For 60 years, Dr. Paul CASTELHUN has been practicing medicine in San Francisco.
At 86 he is considering retiring, sometime, if and when his old patients will let him.
They don't seem about to, and even though he doesn't accept any new cases, the families he has been treating, in some instances for four or five generations, insist on his seeing them.
He has always thought it would be nice to have time for outside interests, but "Medicine has been so engrossing a profession, with new things coming up so fast, and so many developments to study, I haven't had time," he explains.
Big, alert, straight and sturdy, "I get lots of exercise climbing up sometimes three flights of stairs and the hills, to see my patients when they can't come to me. It keeps me in pretty good trim. I don't have time for golf or things like that."
He had a good foundation, however, for his present rugged strength. He played on the Varsity football team at U.C. back in 1898-1900, coached the Lowell High team to two championships and drilled with the Navy Reserve for many years.
There are five generations of physicians behind him. His father, of German extraction, was practicing in St. Louis, when Paul CASTELHUN was born there on February 19, 1878. His mother, of Swiss ancestry, was the daughter of the famous artist who illustrated many of [the] works of the great naturalist AGASSIZ.
One of his seven siblings, a brother, still survives.
Young Paul was six when the family came to San Francisco.
He went to the Cosmopolitan primary school, where his aunt, Mary A. CASTELHUN was principal, then to the Valencia Grammar School, now Horace Mann, to Lowell High, then to U.C. for his pre-medical and medical degrees.
He was the "Gold Cane" man of his 1904 medical class, and passed the State Board examinations with such high marks that it stood as a record.
He interned at San Francisco General Hospital, and was chosen by the famous surgeon, Wallace I. TERRY, as his assistant, went into private practice, taught surgery at U.C., served for 50 years as examiner for the San Francisco Civil Service Commission, and has been on the attending staff at St. Luke's Hospital ever since 1905. He still admits patients there.
ESCAPED THE FIRE
Recently he was elected to membership in the St. Luke's Hospital House Staff Alumni Association, the only one of the 340 members who did not intern or act as resident in the hospital.
At the time of the great fire and earthquake in 1906, he helped save victims of the old Valencia Hotel collapse, then moved to the hospital, which escaped the fire, and later worked at the temporary emergency hospital set up at the old Ingleside Racetrack, where Urbano Drive is now. His own downtown office was destroyed in the holocaust, and he moved, for the time being, to an 18th and Mission St. building.
Came World War I, and Dr. CASTELHUN, joined with his Naval Reserve at the very beginning. He served as medical officer on the old steamer Yale, which had been converted into a combination hospital ship and transport, sailing between Southampton, in England, and France, with troops and wounded. He had the unique distinction of not losing a single crew member to the flu epidemic, which decimated many of the forces.
Then he came back to his San Francisco practice, and has been at it, happily, ever since.
Now he has moved his office to the lower floor of the charming home at 587 Corbett Avenue, which he and Mrs. CASTELHUN purchased a few years ago. They can see the whole sweep of the city from their picture windows.
"I didn't think any patient would chase all the way up Twin Peaks to get at me, but they do," he remarks.
He and Mrs. CASTELHUN have two married daughters, Mrs. Sinclair TRIMBLE and Mrs. Kenneth DUFFY, and seven grandchildren. Mrs. CASTELHUN was the former Lucy SMITH, a San Francisco girl. Her father was Andrew SMITH, a newspaper man, who helped get out the first joint edition of the San Francisco newspapers after the 1906 fire.
Dr. CASTELHUN has a firm belief that the way to a good life is to enjoy it as one goes along and not to put off anything that belongs at that particular phase of one's span.
In his case, he has found the challenge of the advances in medicine his most rewarding pleasure and excitement.
Now he and his wife are thinking about a leisurely trip by auto, "when we have time."
They've done quite a bit of travelling, but mostly in a hurry to get there and back.
But I wonder. All the time we were talking, patients were phoning and coming in.
While his compassionate, long trained skills and his old school standards of what makes a good doctor for his patients holds out, I have a notion there won't be much "leisurely" tripping. He'll be too anxious to get back to his beloved and devoted patients, as he always has been.
"It's been a happy life, every day of it," he muses. "What can a man ask better than to do the work he loves?"
©1964 San Francisco Examiner