Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Physician, Businessman, and Civic-Improvement Leader Robert Lee Nourse [otd 9/27]

Dr. Nourse. Illustrated History photo.
On September 27, 1864, Boise physician Dr. Robert Lee Nourse was born about 45 miles southwest of Louisville, Kentucky. He came from a distinguished lineage, with ancestors who fought in the American Revolution. Moreover, one of those hung during the hysteria of the Salem witch trials was his many-times-removed grandmother, Rebecca (Towne) Nurse.

He attended a high school academy in his home state and then, at age seventeen, went to work in an Uncle’s hotel in Wisconsin. After several years there, he entered the Rush Medical College in Chicago. Robert completed his medical degree in 1889 and opened a practice at a lake port east of Duluth. He then worked with an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist in Chicago for two years before returning north.

In 1897, Dr. Nourse moved to Hailey, Idaho, where he developed a thriving general practice. Within a year or so, the governor appointed him to the Idaho Board of Medical Examiners, which he served as secretary and treasurer. A member of the State Medical Society, Nourse was the organization’s President in 1905 (Idaho Statesman, October 6, 1905).

During his address to the Society, Nourse roundly criticized a judge who had tried to overturn a Board decision denying a license to one applicant. (The judge had taken it upon himself to “materially raise” the applicants grades.) The judge responded by slapping Nourse with a contempt charge and a $300 fine. In the end,  physicians statewide chipped in to pay the entire amount.

Soon after that, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled (Idaho Statesman, January 21, 1906) that the Board had acted properly, within the powers granted to it by the legislature. (The Court did not address the matter of the contempt charge.)

By the time all this happened, Nourse had left Idaho for an extended course of specialist study, first in New York City and then in Europe.

Upon his returned, he opened a practice in Boise, specializing in eye, ear, nose and throat medicine. Certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology, Dr. Nourse was also a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

Along with his practice, Dr. Nourse invested in a wide variety of business enterprises. For example, he served as a Director and also acted as Secretary for the Empire Hardware Company. He was associated with the YMCA, YWCA, and the Presbyterian church.

His wife, Marie, became a leader in several civic improvement organizations, including a term as President of the Columbian Club. Some of their causes included improvements at the library, creation of parks, and a campaign against objectionable street signs. She appeared in the 1914-1915 issue of Who’s Who in America (The American Commonwealth Company, New York, 1914).
The source caption for the photograph says the American
driver of the ambulance was killed in November 1916.

The couple's two sons, Robert L., Jr. and Norman C., served with the American Field Service in France during World War I. The AFS provided volunteer ambulance drivers to recover wounded from the front lines – the first time motor vehicles had been used for that purpose. Robert Jr. was burned about the face and eyes by mustard gas and also received the Croix de Guerre.

In 1918, Dr. Nourse helped organize Idaho’s section of the nation-wide Volunteer Medical Service Corps (Idaho Statesman, August 30, 1918). For many years, Dr. Nourse served on the staffs of St. Luke's and St. Alphonsus hospitals in Boise. He passed away in June 1949.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [French], [Illustrated-State]
History of the American Field Service in France, Houghton Mifflin company, New York (1920).
"Cite American Officer: French Decorate Lieut. R.L. Nourse, Jr., for Bravery Under Fire," New York Times, (March 3, 1918).

2 comments:

  1. I thought the AFS ran the student exchange program that sent high school students to other countries, and brought foreign exchange students here. (I date an exchange student for awhile.)
    I can't imagine them letting a high school student -- even back then -- drive an ambulance, much less on a battlefield.

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  2. You're generally right about the current AFS program. Today's exchange students are mostly high school level, although I believe they have "gap" programs for students between HS and college.
    The original AFS drew volunteers mostly from among college students, although they may have had some older HS students. I'm no expert on AFS history, so I don't know the details of how it evolved into the current exchange program.

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