From the time he was a boy, Charles Lowell Hudson knew how he would spend his life. His dream of becoming a doctor came true but not even he imagined that he would become one of the most prominent and influential physicians in the entire United States.
He was born in Merrill, Michigan, in 1904. After skipping two grades in the Merrill schools, he entered Saginaw High. Although he was years younger than his classmates, he made an outstanding record. He was vice president of the Glee Club, advertising manager of the Aurora year book, was editor-in-chief of the Student Lantern newspaper and won a bronze medal for debating (the medal, incidentally, was designed by Julia Roberts Roecker, another Hall of Fame member).
After graduating in 1920, he entered Alma College at 15 and graduated with honors in 1924. Because of his youth, his father suggested that he teach school for a year or two before he entered medical school. He taught English, chemistry and public speaking at Manistique High School for two years before going into the University of Michigan Medical School where he graduated cum laude in 1926.
He served his internship and residency at University Hospitals in Cleveland and was awarded a research fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania and then returned to the University Hospitals as chief resident physician in 1934.
Specializing in internal medicine, he joined the faculty of Case Western Reserve and the fledgling Cleveland Clinic and saw it grow into one of the top four hospitals in the United States. Patients came from all over the world including such well-known names as King Hussein of Jordan, pro golfer Jack Nicklaus and actors Liza Minnelli and Robin Williams.
During World War II, he served as a combat surgeon for three years in North Africa, Italy and France with Drs. J. E. Manning and Bert Bullington of Saginaw. He was awarded four battle stars and a unit citation.
In 1958, he became a director of Western Reserve Medical School.
In 1961, he was elected to the board of directors of the prestigious American Medical Association. During his wartime service, he had observed the actions of medics in the field and realized they could be trained to work under the direction of physicians to do many chores which would allow physicians to handle more complex procedures and serve more patients.
In 1965, he launched a two-year educational program at Duke University to train Physician Assistants, starting a new profession.
In 1966, he became president of the AMA. He presided over the start of Medicare and used his position to alert the nation to the hazards of cigarette smoking. He was a diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine and served on the World Medical Council. He received an honorary degree from Alma College in 1966 and was named Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Michigan in 1970.
He was married in 1937 to the former Ruth Strong, a brilliant woman who studied at the Sorbonne and the University of Strasbourg, earned a Ph.D in French history and was a published author. They were the parents of Charles Jr., Judith and Mary.
Dr. Hudson died on August 30, 1992 at the age of 88. He never forgot his Saginaw roots and is buried in Saginaw’s Oakwood Cemetery.
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