Friday, April 20, 2012

Roundtrip Between the Delta and Bern

No, I haven't gone to Bern, Switzerland. Well, not yet at least. But the Delta has gone to Bern and Bern has come to the Delta.

The traveler was my Daddy, Dr. Jefferson Davis Upshaw, Jr, and the great work he did to understand what became known as Upshaw-Schulman Syndrome. You can read the details here, but it is a form of inherited thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura.

Jefferson Davis Upshaw, Jr at Gulf Coast Military Academy
Daddy was born in Louise, MS, in Humphreys County, MS on July 19, 1929 - a mere two years after the Great Flood of 1927. He attended elementary school in Louise and then junior high and high school at Gulf Coast Military Academy in Gulfport, MS.

He was nominated to attend West Point Military Academy, but chose (ha ha) The University of Alabama (Roll Tide) where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He then graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School where he also completed his internship and residency in Internal Medicine.

After serving in the Air Force in Bermuda (what a tough life) he and my Mother moved to Memphis where he practiced internal medicine and hematology for 40+ years. He served as both Chief and President of the Medical Staff as well as Director of Medical Education for Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation in Memphis. He was there when Elvis died!

Now, you are saying, where does Bern, Switzerland come in? Well, Daddy, himself, never went to Bern. But Daddy's work did!

I was actually sitting in my cottage in Rolling Fork, MS in early March 2012, just about 20 miles from Daddy's birthplace and home in Louise, MS, when I got an email from Bern, Switzerland. A little (or a lot) skeptical, I did not respond. But Bern was persistent. Later that month, they reached out again:
"Dear Ms Upshaw Travis

We at the Inselpital Bern (Switzerland) in the University Clinic of Hematology and Central Hematology are building an international database for patients with Upshaw-Schulman Syndrom. The disease is named after Jefferson D. Upshaw, Jr.  (last known affiliation: The Memphis Cancer Center, Memphis, Tennessee 38119, USA), who we believe was your father;  and Irving Schulman.

The research database has an official Website ( for patients, doctors and interested parties. 

One of our goals is to provide patients with usable background information about their disease including a historical note on the people after whom the syndrome was named. 

An article about Mr. Schulman that we hope to be able to use already exists ( ) but we are lacking information about Mr. Upshaw.
We thought that perhaps you could help us out in this direction.

PS: Maybe you would allow us to establish a link for your blog “deltamemories” which we like very much. "

Could I tell them more about Daddy? Did I have a picture? Could they link to my blog (the one you are reading) as they found it interesting (LOL)?

Jefferson Davis Upshaw, Jr
Well, they had me then. I sent them a copy of Daddy's obituary and then a "good" picture of Daddy as the one in the obit was horrible and then, of course, welcomed them to link to this blog!

Perhaps some of the Bern guys are reading this blog post, so I want to say: Thank you so much for carrying on Daddy's work! He was a practicing physician - not a researcher! But he always understood his responsibility to pass along what he was learning. He also understood his responsibility to advance the knowledge of how to help patients and help physicians help patients. He was proud that his work was notable, but he was moved more by the difference it made in the lives of patients that got better because of what he learned. And, if you want me to come and present at a conference on Daddy's work, let me know! I imagine I can find the time....

I think I kept many of his papers documenting his experience and findings with Upshaw-Schulman Syndrome. They are some where up in my attic. I just couldn't throw them out knowing how much they meant to him and to others.

Me and Daddy, April 24, 1982
Daddy's work made its way to Bern and now many of them are learning about the Delta, the land and people that helped raise the man whose work and name is making their work possible, through this blog.

Who would have thought that a man, born in the Delta, educated in what many would call the "Deep South", and serving patients, not a researcher, would some day be sought after by Bern, Switzerland?

Well, if you know the Delta the way I do, this is not surprising at all!