At a time in everyone’s life, we come to find ourselves in a situation where the music stops, and we must go on.  The unfortunate truth about life is that the unexpected will happen. Some of us learn from it, some of us change because of it and some of us find our life’s calling because of it. The latter was the case for me.  After our dad picked us up from middle school, we spent that afternoon like we had every afternoon that month. We went to the oncology unit at the hospital, where my brother was admitted.



I remember him. I remember the man in the dark blue sarong the same way I remember the lines on back of my own hand. He was hunched over next to a column on a dirty platform at a railway station in Calcutta, India in the middle of the harsh summer sun. His hands were withered, his fingers and toes looked like tiny nubs, and he was completely malnourished and alone. He had opaque blue eyes, as if fog had taken place of his irises and pupils.



I studied insects in college; my favorite insects were the bees (I found them diligent and so helpful to humankind).  One of my favorite classes was about medical diseases caused by insects. My professors noticed my interest in the medical side of things and connected me with a professor who did clinical research. Our work focused on a clinical trial for children with intractable epilepsy and exposed me early on to patient care and patients.


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to the resignation of the latter, and some matters connected with a postmortem examination of an Irishman who had been killed in a quarrel. They passed very sharply written pamphlets between them, and a challenge to mortal combat came from Dudley to Drake. Dr. Drake declined, but his position was vicariously accepted by his next friend, Dr. William H. Richardson. A dual resulted, in which at the first fire, Richardson was seriously wounded in the groin by the ball of Dudley, severing the inguinal artery. Richardson should have speedily bled to death, as an applied tourniquet did not stanch the flow. Dr. Dudley immediately asked permission of Dr. Richardson to assist the hemorrhage and pressed his thumb over the ilium, giving time for application of a ligature by Dr. Richardson, a surgeon. This converted his deadly antagonist into a lifelong friend (Mayo, 1999, pg. 189).

Daniel Drake left Lexington for Cincinnati in 1818. Drake resumed his professorship in Lexington from 1823 to 1827. The great William Osler, M.D. of Johns Hopkin’s Medical School, said of Drake, “In many ways, Daniel Drake is the most unique figure in the history of American medicine.” His accomplishments and person loom ever larger in the epic of medicine. (Mayo, 1999, pg. 198).

When Charles Caldwell, M.D. of Philadelphia was called to the Chair of the Institutes of Medicine and Materia Medica at Transylvania, Dr. Samuel Brown at the very last moment was lured away from the invitation for that position to join Dr. Daniel Drake in Cincinnati to take the Chair of the Theory and Practice of Medicine. Interestingly, at the same time, the naturalist, C.S. Rafinesque, was persuaded to lecture the medical students on botany and natural history at Transylvania. (As many from Lexington will note, Rafinesque’s tomb is in the basement of the Morrison Hall on the Transylvania Campus and Rafinesque’s ghost is generally celebrated by students on Halloween.)

Before Dr. Drake left for Cincinnati, in 1817 a habit of the medical students at Transylvania Medical College came to light in Lexington. The famous dual that Dr. Drake eschewed occurred between Dr. Dudley and Dr. Richardson instead. This duel was caused after an Irishman had been disinterred at the Old Baptist Graveyard. It was common for medical students to disinter recently deceased persons in the Lexington area to provide bodies for dissection at Transylvania University. Basic human anatomy was essential for the study of medicine. Occasional hangings afforded a legal dissection, but generally bodies were “imported” or sometimes stolen (Mayo, 1999, pg. 207).

In 1852, Dr. Daniel Drake rejoined the faculty at the Medical College of Ohio but died a few days after receiving his appointment. He is buried at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio. This is currently thought to be the third largest cemetery in the United States. It is recognized as a U.S. National Historic Landmark.


Dr. Daniel Drake was considered the foremost medical educator in America in the 19th century. He gave a presidential address to the Lexington Medical Society on November 14, 1823 when he was inducted to that medical society and accepted the second Presidency in 1824 (Mayo, 1999, pg. 16). When the Lexington Medical Society finally closed in 1834, Dr. Caldwell served as President of the College of Physicians and Surgeons while he was Dean of the Medical Department of Transylvania University. It has been noted that this indicated an amicable split and not a rupture between Transylvania and the physicians of Lexington. (Mayo 1999, pg. 54),

Dr. Drake became one of the leading political advocates for American medicine at the time, and while at the 1850 meeting of the American Medical Association in Cincinnati, his advocacy led to a runoff for the presidency of the AMA between himself and a fellow Cincinnatian, Reuben D. Mussey. Dr. Mussey won the election for the AMA presidency.

A collection of Daniel Drake materials can be found at the University of Cincinnati Health Sciences library in the Center for History of the Health Professions. Drake was born in New Jersey in 1785 and graduated from the medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. He was taught by Benjamin Rush, M.D., the foremost physician in the United States at that time, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Drake eventually settled in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1819, he successfully founded the Medical College of Ohio, which later became the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.   


Drake’s journey into medicine began when he was 15 years old, and he started a medical apprenticeship in Cincinnati. In 1805, William Goforth, Surgeon General of the First Division of the Ohio Militia, gave him a certificate for his preceptorship. Dr. Goforth left Cincinnati to go to New Orleans in 1807, and Drake took over his practice at that time and continued to serve the people of Cincinnati until 1815 when he returned to Philadelphia and received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in May 1816. Within a year, he accepted the Chair of Materia Medica at Transylvania University. In 1830, Drake was offered the Chair of Theory and Practice of Medicine at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He accepted that position to become the first U.S. western physician to be invited to a professorship in an eastern medical school. Drake’s portrait graces the cover of this edition of KentuckyDoc magazine. It is thought to be one of the best paintings available of Dr. Drake.

One of the most colorful episodes in Dr. Drake’s life occurred in 1817 and involved three members of the Lexington Medical Society and the Transylvania College faculty. Benjamin Dudley, Daniel Drake, and William Richardson were the perpetrators. The difficulty originated between Dr. Dudley and Dr. Drake in relation


Robert P. Granacher, Jr., MD, MBA practices clinical and forensic neuropsychiaty in Lexington and Mt. Vernon, KY. He is a noted scientific author and past president of the Kentucky Psychiatric Medical Association. He is currently president-elect of the Lexington Medical Society and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.