Interview with F. Joseph Halcomb, III, April 21, 2017

Project: Leaders and Innovators Oral History Project

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Interview Summary

Halcomb discusses his reasons for establishing the endowment for the F. Joseph Halcomb III, M.D. Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Kentucky. He talks about becoming interested in the medical field as a child observing his physician father's interactions with his patients. He talks about being a pioneer in the biomedical engineering field in the days when there was no set path for combining the medical and engineering fields. He says that he wanted to create the Department of Biomedical Engineering at UK to give current students an easier path into the field. Halcomb talks more about what he learned by observing his physician father treating his patients. He talks about the lack of technology available in his father's day and the importance of being able to accurately diagnose problems. He talks about his father making house calls, and the role of hope in the healing process. He talks about his father's role as a community leader. Halcomb talks about another lesson he learned from his father: doing whatever is necessary to help a patient. He talks about his father making house calls, not only to patients' homes but also opening his own home as a doctor's office. He talks about his father learning to make do with what supplies were on hand from his time as a medic in World War II. He says his father was often too busy working to enjoy his hobbies but when he had time he enjoyed fishing. Halcomb talks about his early interest in math and engineering. He talks about the impact of a high school teacher, Clifton Bush, who, in his own spare time, taught a night class in calculus because it was not offered at the school. He talks about how his interest in engineering translated to an interest in shop class and woodworking, and talks about some of the projects he made including a gun cabinet for his father's gun collection. Halcomb describes his unique childhood home in Scottsville, Kentucky. The home itself was a log cabin painted black and white, and sat on a few acres of farmland. He talks about the farm animals they raised, and other childhood experiences on the farm.

Halcomb talks about his decision to attend the University of Kentucky and why his mentors later encouraged him to apply to other schools due to his interest in biomedical engineering. He talks about his experience interning at Massachusetts General Hospital and how it compared to his experience at UK Hospital. He talks about some of the cases he saw, the experience he got, and the skill of the professors he worked with. Halcomb talks about interning with an orthopedic surgeon, Bill Harris. He talks about Harris' skill and a photo taken of him in his advanced operating room setup. He talks about going to work for the Zimmer company after graduation, and about receiving an offer from Bill Harris to partner on the development of a way of solving the problem of bone cement breakdown after a joint replacement. He talks about the product they developed, how it solves the problem, and the details of how it was developed, including interdisciplinary relationships between doctors and engineers. Halcomb talks about his career path at Zimmer, working his way up through management and leadership positions. He talks about going to work for Hall Surgical, developing surgical power equipment. He talks about the downsizing of he company. Halcomb next worked for Amgen, a new experience for him since the development was on a microscopic level. He talks about helping to develop devices used to inject biologics. He talks about a skiing accident that left him with a bone fracture, and his involvement on the patient-side of the experience.

Halcomb and interviewer Doug Boyd discuss the improvements and advancements that have been made in medicine over the years. They talk about how despite these advancements, there are still many holdovers from traditional medicine. Halcomb talks more about the importance of being a good diagnostician in his father's day, and talk about the relationship between patient and doctor and the current trend of doctors once again making house calls. Halcomb discusses his disappointment in the lack of consultation with doctors on the healthcare debate in the U.S. He talks about doctors' level of care for their patients and talks about how doctors working in fields like biomedical engineering can impact the lives of thousands of patients with their inventions. Halcomb and interviewer Doug Boyd discuss the impact that the F. Joseph Halcomb III, M.D. Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Kentucky will have on the students, patients, and the state of Kentucky.

Interview Accession

2017oh317_lead005

Interviewee Name

F. Joseph Halcomb, III

Interviewer Name

Douglas A. Boyd

Interview Date

2017-04-21

Interview Rights

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Interviews may only be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

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III, F. Joseph Halcomb, Interview by Douglas A. Boyd. 21 Apr. 2017. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

III, F.J. (2017, April 21). Interview by D. A. Boyd. Leaders and Innovators Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

III, F. Joseph Halcomb,, interview by Douglas A. Boyd. April 21, 2017, Leaders and Innovators Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





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