D. Brickler is a 'Florida Icon'
Alex D. Brickler
( Director of obstetrical services and training, Tallahassee Memorial Hospital’s family medicine residency program, Alexander D. Brickler Women’s Pavilion named in his honor; age 85 )
> I’ve delivered 30,000 babies, plus or minus a few.
> I used to be a backyard astronomer. It broadens your mind and makes you understand how insignificant you are. I had a little telescope at home, and then FSU built some practice fields around our place, and the light pollution got so bad that I gave it to my son, who lives in the mountains in Virginia.
> I was really more into physics and math. Then, in a kind of off-hand situation, I took the MCAT. I did fairly well and I got accepted to medical school.
> I faced discrimination that any Afro-American was facing here in Tallahassee. Separate drinking fountains, separate facilities, separate neighborhoods. Apartheid.
> The first few years (of medical school) were miserable because it was so much memorization. Coming from a scientific background and interest, that wasn’t what I really liked. It was bones and muscles and things that you can look up in a book. What do you need to memorize them for?
> I’m at a point in my career now that I could retire if I wished, but I’m just hanging on because I want to stay youthful. I would be a horrible pain in my wife’s side if I stayed home. She would never allow that.
> I was drafted into the military because we were in the Korean War at that point. And I went into the Air Force, and when I reported to my duty station, which was Lockbourne Air Force Base, the hospital commander said, ‘I need an obstetrician.’ And I said, ‘I’m not an obstetrician.’ He said, ‘Yes you are!’ And that’s how I got to be an obstetrician.
> My father-in-law was practicing here in Tallahassee as a general practitioner. He had a huge practice, and he was overwhelmed because there were only few doctors in the (African-American) community. So he asked me if I would come down and help him. I said, ‘OK, I’ll come down for a year maybe.’ It turned out to be over 50 years.
> Even the offices were segregated. When we sent somebody to a white doctor, they had to wait in the black waiting room until all the white patients were seen.
> Desegregation came as a result of all the pressures that the civil rights workers exerted and some of the pressures from the other side of the community. The white side of the community basically wanted to rid themselves of this stigma as much as we wanted to get rid of it. But there was a hard core of basic conservatives who would destroy anybody who really came out, either black or white, in favor of getting rid of it.
> When we had the full-blown riots when King was assassinated, we couldn’t go to the emergency room because it was so full of tear gas we couldn’t stay down there. We had to get huge fans and blow it out to try to work down there.
> The integration of TMH is another story. It had to be guided very carefully by administration and by medical staff. And to their credit, we worked it out among ourselves so there wasn’t a great deal of animosity. The black population was losing the (FAMU) hospital but was gaining access to (TMH). We worked to make sure there was no segregation. You went to the hospital and were treated like everyone else.
> Now I am backing a midwifery group, and we cover all the prenatal clinics in five different counties, which means we get all the indigent patients, which by default turns out to be a lot of Afro-American patients.
> Ninety percent of my patients are Medicaid. That’s probably an underestimate.
> We were overworked, and we needed help. We couldn’t get physicians, so nurse practitioners and midwives interested me, and that interest led to my introducing midwifery service to TMH. Where the finances are constricted, having someone who is not at the $200,000-a-year level taking care of patients and who can do it much more economically is also a very positive part of health care. I think they are here to stay.
> We just had a family reunion up in (labor and delivery) yesterday. This nice little old lady said, ‘You delivered my daughter in the old hospital 51 years ago.’ I said, ‘I did?’ She said, ‘There she is.’ She was sitting there, and she looked like a little old lady too. We were delivering the third generation.
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