Reyelt, Dr. Peter

Interviewer: Jean McMillen
Place of Interview: Office at Scoville Library
Date of Interview:
File No: 151 Cycle: 3
Summary: Background, Sharon clinic (1966-1985), and EMT training course for ambulance squads 1969-1972..

Interview Audio

Interview Transcript

Dr. Peter Reyelt Interview

This is file #51, cycle 3. Today’s date is August 22, 2018. This is Jean McMillen. I am interviewing Dr. W. Peter Reyelt who is going to talk about setting up the first EMT training program at Sharon Hospital. He is also going to talk about a little bit about Sharon Clinic. But first we’ll start with the hard stuff…

JM:What is your name?

PR:Walter Peter Reyelt

JM:How did you come to the area?

PR:I was attracted to the area by people I ran into at Hartford Hospital. One of them was an inhabitant of the area. He was born and brought up in the area, Babs McLane. (See tape #75A & B, Babs McLane) Her partner Marion Roy was the Head of Hartford Hospital Surgical Department in charge of Nursing. Babs had a single room where she took care of one of the more difficult but talented surgeons, Dr. Wawro who had a fierce temper: he was a cancer surgeon.

Along with that there was an attending surgeon named Jeff Coley. Jeff trained in Boston for his surgical residency; he was one of the few outsiders to work at Hartford Hospital. Most of them had grown up through the program and trained and went on to practice in Hartford. Jeff’s father was a noted orthopedic surgeon in New York City who developed one of the first immune stimulate agents ever, called Coley’s toxins. The Coleys had a summer residence in Sharon. Jeff spent a lot of summers here and wanted very much to come and practice at Sharon Hospital and join Dr. George Fowler as a second surgeon in the Sharon Clinic. This was around 1960. Dr. Fowler was not ready to take on a second surgeon, in terms of needing help. Jeff ended up in Hartford. He told me about Sharon and what a great place it was

I did make a trip during my third year of my residency. I invited myself over to meet Dr. Fowler. I remember driving up and arriving at 8:00 in the morning sharp to assist him in a bilateral mastectomy. It turns out that Dr. Fowler was late. My immediate impression was, “Boy, this is great! I like this compared to Hartford Hospital where you had to be on time or some else would take your slot.” That is how I happened to find out about Sharon Hospital. I remember my impression was, “Why is there even a hospital in this area; it was so sparsely populated.” It was filled with many more farms than there are today. The hospital itself was not really great in terms of ER. It was a single room. It all looked less than I expected. I did very much enjoy Dr. Fowler. Nothing came of my visit.

Meanwhile I completed my residence worried about where I was going to practice. I had no body in my family had any medical background not did I know anybody who could help me –a doctor= in the area where I wanted to practice which was initially along the coast someplace. I had no way of introducing myself except walking through the door which people didn’t do in those days. In the fall of my last year of residency in 1965 I still did not know what I was going to do. I was worried because I had two daughters and a third child, a son, on the way. Low and behold I got a call from Dr. Fowler. He said that there had been an addition on the hospital. “Why don’t you come over and take a look at us now?”


I did return. We had a very good meeting. He said he would like me to join him in practice at the Sharon Clinic, but he never told the other doctors in the clinic that he was trying to bring in a young surgeon so consequently in January in 1966, my wife, having delivered my son about three weeks before, we had a trip out to Sharon in the middle of winter. We went to Dr. Fowler’s house where all the other Sharon physicians were there to introduce ourselves to them. It was like getting the once over by them. That sealed the deal. I came to practice here July 4th weekend of 1966.

JM:Who were the doctors working in the clinic at that time?

PR:There were the original four Dr. Gevalt, Noble, Fisher, and Fowler, in addition to the first pediatrician to arrive in 1951 was Dr. Haydock and then the second pediatrician was Dr. Bill Gallup arrived about 1962 (See file #25, cycle2, Dr. Bill Gallup; see also tape#125 A, Dr. Dick Collins) . By this time Dr. Noble had already dropped out of the clinic to carry on research at Sharon Hospital where he dealt with hydro-cholesterol or lipedema utilizing the Duntz family here in Salisbury who had just off the chart high level of cholesterol. He was working in a lab he established or an office off the hospital lab.

JM:When did the clinic close?


JM:Then did you transfer to Sharon Hospital?

PR:No I went to the Sharon Medical Arts Building on Hospital Hill, Sharon which was built by Dr. Lovallo and staffed by a number of doctors outside the hospital. There were no hospital employees: all the physicians were outside of the hospital at this point. I joined practice with the only other surgeon Dr. Evan Provisor. Dr. Lovallo had retired and we took his office. We just agreed to practice together and share the expenses. A year later we formed a partnership. I practiced as his partner up until 2003 when I gave up my surgical privileges and worked mainly in the office, assisting Dr. Provisory. I gave up surgical privileges because I got tired of being on ER call. The only way to get rid of that and not be called at night was to give up the surgical privileges. That was a requirement if you were a surgeon you had to be on call.

JM:How did you get involved with the Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance Service?

PR:When I arrived in Sharon Hospital, it was still a little down-heel small hospital. I remember on the July 4th weekend that I arrived, I wasn’t supposed to work until the next week after the holiday. Dr. Fowler also owned a race track and loved motorcycles. There was a motorcycle race track in Millerton, NY. He was over there acting as a physician there; I out of the blue got called away from a party I was at in Lakeville. I was being introduced to the community by Anne Cuddy and her husband Bill. I got called away as did Dr. Peter Gott who was also there. He arrived the same weekend as an internist from St. Luke’s Hospital in New York. I went to the Emergency Room. The door was locked. I could not believe it. That was a “backwards thing”. You had to knock on the door to go in.

Dr. Peter Reyelt’s description of his course in EMT training begun in 1969.3.

“At this time in Sharon and the surrounding towns there was limited ambulance service. Sharon in 1966 had just obtained a white Cadillac-style ambulance, compliments of Dr. Fowler that was about the size and appearance of a modern day hearse. One day I heard that someone fell by accident in a driveway in Lakeville. At this time, the ambulance personnel were not allowed to move the patient until a doctor had arrived on the scene and had examined the patient. This particular patient lay in the driveway for over half an hour until Dr. Eddie Brewer arrived to examine him. Hearing this-a big lightbulb went off in my head as I saw a need to train the local ambulance personnel so this sort of practice could be ended. So I arranged to spend a whole day at Columbia P & S at a training session for EMTs. I was the only doctor in the class, but it did provide me with an outline for what it would take to set up a course dealing with training of ambulance personnel.

“In 1969 I started the first such course at Sharon Hospital with the assistance of several nurses: Barbara Shaffer, Babs McLane, now a chief nursing supervisor at Sharon Hospital, Mary Lutz, Louise La Fontan, and Diane Kelly. This was to be an 18 week, 36 hour course from January to June. We invited 3 members from each of the surrounding ambulance services. This included Sharon, Cornwall, Falls Village, and Warren on the Connecticut side and Amenia, Millerton, Pine Plains, Dover Plains and Millbrook on the New York side. Salisbury did not have an ambulance corps at this time, and Sharon covered that town. Sharon was allowed 5 members as they were already covering Salisbury and handling 75-100 calls a year. Some of the earliest Sharon trainees were: Stan MacMillan, Jack Murtagh, Millard Reid, Phil Garavoy, Barclay & Stu Prindle, and George Lamb. We charged $2 for the emergency Care Manual.

“However thanks to Reese and Ginny Harris by 1972, Salisbury had a solid corps and a brand new modern ambulance the size used now-a-days. I remember some of the first members of that corps besides Reese. They included John Harney, (manager of the White Hart Inn then) Bam (Nelson) Whitbeck, (Salisbury pharmacist), Ted Davis, Dave Coughlin, two teachers from Hotchkiss, and Art Wilkinson.

“Kent and Stanfordville also joined the annual training course after the first year. We had 31 students the first year and 45 and 40 the last two years I did this in 1972 and 1973. I turned over the course to Ted Davis, a biology teacher, in 1974.

“I used up to 15 other physicians, clinic and non-clinic to assist in the teaching, assigning each of then a topic such as fractures, abdominal injuries, head trauma, chest injuries, medical emergencies, psychiatric problems, and pediatric injuries and OB problems. I also used attorney Bob Trotta (NY) and Charlie Vail (Ct.) and state police for legal issues dealing with emergency care and liability.

“The entire course was held in the Sharon Hospital medical conference room in the basement of the hospital except for 2 of the classes. One of them was held at the Hotchkiss pool on resuscitation of water victims. The other was a session at Aakjar’s Garage in Sharon (later moved to an auto wreckage place in Millerton, Brunese Truck yard where there was more room and damaged cars to work on for hands-on training on how to safely extricate victims from car accidents. Each training session (except for


the last two mentioned above) was two hours: the first one being a physician’s lecture, and the second hour consisted on hands-on treatments, such as bandaging, use of tourniquets for bleeding, splinting of fractures, and the ABC’s (maintaining airways, breathing and circulation. In addition we introduced them to types of splints, backboards, and the Jaws of Life (for car victims’ exposure and exiting).

“This course filled a big need in the communities that surrounded Sharon Hospital. To this day I consider it to be one of my proudest accomplishments in my career. Currently paramedics get over 500 hours, EMT require 150 hours and 25 hours more over three years to keep updated.

“The arrival of the 2-way radio has really upgraded care in that the ambulance personnel can talk directly with the ER physicians, either at the scene of an accident or the way to the hospital. Life Star has also been a valuable asset for major trauma and the need for transport to a major trauma center.

“I certainly reaped some recognition for this endeavor. There was a surprise dinner and roast of me at the white Hart Inn on 1/16/1979 at which time I received an Award of Appreciation from Sharon Hospital ‘for his many hours of instruction, guidance, and advice, which was instrumental in the establishment of quality emergency medical care in the Sharon Hospital area.’ It was a gala event and one that completely came as a surprise to me in a well -kept secret.

“In addition in 1/17/1983 I received the coveted Judy Larson Award presented at the area ambulance emergency room and ambulance critique meeting on the above date.”


PR: That was a special award. Carnes Weeks was the moderator and delivered the award to me that night. That pretty much summarizes what I consider probably, if not the most useful thing I have done in my surgical practice, was to get that emergency training off the ground.

JM:It certainly had spread tremendously and we thank you.

PR:Thank you.