In Their Own Words: Alumni in Health & Medicine

William M. Gould '54

I remember clearly that what drew me to sociology was a fascination about the differences between groups of people. It surely hits many freshmen when they arrive on the Hanover Plain and meet classmates from all over the country (the world), and from varied backgrounds, and have to learn to navigate among those differences. I had wonderful teachers in the department (especially Robert Gutman, Maurice Stein, and  Robert McKennan.) For a while I thought I would go on and do graduate work in the field, but gradually came to realize that I wanted to go to medical school.

In my junior year I did an Honors Project with Maurice Stein in the area of occupational sociology. Since I was going into medicine, the study involved reading important (at that time) works about the medical profession by Talcott Parsons, Oswald Hall, and others. I was very proud when I was told that with some polishing it could have been used as a master's thesis.

One of my Dartmouth roommates (an English major) and I had an ongoing argument about which was more important: sociology or literature. At the time I  believed that the world's problems might be solved through social science; he maintained that the great writers (Shakespeare, Dante, Tolstoy, Melville etc.) had figured all of that out already. Embarrassing to think of it now, but perhaps undergraduates are entitled to gravitate toward simple answers.

I went on to medical school at Yale, interned in New York, and had residencies (in my specialty, dermatology) in Boston, and at Stanford. I served in the Air Force Medical Corps, and in 1964 began practice in Palo Alto. Along the way, I developed an interest in the interface between dermatology and psychiatry and co-chaired a liaison clinic at Stanford for many years where we taught the behavioral aspects of dermatology to our residents.

Majoring in sociology was a moment in my life. It was an excellent start, and a fine grounding in the recognition and appreciation of all the many diversities we meet daily in this world.