The nation will formally recognize physicians on Doctors’ Day later this month – March 30, to be exact – but not a day has gone by in the last 50 years that I don’t think about all the wonderful doctors at CHOC Children’s who patched me up after falling from that tree.
And even all these years later, I still see one of the doctors I met during my 1964 hospital stay: Dr. Melville Singer, who is still on staff at CHOC.
Dr. Singer, 87, remembers the hospital’s opening on Oct. 5, 1964 well. A pediatrician who had been practicing in Orange County for about 10 years prior, Dr. Singer served on a committee that helped guide the hospital’s planning.
“The opening was something I was looking forward to for a long time – the need was there,” he says.
New hospital, new specialty
Dr. Singer was one of three cardiologists on staff during CHOC’s opening, a time when pediatric cardiology was still in its infancy. But changes came quickly, and they haven’t stopped since.
In the few years after the hospital’s opening, CHOC established a cardiac catheterization lab, where new techniques were introduced. Imaging processes were enhanced so that Dr. Singer no longer needed to drive to Los Angeles to get film developed. And the entire hospital continued to grow.
“It didn’t take long until we needed to expand,” he says, recalling CHOC’s original construction, which was attached to St. Joseph Hospital.
CHOC’s growth steady
Indeed, in his 50 years on staff at CHOC, Dr. Singer has watched the hospital make great physical changes, but he says the growth was well-planned, prudent and needs-based.
“As things grew and things developed, the course that the hospital leaders took to encourage future growth was appropriate and not out of bounds,” Dr. Singer says.
But no matter CHOC’s physical stature, the hospital’s significance to the community has always remained constant.
“We put all of our faith in CHOC and its system to manage the complicated patients,” he recalls. “Whenever there were patients who needed hospitalization, they were brought to CHOC. It didn’t take long to establish CHOC.”
New Orange County roots
Born and raised in the Midwest, Dr. Singer settled in Orange County after finishing his fellowship and residency at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati. He loved the weather and the work, and stayed put.
“What’s not to like?” Dr. Singer asks.
He and his wife, Beverly, who is active in the CHOC-fundraising Lamp Lighter Guild, have four children. Three of the Singer children are in fields related to medicine, including one son who is a family physician, Dr. Singer says.
Today, Dr. Singer is a physician emeritus. He no longer treats children, but instead teaches electrocardiography and other skills to residents at CHOC. He is still involved in an adult congenital heart clinic at CHOC, where he frequently sees former patients who thank him for his help.
He can count me among them. On behalf of all CHOC patients, past and present, I thank Dr. Singer and all physicians on staff.