METHODIST MEDICAL CENTER ORAL HISTORY:
LOUISE (LOU) DUNLAP
Interviewed by Pat Clark
August 29, 2008
MRS. CLARK: Personal history part, where you were born, reared, education and time you came to Oak Ridge?
MRS. DUNLAP: I was born in a little community called Shady Valley, Tennessee, which nobody has ever heard of but it is located in extreme Northeastern TN between Bristol and North Carolina actually. I grew up on a farm. My Dad was always in private business. He and my mother continued to live there all their lives. I went to school first at a Presbyterian College in North Carolina called Lisa Gray and graduated from there with an Associate’s Degree, continued at the University of Tennessee where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. I had actually started college with the idea of going to medical school and somewhere along the line I decided that women were not actually welcomed in medical school at the time so I switched.
MRS. CLARK: You came to Oak Ridge in what year?
MRS. DUNLAP: I came to Oak Ridge the first time between my junior and senior year of college and worked here in the summer. I was in the Chemistry Division. I went back and finished school and received an offer of employment from the Laboratory. I decided to come back. I had really enjoyed the summer and decided I would come back to Oak Ridge. I came back to Oak Ridge for permanent employment in January of 1968.
MRS. CLARK: Where did you first live when you came?
MRS. DUNLAP: When I was here for the summer, they still had dormitories leftover from World War II and I lived in a dorm that was on the site of the current Jackson Plaza Office building. I did not have a car then. I got a ride to work everyday with a woman who lived in the apartments near the dorm. That was an exciting summer. At that time, they had bus transportation around Oak Ridge so not having a car was not a big deal. That experience made we want to come back to Oak Ridge to work permanently.
MRS. CLARK: Where did you live when you came back permanently, you were not married?
MRS. DUNLAP: I was not. I lived in the Brick Apartments which are still there. I shared with a gal that I had gone to school with. She got married about a year after I came so I then began to share another apartment with another friend from college. We lived together until I got married. I was married in 1960. I had met Julius here. He was in the Fusion Energy Division. By the way, when I was at the Lab initially, I worked in the Analytical Chemistry Division. I later moved around and worked in other areas. We were married at the First Presbyterian Church here in Oak Ridge in December of 1960. At that time, when we were first married, we lived in the Garden Apartments. I believe practically everyone I knew at that time started life in the Garden Apartments. We later bought a house in Emory Valley.
MRS. CLARK: So you were still working at the Lab while you had children?
MRS. DUNLAP: I did not. I actually in 1963, I decided to retire from the Lab because we were going to have a family. I did not work at the Lab again until 1984 when they were changing contractors. I was offered a position in public relations. In the meantime, I did not work when my children were small but in 1973 I took a part-time job at the Chamber of Commerce. I worked at the Chamber. A couple of years later I became Executive Director as it was called then, now its called President of the Chamber and I was there for 10 years.
MRS. CLARK: Were you the first Executive Director?
MRS. DUNLAP: No, there were a few others before me, like maybe three or four.
MRS. CLARK: I also know you are a retired City Council person, how long were you on Council?
MRS. DUNLAP: I was appointed to Council in November of 2002 maybe. I served part of one term and a full term of City Council so I was on there 4-1/2 years and decided not to run again. That was an interesting experience. You certainly learned a lot about the city doing that. I decided that one term was enough for me.
MRS. CLARK: Switching to hospital connection because we are interested to know you have been on the Board and the Foundation Board, so let’s start with the Board. What was your experience there? What was your title?
MRS. DUNLAP: When I first went on the Board of the hospital, it must of have been in the late ‘80’s. I don’t remember exactly the year but the hospital was an independent organization at the time and we were called Oak Ridge Hospital. I believe it was called Board of Trustees, it may the wrong title but anyways, it was a real working board and we made decisions for the hospital. I do remember that one of the constant problems that we had was parking. I can’t remember a board meeting when we did not talk about parking because I think that was the most complaints that we received by administration of the hospital.
MRS. CLARK: How large was the Board at that time, do you recall?
MRS. DUNLAP: I don’t recall. Maybe like 10 people. I don’t remember exactly.
MRS. CLARK: Who were some of the other Board Members?
MRS. DUNLAP: George Jasney, I remember Ken Sommerfeld. I don’t remember who exactly was on the Board. It was a time when the hospital in that era was not as terribly concerned with finances as we are now. There was more opportunity for repayment and I think the repayments for services offered were better and as I recall the hospital was in stronger financial shape than we are now because we are always struggling now. All hospitals are struggling now. This board actually made decisions. After I went off that board was when the hospital affiliated with Covenant Health. We kind of became part of that Covenant family. The Advisory Board where I think I served 2 terms on the original board then you have to go off after 2 terms. Then the hospital was associated with Covenant Health. I came onto now what is called the Advisory Board. I think I am in the 5th year of my second term there so actually all together I think served four terms on the Hospital Board. The Advisory Board was very different kind of thing than the original board was because now we really don’t make many decisions that affect the hospital. Those are made by the Covenant Board. We mainly stay abreast of the things that are going on at the hospital, the financial state of the hospital and I think, in my opinion, one of the main purposes of the board as it exists now to act as an advocate for the hospital and know enough about the inner workings of the hospital and to be able to answer questions and to be a good will ambassador for the hospital, if you will. It has been an interesting experience I think for anyone who ever served on the board, you never look at the hospital again in the same way. You do not always see it as a medical facility but you think about it as a business organization too because that is what really the hospital has to be. They have to maintain a good business organization as well as provide high quality medical services. I will go back in time a little bit, in the 1960s when my 2nd daughter was born, they had a strike at the hospital. I think it was undergoing unionization at that time. My daughter happened to be born in the middle of the strike. That was a very interesting time to be in the hospital. They had minimal medical staff available. The food we got was all cold. I don’t think they had anybody in the kitchen but somebody opened some canned things. I’m sure the people that were there tried their best but it was a pretty minimal experience. I think my daughter was born on Monday and I went home Tuesday. That was the time when you could stay longer in the hospital after a birth. I decided I’d be better off at home.
MRS. CLARK: What year was that?
MRS. DUNLAP: That was 1966. I would say that this is one of the only hospitals in the state of TN that is unionized and I think that has caused some problems over the years. Overall, I think it has been an experience as positive as one could hopefully have with that situation. I think now during the past several years, there have been much better relationships between management and the union because we still do have a union. It does not encompass as many members of the staff as it formerly did but it still involves an influence on how things are run.
MRS. CLARK: Both of your daughters were born in the hospital?
MRS. DUNLAP: Both of them were born in the hospital. I think both of them appear on the wall of stars up near the birthing facility.
MRS. CLARK: Have you been a patient otherwise?
MRS. DUNLAP: I was in once for a minor surgical procedure. I had a breast lump which are turned out not to be anything but I had not spent much time here as a patient, which is good.
MRS. CLARK: Who are some of the members who were some or are some of the members on the Advisory Board of today?
MRS. DUNLAP: Ron Townsend is on the Advisory Board. Homer Fisher. Demetria Nelson, I believe that is her last name. Ann Munz. The hospital is still very loosely affiliated with the Methodist Church and so certain members of the Advisory Board have to be members of the Methodist Church which I don’t think many people are aware of. We really don’t have very close association nor does the Methodist Church I think influence the decisions made by the hospital but we are still called Methodist Medical Center. I am sure others have talked about this, but I remember when the government was turning over the hospital to somebody. I think there were a number of applicants to run the hospital and it was voted by the citizens that the Methodist Church would be the institute to run the hospital.
MRS. CLARK: I think originally the Board was composed of three quarters?
MRS. DUNLAP: [inaudible] I believe that is right and this is certainly a fewer number now. I think the person who serves as the Bishop in this area usually sits on the Board. I think that may be [inaudible] now.
MRS. CLARK: Is there anything else you would like to mention about either of those boards before we look at the Foundation Board?
MRS. DUNLAP: I can’t think of anything else really except that I think that the renovation the hospital recently underwent happened when I was chairman of the Board. I had nothing to do with that. The board did not really make those decisions. I was Chairman of the Advisory Board at that time. That has been one of the most important things that the hospital has done in its history, I think. It has not only changed the image of the hospital to the community but I think it has for some reason, a modern-looking medical facility makes people think medical services are better, although we have always had excellent medical service. People are just more pleased about the hospital now than they were with the old facility. I think that has been a major factor in improving the hospital’s image.
MRS. CLARK: Let’s look at the Foundation Board. When did you come on that board? When did you chair it?
MRS. DUNLAP: I came on the Foundation Board first in the early ‘90s I think. I know Herman Postma was one of the original members of the Foundation Board I think. I don’t believe I was on the board when it originated. I did serve early on and we were struggling because we did not have much money. That is something that has been built up over the years. One of the most exciting things that has happened during my tenure on the Foundation Board and I have been on and off for the past 20 years actually. You do have to go off after a couple of terms. I would sit off a year and come back on. The establishment of the Hospitality Houses has been a tremendous asset, not only to the hospital but to the community to have those available because so many of the patients that we treat and these were primarily originally for cancer patients but in truth, any family that has a hospitalized member, if the hospitality house has room, then they are accommodated there. I was on the Foundation Board when they opened the first one and also when we opened the second one. I think those are some the greatest accomplishments of the foundation and certainly the most visible accomplishments. We have supported strongly the Wellness Center and some new technology for the Cancer Center. Right now we are in the process of raising money for MRI breast coils for the Breast Center.
MRS. CLARK: You were chairing that, is that right?
MRS. DUNLAP: Well, we have a committee chairing that. I have been trying to coordinate the committee. It’s been a long ride. It’s been a great ride. I have had lots of fun with it. I am such a fan and advocate as a leader in the hospital. I think we are so fortunate to have a medical facility of this quality in our community. I think everybody should do everything they can to support it.
MRS. CLARK: I have now exhausted my questions, but I feel there are a lot of other issues to talk about your service?
MRS. DUNLAP: It’s been something that has interested me for a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s been interesting.
MRS. CLARK: Was your service on the Foundation Board at the same time on the Advisory Board?
MRS. DUNLAP: Yes, in fact, I am currently serving on the Advisory Board and the Foundation Board. I just went off as Chairman of the Advisory Board. I have served at least two terms, maybe three as Chairman of the Foundation Board.
MRS. CLARK: When did you retire from your day job?
MRS. DUNLAP: I retired at the end of 2003. People always said don’t get yourself overly involved when you retire. I’m afraid I’ve almost done that. I don’t think I could live very well if I were not to do it.
MRS. CLARK: I appreciate all your remarks. I think it is incredible the time that you have served.
MRS. DUNLAP: It’s been interesting.
MRS. CLARK: I would like to say when I am up in the Manhattan Room for foundation business and see the pictures on the wall of the working board and realize there are only two women up there, you and Ruby Miller, did you serve at the same time?
MRS. DUNLAP: I did serve on the board the last year of Ruby’s tenure and then I was named Chairman.
MRS. CLARK: Thank you.
MRS. DUNLAP: Thank you.
[End of Interview]