Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Who Was James S. McLester, M.D.?

In August 2017 I posted an item about the Joseph H. Woolf, M.D., Family Practice Center in UAB's Community Health Services Building at 930 South 20th Street just up the hill from the campus. I've been seeing a family physician there for some years and wondered about Dr. Woolf, so that post covers what I found.

UAB's Family Medicine Clinic has since moved to UAB Highlands across campus, so I no longer visit the building at Southside. In this post I wanted to share a bit about the physician whose portrait decorated the entrance and may still for all I know.

Details of Dr. McLester's life and career can be found in the poster that accompanies his portrait and an article by Dr. Carter Smith published soon after McLester's death. Both are included below. I do want to emphasize some of the highlights.

After graduating from medical school at the University of Virginia in 1899, McLester spent time in postgraduate studies in Europe. Upon his return to Birmingham in 1902, he accepted a position as pathology professor at the Birmingham Medical College. When that school closed in 1915, he moved to the School of Basic Sciences at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In World War I McLester served in France as the commanding officer of Evacuation Hospital #18.

He was named Professor of Medicine while there and held that title until his retirement in 1949. When the new four-year medical school opened in Birmingham in September 1945, McLester was named the first Chair of Medicine. 

McLester died on February 8, 1954; he is buried in Elmwood Cemetery. He operated his private medical practice from a "charming" house located where the Community Health Services Building is now located. The portrait was commissioned by former students and residents and was first located in the medical library. 

He served as president of the state medical society in 1920 and the American Medical Association in 1934. During his academic career he published over 100 articles on nutrition and metabolism. McLester wrote two textbooks, Nutrition and Diet in Health and Disease (first published in 1927) and Diagnosis and Treatment of Disorders of Metabolism (1935).  He also contributed many chapters on nutrition to other textbooks. 

Dr. McLester's portrait during his days as a faculty member of the Birmingham Medical College

Source: UAB Archives

This portrait hangs in the entrance area of  UAB's Community Health Services Building. I'm unable to read the name of the artist in the lower right corner; there also seems to be a year after the name.

Birmingham Medical College in 1912

Source: BhamWiki


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