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Interview with Dr. Clealand A. Sargent

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Sargent, Clealand A. ; O'Neil, Dan


Dr. Clealand A. Sargent speaks about his upbringing in Richford, Vermont, premedical and medical education at the University of Vermont, and his private practice in Orwell, Vermont and why he had to give it up. He discusses entering the public health field, relating his experiences with different diseases and control programs in states in which he was a health officer. He also describes taking advanced courses at Johns Hopkins Medical School and teaching classes at various New York universities, and notes the differences in medical practices from the start of his career to the current day. He discusses his position and experiences as the Health Commissioner in Syracuse, NY.




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Broome County Oral History Project


33:49 Minutes ; 17:02 Minutes


Broome County Oral History Project

Interview with: Dr. Clealand A. Sargent

Interviewed by: Dan O’Neil

Date of interview: 26 April 1978

Dan: Doctor would you give me ah your life and experiences, working experiences in the community, starting back to when you were born and where you were born?

Dr. Sargent: Well I was born in Richford, Vermont. R-I-C-H-F-O-R-D, Vermont—it's right on the Canadian border. My father was took before the Customs, that's how we happened to be there. I graduated from Richford High School in 1912, June 1912 and entered the University of Vermont that fall in 1912 and I graduated in Medicine there in June, yeah in June 1918. Served my internship at the Mary Fletcher Hospital in Burlington, and ah that was during the War, I came—then I started in private practice at Orwell, Vermont. Orwell, Vermont, which is on Lake Champlain. They asked the college to send a physician there because they had lost two, so I went there and had 5 towns to cover in the practice, practice of medicine and ah I certainly enjoyed it and expected to stay there but in December in 1923, I had pneumonia and it was a very bad case with many complications and eventually from December 11 to April, I didn't do anything and then discovered I had pulmonary tuberculosis so I didn't—I had to quit private practice entirely. I received a fellowship with the Rockefeller Foundation. Now briefly, the Rockefeller Foundation was started in 1919. John D. Rockefeller gave 200 million dollars for public health service from the advice of his minister. He read the Bible and said the next time he came to Heaven—what did I do, so he told him just start out—do good with your money and that's your home. So he established the Rockefeller Foundation with 200 million dollars ah and also with that they named, they established a training station for physicians to go into preventive medicine. They built a medical school in Peking, China—they built the finest Medical College in University of Chicago and ah this fellowship I started on my birthday, January 13, 1925. I started as a fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation in Andalusia, Alabama ah my first I was there under training by men who had, doctors who had worked various stations throughout the world from the very beginning—in fact, in fact they had the United States. My first experience was with the control of malaria. For a boy born in Vermont, we didn't see very much malaria. I, we were thoroughly trained by men who very well experienced it. Ah as an illustration we started out in the morning - we were given a dose of Atabrine then we were given a thing to put on our wrist like a wristwatch but it had no bottom to it. You were supposed to catch mosquitoes—crawl under houses and what not, get mosquitos and put them under here (pointing to wristwatch) have ‘em eat.

Dan: Incubate?

Dr. Sargent: Feed on your, feed on your skin to keep them alive until you get back to the laboratory because they had to determine what type of infection they had and ah after malaria experience, I was taught to control the hookworms disease and hookworm disease starts by a worm that burrows through the soles of the feet goes up into the bloodstream coughed up and swallowed and attaches itself to the intestinal tract—causes slow hemorrhage. We have taken, while I was there, we as a team—a nurse, a doctor, a nurse and a clerk and go in this school and we got feet for examination and ah if found hookworms, got permission to advance and treat these children and we have taken away as many as 2000 hookworms from one individual.

Dan: Is that right?

Dr. Sargent: And it is a very serious affair. Well from that, the State passed, they assigned somebody to help establish school health programs in the northern part of the State of Alabama. I was sent up there with a very well trained public health nurse—Rockefeller Foundation and then there was an outbreak of diphtheria at Muscle Shoals and I was sent up to work at Florence, Tuscumbia, Columbia, Sheffield, Ford City in control of diphtheria and while I was there we let the water through the flues to start with—the electric power for the State of Alabama—it was very interesting work there. Well ah we did some roundworm control later and then I was assigned to the City of Montgomery, Alabama diphtheria control and while I was doing that, there was an outbreak of smallpox at Columbus, Ohio and I was sent to Oberlin to establish a control program for the outbreak of this smallpox and we were there about 6 weeks because after we vaccinated several thousand people ah against smallpox and things bought under control, they asked me to stay and help the Health Officer with diphtheria control program. Well being nice about it—children against diphtheria and then they asked me to go to the State of—well they gave me a choice of either going to to Panama or to West Virginia—black lung disease area or Springfield, Ohio or to the State of Delaware and in checking the various areas I chose Delaware because they had several serious and interesting health problems—one of the most interesting was infant mortality. Nearly, at that time, nearly a fourth of all the babies died before they got to be a year old and when we—course the first thing to do when we got there was to study the situation and find out why this occurred and we found that outside of Wilmington, 90% of the babies were delivered by illiterate midwives. Most of them could not read or write. They were either colored or from the southern borough, whatnot. Well after we made our study and got the information we needed, we went to the State Legislature and asked for authority to establish a code and ah they gave us that authority and we examined and tested all the midwives and as a result, we eliminated about 50% of it. They couldn’t read nor write and every midwife was under the direction of one of our public health nurse—she had to report to us when she was engaged on a case. The public health nurse followed the case until the delivery and we brought the infant mortality down to 20-25 per thousand we brought it down to 20 but while we were doing this, the State Health Commissioner asked me if I would do something about diphtheria control because they had it typed over 400 for 1000 population—so we set up clinics—I have a picture of one of them right there where I was working (points to photo) Wilmington, Delaware and we immunized 80,000 against diphtheria—practically eliminated it. Then they had a bad typhoid situation and we started in on a sanitation program—building pit privies and whatnot—sanitarians to control typhoid. Well it was all very interesting ah but I had an opportunity then to go to Johns Hopkins with the Rockefeller Foundation and take some courses in public health that was the school of hygiene and I have two Diplomas from Hopkins besides one I have from the University of Vermont. Well then I, after leaving, got a ride into New York State and I didn't know it at the time but Commissioner Moses of the Parks—State Park Commission was working with Canada to establish the seaway, St. Lawrence Seaway and I had charge of syphilis control along Erie, Lake Erie from Canada to Pennsylvania. Had headquarters in Buffalo and ah it was the most interesting experience. We eventually had about 70,000 blood tests which were recorded by Russel Soundex. We worked at all the hospitals—blood donations and things like that. I worked at Erie County penitentiary which was as large as most State prisons—worked with the Doctor there with control among the prisoners. Then and I also

worked at Attica prison every Wednesday—Erie county every Tuesday—only had a day but Wednesday. Attica was most interesting because ah at that time the United States Public Health service had a representative in 150 different foreign cities and if we found a ah sailor or another person there from jail who had syphilis and could name the prostitute or contact in any city of the world, we would notify the State Health Department who would notify the Public Health Service who would notify his representative and we found active cases a far away as Hong Kong.

Dan: Is that right?

Dr. Sargent: Then ah—I can't remember what happened then, I ah, Oh there's a series of disease known as titseal. They're caused by a bug that burrows in the skin and ah causes a disease like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Well there’s a disease known as "tutsi magutsi" which is a titular disease imported from Japan and it appeared on Long Island and ah I was taken out of, well we've been about 5 years in the census control program and we had clinics well established so on and so forth. I thought my assistant could carry on so they put me down on Long Island and we hired hunters to kill rabbits so we could get the ticks out of the ears of the rabbits and we hired donkeys to roam the countryside, then we catch the donkeys at night and get the, get somebody to get the ticks out of the donkey's ears to bring to our laboratory.

Dan: That was the source of the disease?

Dr. Sargent: To determine what kind of ticks we had.

Dan: I see.

Dr. Sargent: There's different kind of diseases caused by various ticks. Well, while I was there ah the man who, the Doctor who had charge of the State Regional office in New York City retired and they asked me to take it over—the State—that’s how I came to being employed by the State of New York and I had supervision over all of Westchester County and all of Long Island and also a $400,000. The State paid New York City for its child health clinics—we had to check that to see if it was spent properly. Well then I got, I got some requests for training assignments and the State gave me permission to take and it was extreme interesting because I think I learned more than I gave my students. I, because on Wednesday nights I went to University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, gave a 2 hour lecture every Wednesday night and many of the students were from foreign countries and they had a lot of experience—I had run into that at Hopkins so that I was made aware of some of the problems of foreign countries. Well then on Thursday mornings I gave a 2 hour lecture at New York University Medical School out there. Thursday evenings I gave a 2 hour lecture at the school of Administration and that was interesting at Washington Square. Then Friday morning I gave a 2 hour lecture for University of Columbia and I had my area covered—everything from Montauk Point top of Westchester County and it was farther from Montauk to my office than on up to Albany, so I had all city driving—I lived in Ossining and commuted 6 days a week in the worst traffic in the world. 9 o'clock in the morning to 5 o'clock at night. 

Dan: Gee.

Dr. Sargent: And ah I thoroughly enjoyed it but then I got tripped up—I got a coronary.

an: Uh huh—what year was this Doctor?

Dr. Sargent: That was in 1921 and ah I didn't work from August until April at all ‘cause I had other complications along with other complications and when I had pneumonia, I got collapse of the lower lobe of my right lung and this is tuberculosis—so everything stacked up against me. So the State assigned me, after I could get back to work, they assigned me to the City of Syracuse. First as District Officer which included 5 of the counties upstate. Simply—supervision over the work of the local health officer. Well then the Mayor of the City of Syracuse asked me to take over the job as Commissioner of Health of Syracuse—I didn't want any part of it and

said I wouldn't take it.

Dan: A little too strenuous?

Dr. Sargent: Pardon?

Dan: A little too strenuous?

Dr. Sargent: No—too much politics.

Dan: Too much politics. (laughter).

Dr. Sargent: And ah I said I’d have no part of it at all. When I left his office—came out on television that (I have a hiatal when I talk too much—it chokes me) ah it came out on television that I was going to be the next Health Commissioner and ah I said I didn't want it—so I called the Mayor said, "I'll do it as long as I'm in it because my son is in college; when he gets through, he and I are going to run our apple orchard up in Vermont and I'll do it until he gets straightened around," because I thought I’d last just about that long. He's got some real problems and I wasn't going to stand for it.

Dan: Uh huh.

Dr. Sargent: Now somebody watching it—straighten out some of their problems. Well I took the thing over and found out that first of all—well I wrote to the census bureau and Syracuse has 32 census tracts and in my work you have to know conditions before you can have any programs or do anything. Well I had heard rumors—I knew roughly what the situation was but I wanted facts. So I wrote the Census Bureau and I got the last 5 census figures for the 32 census tracts and asked to name the population as of that date. Then we figured the various for date mortality rates by census tracts and we centered all of our working 10 census tract 5 all downtown—all bunched by downtown and ah first thing which we did was start a housing program which had not been done in this State except in the middle of New York City. I went to Washington and discussed it with them and they assigned a man by the name of Traboney, who had a lot of experience in that field and he came to Syracuse and established a school in the health department to teach sanitary units how to do good building inspections—home inspections and of course we trained our own inspectors—we had several men from other cities come there so we did quite a bit in housing and then they—we got some trouble with food outbreaks, which we didn't like at all and we traced it largely to a salmonella infection from poultry. Then we went at the poultry business ah after the poultry business and ah as a result we were the only place in the State which barred New York dressed poultry and New York dressed poultry in those days all they did was kill the bird and pick the feathers off. Sold it to you with the intestines and everything in. Well that was where we were getting in trouble, so we stopped the sales of New York dressed poultry and then salmonella stopped ah but ah we then, they had a tuberculosis case funding program in which each year they x-rayed all employees of various factories over and over again year after year and it cost about $4500 to find a case of tuberculosis that way—so we went into the tuberculosis problem and we studied very carefully by census tracts, by age groups, by occupation and we found that the bulk of our cases were in the middle age group among food handlers and bartenders—so we stopped examining the factories—we required all food handlers to have chest x-rayed at our expense every year and we, our case load then was quite heavy to find new cases cost us less than $500 against $4500 other way. We also x-rayed all the people once a month at the Onondaga Penitentiary because they had drifters from everywhere. When we found a case that didn't belong to us we notified their Health Officer and we worked our local jail, x-rayed people down there for the same reason. We picked up people we had and gotten away from us and weren't under treatment—so we had intensive tuberculosis control program and housing program. Then we went into air pollution control and again working with Washington, set up an air pollution control program—I think we were the first in the State outside of New York City that was doing that and ah I tried to get rid of meat inspection because they weren't inspecting meat for anything—that we'd be infected by—I couldn't, there's too much influence through the meat people I couldn't—there's some big ones up there. 

Dan: This is all in Syracuse now?

Dr. Sargent: Yeah and ah there's an interesting thing—I don't want to take your time though.

Dan: No, you're not taking my—I've got all the time in the world so you go right ahead Doctor.

Dr. Sargent: Well let me illustrate what I meant by wanting to get rid of meat inspection. We had eight slaughterhouses when I worked there and I went to the mayor—was Costello and ah said, "I don't want anything to do with meat inspection—that's Ag and Markets business." I said, "Don't look for anything that infects human beings anyway"—it was just a lot of headaches. The meat men had too much influence and too much money, I couldn't do it. But anyway, I found that every inspector in every plant was working for the guy he was supposed to be inspecting.

Dan: Is that right? In cahoots with the slaughterhouse. 

Dr. Sargent: So, I, I started raising hell about them, said, "Well if you don't pay me enough money so I can live"—I’ll cite one instance—a burly fellow came to me one day—he need, now we needed another inspector because one of them quit so he asked for the job and I gave it to him and he had a little experience and one of the sanitarians came one day and he says, "You know what your inspector is doing up at such and such slaughterhouse he's a buyer." Well he had only seen me once—he didn't know me very well so I thought I'd go up and see if it was true. I went up—instead of being on the kill floor watching the slaughtering like he was supposed to, he had a straw hat on and a long white coat and was in this little cubby hole—so I recognized him, he didn't recognize me. I went over to him and said, "If I had a load of pigs to sell, who would I see?" He says, "See me, I'm the buyer." Well I said, "I'm your boss—now you don't have a job." Well he hemmed quite a ruckus anyway. Finally I got that straightened. I got, fortunately, there was a Doctor Jackson who had worked for public health for the Ag. and Markets in Washington for years as Veterinarian and ah he was retired. He lived in Syracuse—people lived there—so I asked him if he'd come back to work for us.

Dan: Uh huh.

Dr. Sargent: And ah first he said "No,” said, "I worked in Syracuse." Well he did eventually come back to work for us. But anyway we had a rendering plant in Syracuse that made an awful lot of smoke and bad odors and so forth and so the inspectors said, "We can't do a thing with them." So I always followed up inspection work and I went down to this particular rendering plane and I told them we had a lot of complaints and ah asked if they wouldn't stop it—they would do something to stop it but he didn't so I went back again about a couple months, I said, "Now if you don't stop it we’re going to have to close the plant," and he kind of smiled, said, "I'd like to see that." 

"Well,” I said, "I don't think you would." 

"Well what I mean,” he said, "I'd like to see you try it." Said, “Do you know who owns this plant?"

I said, "I don't give a—" 

“Well,” he said, Swift and Co owns it." 

I said, "Well I've already arrested Swift and Company's men 2 or 3 times a year for bumping meat.” Now do you know what bumping means? They get federally inspected meat—they have a stamp on it - beet juice stamped. Circulars going up to Newark to an uninspected slaughterhouse and buying quarters of beef—bringing them down—bumping them against the one that was federally inspected—now you couldn't tell which one, both marks were smeared.

Dan: You mean, you mean transferred from one carcass to the other?

Dr. Sargent: Yeah and hang two together like this—just put the good one with the bad one and bump them together and this would come off on the bad one and you couldn't tell which was which so we arrested them for that and then another time they sold 1800 pounds of pork shoulders and shaved off the Federal mark and my inspector called on a Sunday morning, he says, “What'll I do?” I said, "Tell the storekeeper he has a choice of one of two things—one, he can pour kerosene on them in his store or out in the yard.” So he said he thinks he wants it done out in the yard so he had to do that but ah I'm glad.

Dan: Pretty rough.

Dr. Sargent: And the milk inspection was even worse, so when they had change of change of administration ah they didn't want me around anymore.

Dan: How many years was now that you spent up there—you went there in 1941?

Dr. Sargent: Well I was up there from ‘41 to ‘54.

Dan: ‘54.

Dr. Sargent: But part of the time I was with the State and part of the time as Health Officer.

Dan: Uh huh.

Dr. Sargent: Well I wanted to go to the farm and work with the boy but I—my orchard wasn't developed to the point where I—I wanted to be the guy to solve the problems—let the boy run the farm but they hadn't reached that point—later it did, we were shipping 20,000 boxes of apples but then it didn't so I was mulling things over and ah Dr. Dickson, he's dead now, used to be here. Remember him? 

Dan: Umhm.

Dr. Sargent: He was acting Health Officer—Dr. Tudor had left and we were at a meeting in Syracuse and Dickson said ah, "Well if you aren't going to stay in Syracuse, why don't you come down to Binghamton—we need somebody badly." Well I looked things over and came down. I think I better do something, I can't go to the farm, I’m too young to sit around and do nothing, so I came down and saw Kramer and he ah offered me the job and I took it.

Dan: He was Mayor at that time?

Dr. Sargent: Umhm. John Burns was his assistant.

Dan: Umhm.

Dr. Sargent: Well we had some of the same problems as we had up there ah but ah it wasn't as bad. The thing that we did have down here—I came here in ‘54 and ‘56 had a bad outbreak of polio and I had quite a lot of experience in polio because the City Hospital in Syracuse and had a lot of cases up there—so we started a vaccination program here—we got excellent cooperation from everybody. We had two former school teachers who came in and offered their services as clerks at teen clinics—my wife went down to help them file away the records and all of our nurses, not exception, volunteered to work on our clinic teams. Every Monday and every Thursday night we had a polio clinic—vaccination clinics. We didn't use the—I never liked the, in fact I used Salk vaccine which you had to inject instead of a drop on sugar for this reason—Salk vaccine was a killed virus and would do no damage. Sabin vaccine was a live virus and had started as epidemics. In institutions, they would give it to kids and in the sewer system the live virus would come through and they'd get trouble. The Sabin never has done that so I stuck to polio Sabin vaccine.

Dan: You stuck to Sabin?

Dr. Sargent: Oh, No, no.

Dan: To Salk.

Dr. Sargent: Salk—I wouldn't touch the Sabin with a ten foot pole.

Dan: Now which one is it you have on a lump of sugar?

Dr. Sargent: Sabin.

Dan: Sabin.

Dr. Sargent: Salk is the one. Salk came out originally—it is a killed bacteria.

Dan: Yeah—were you Health Officer at the time that they had that testing program? I think you were?

Dr. Sargent: Sure.

Dan: Where all of the ah ah participants—the children were vaccinated and they were vaccinated they didn't know whether they were getting the real vaccine or a placebo.

Dr. Sargent: No I don't think I was here that time.

Dan: You were never here then?

Dr. Sargent: I probably.

Dan: ‘Cause I know that my oldest daughter participated in that program—now she's 31 now and—

Dr. Sargent: I think it must have come after we left because we vaccinated—oh gosh I forget how many but we used to do 15 to 1700 a night and nobody was barred. A third of our cases came from Pennsylvania and we had some we had one family came from Wales—we had some families from California and we never barred anybody because clinical disease doesn't know any boundaries for one thing.

Dan: Right.

Dr. Sargent: Another thing was I was under State aid—in other words the State paid half of my salary and half of all my nurses' salaries. All the city had to pay was one half of what it cost and all vaccine was paid for by the Red Cross so I didn't hesitate taking anybody.

Dan: Yeah.

Dr. Sargent: So we did that and ah we had oh so many requests from school people and ah people under unemployment for the vaccination records that people asked us—we had very complete records. In fact it stopped it—we haven't had a case since. So that was interesting and then—remember the salt?

Dan: General Hospital, yes.

Dr. Sargent: I don't like to—

Dan: It's all right it's confidential.

Dr. Sargent: I'll say this—I had a director of nurses and her assistant I had an agreement with them—one of them stayed there all day long watch that nurse—all day—the other would stay all night and watch her.

Dan: Umhm.

Dr. Sargent: What we saw and learned—I asked the State Health Officer—I had no authority to do anything better—I asked the State Health authority we wished to be privileged—they wouldn't take away that person.

Dan: They wouldn't? That made—that was nationwide publicity it got—Life magazine and everything. Yeah, that was a terrible thing.

Dr. Sargent: Yeah, of course what happened—they disobeyed all regulations and the colored maid went down to the kitchen—instead of getting the sugar in the sugar barrel, she got into the salt barrel.

Dan: Yeah, yeah.

Dr. Sargent: They got the salt—it wouldn't have happened if they had helped me out but they wouldn't.

Dan: Yeah, yeah.

Dr. Sargent: Everywhere you turn you have to deal with (tarb)

Dan: Umhm.

Dr. Sargent: And sometimes if you get the cooperation of the community, you can get along very nicely.

Dan: Yeah, yeah.

Dr. Sargent: Ah Tom Corcoran, in Syracuse, was one of the nicest men I ever knew and he never turned me down on anything I wanted to do and when I wanted to stop the sale of New York dressed poultry ah I told him among other things I said, "These poultry people are putting water into the breasts of turkeys and freezing it so they'd weigh more but they aren't too careful and are infecting the turkeys and people who cook them take care of them—now I want to stop salmonella infection I've got to stop that too. Well he hardly believed me he told me afterwards he was taking his daughter up to Rochester to a party. Her boyfriend was with them—he was telling him this as a joke cause that's no joke, "That's my job, why I inject turkeys with it.” So Tom helped me in every way to bring this end about. It was very interesting but we did air pollution control. First we started out we hired a young lad with a tractor to mow all of the vacant lots in town—we asked to mow them all down. We mowed so to get rid of the ragweed and then we had the ah physician in town to cooperate with us to do pollen counts—published everything in the papers and ah I think our best bet was the centering our problems right in the central part of the city the 10 census tracts and our nurses concentrated their efforts there. When I went there, a nurse visited every home where there was a newborn baby, regardless of whether they got a million dollars or no money—so we stopped that. We had them visit people in 10 census tracts then we sent postcards to other people saying if you want the nurse, all you have to do is let us know. But it let the nurses concentrate their work in the 10 census tracts where our problems were and ah it had its effect very definitely and very interesting.

Dan: How about the mortality rate as far as the infants were concerned—did that go down?

Dr. Sargent: Yes it went down and then wasn't awfully high but it was higher we wanted. It’s always too high.

Dan: Yeah, that’s true.

Dr. Sargent: But the thing that concerned us the most in Syracuse ah was the sloppy way the inspectors were operating and the tuberculosis control program wasn't wanted at all and this salmonella infection thing in poultry gave us a lot of things to—in other words, in my field of work, there are plenty of problems to look for but sometimes it's difficult to get the authority to handle it.

Dan: What year did you retire Doctor?

Dr. Sargent: ‘63.

Dan: ‘63 so outside of the ah few years you were in private practice, all your life has been devoted to public health service.

Dr. Sargent: That’s right.

Dan: And in your private practice days, I suppose you made house calls.

Dr. Sargent: Uh absolutely—I was the local health officer.

Dan: (Laughter) So what would you say would be the difference in the practice of medicine today as compared to when you first started out?

Dr. Sargent: Please—don't.

Dan: Please don't get you started, huh? (laughter) It's the age of specialization.

Dr. Sargent: Well I could show you some—I've kept information every few days at Johns Hopkins and University of Vermont and so forth—publications and the older men I think are pleading, pleading so as to teach medicine. Pleading with them. This one fellow graduated at same time I did at Johns Hopkins—he had a letter in recent publications says, ''Why can't you go back to teaching medicine?"

Dan: Yeah—wasn't it true though in your day too that you had your own pharmacy—no such thing as drugstores?

Dr. Sargent: Well there was drug stores.

Dan: There weren't too many of them though.

Dr. Sargent: We dispensed a lot of medicine.

Dan: Dispensed a lot of it yourself.

Dr. Sargent: And we didn't have—I have a nephew who is the Vice President of (inaudible) Drug Company. They started, they were American boys and they went to London because they were the first ones to put powders in paper and wrap them up but these boys put them in custom made pills and they went to London to do that and were very successful so they came over here and started a branch station New York Burroughs Co. Well he went to work for them when he was a young pharmacist just out of Temple—he's now Vice President. His job is to fly to Switzerland where all this monkey business comes from through drugs—I don't have the faintest what it is today, I'm taking drugs I haven't the faintest idea what the devil they are—I don't think the Doctor knows either. But ah when there's something new they think is startling comes out. He thinks company policy goes over to Switzerland and talk and see if he thinks it's any good but I guess he's a pretty good pharmacist because he goes over and he twists an arm to find out really ‘cause my job depends on what I tell my people.

Dan: Yeah.

Dr. Sargent: So if he thinks it's good then he goes to London, where the headquarters really are for his offer and he gets their approval to go on with it. Then he flies to Washington to get approval down there to OK to make it—then he has to fly to his home office here and tell everything is OK to go ahead and make the pills. But ah he tells me—I asked him one day I said, "Why can't you do something so the Doctors know what they're giving their medicine—more about it," said, ''Why we spend a million dollars a year putting into every package of tablets we send out just exactly how we spend our money and how it comes out."

Dan: You know I think the public today are getting so confused that every day it comes out in the paper that no matter what you're eating, soft drinks or anything else, it's causing cancer. Now I've got sugar myself and I 'm not supposed to eat sugar but I'm substituting saccharin—now they come out and say saccharin is going to cause cancer so what am I supposed to do—crawl in and cover up? (laughter).

Dr. Sargent: Well this cancer thing is ah humm.

Dan: Now what medical school did you go to Doctor?

Dr. Sargent: University of Vermont.

Dan: University of Vermont Medical School and the University of Vermont.

Dr. Sargent: For pre-medical work.

Dan: Uhhuh and how old are you now Doctor?

Dr. Sargent: I was born in 1893

Dan: 1893.

Dr. Sargent: 85 years old last January.

Dan: And how many children do you have?

Dr. Sargent: Two.

Dan: Two—boy and a girl and the boy is up in Vermont.

Dr. Sargent: No the boy is in Watertown—he and his wife have quite a busy ceramics business.

Dan: I see.

Dr. Sargent: And the girl lives in Fairport and teaches in East High School in Rochester.

Dan: I see.

Dr. Sargent: She's married and has three daughters and ah she has—I've asked her to quit many times. She has a class, I think they're idiots—they're assigned to her by the Courts—they can't get along in school or anything else and they kick them out of school so the court makes them go to our daughter's school. Well she's been hit in the face by them, she’s had her foot broken by stomping on her feet.

Dan: My God.

Dr. Sargent: But she—I think she enjoys it because she gets hold of these—most, a lot of them are colored and she says she had one big bruiser the other day, I think 18 or 19 years old and ah he threatened to haul off and paste her—if he did he might have killed her but ah she likes it because she thinks that's worthwhile. All of them can't read a thing as high as 18, 19 years old—that's about the limit. So whatever she does is clear gain and she has to visit their homes and ah she thoroughly enjoys her work—she's going to retire in June.

Dan: That is good—so you never got the farm up in Vermont with the apple orchard?

Dr. Sargent: No, no so sold it—no we sold it ah my wife, my son's wife came from Syracuse and she got kind of homesick up there in the country—she lived there 16 years. She wanted to go back to Syracuse so they left for Syracuse and I sold the farm but ah it got to be a very productive farm—sold 20,000 boxes of apples a year.

Dan: Gee.

Dr. Sargent: And they—the man we sold it to told me 1st summer, told me, "I was offered twice what I paid for it."

Dan: Uh huh.

Dr. Sargent: And ah it's 150 acres and said for 70 acres he was offered $100,000 no buildings, but it is a very good productive orchard. But the kids, my wife didn't want to stay there and I'm too old to handle it.

Dan: Yeah.

Dr. Sargent: Sold it.

Dan: Have you received any awards in your work through the years Doctor?

Dr. Sargent: Yes, I've got one from Syracuse, honorary, ah fraternity from Syracuse School of Medicine, Maxwell School in Citizenship and I'm an honorary come out and I’ll show you (goes out on side porch and shows Dan diplomas)

Dan: Is there anything else you'd like to tell me?

Dr. Sargent: If you shut that off, I'll tell you. (meaning tape recorder)

Dan: Ah well for the record I'll shut it off, sure but I mean is there anything else that you can think of as far as your career is concerned before I shut it off?

Dr. Sargent: Yes I had some wonderful opportunities. In the State of Oregon, when I was doing syphilis control work in Rockwell County. State Health Commission asked me to go to New York City at the annual meeting for the entire country and sell our program, with our nurses and all—so what we were doing. Twenty-three States asked for our records and so forth and the State of Oregon asked me to come there. They said they'd give me a month’s salary—they'd pay all my expenses and so forth if I'd come up and set up a program there. They wouldn't let me go because I was—had nobody to replace me and ah they called Remington Rand—the stinkers patented my records and one day six or eight months afterwards, a young lad came into my office—spread out some records looked very familiar to me and he says, "Of course you can use these all you want to," says, "I am using it," says, "You can't let anybody else use it—they're ours—they're patented." They patented my own records.

Dan: (Laughter) My God. Well would you like me to play this back for you Doctor?

Dr. Sargent: No.

Dan: No.

Dr. Sargent: No.

Date of Interview



O'Neil, Dan


Sargent, Clealand A.


33:49 Minutes ; 17:02 Minutes

Date of Digitization



Broome County Oral History Project

Subject LCSH

Sargent, Clealand A. -- Interviews; Broome County (N.Y.) -- History; Richford (Vt.); University of Vermont; Orwell (Vt.); Physicians -- Interviews; Health officers -- Interviews; Syracuse (N.Y.); Food adulteration and inspection; Vaccination

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This audio file and digital image may only be used for educational purposes. Please cite as: Broome County Oral History Project, Special Collections, Binghamton University Libraries, Binghamton University, State University of New York. For usage beyond fair use please contact the Binghamton University Libraries Special Collections for more information.



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The Broome County Oral History Project was conceived and administered by the Senior Services Unit of the Office for the Aging. Funding for this project was provided by the Broome County Office of Employment and Training (C.E.T.A.), with additional funding from the Senior Service Unit of the National Council on Aging and Broome… More

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“Interview with Dr. Clealand A. Sargent,” Digital Collections, accessed July 25, 2024,