George David Lundberg, MD

George David Lundberg, M.D.

“I am Dr. George Lundberg, Editor in Chief of Medscape General Medicine from WebMD, and Co-Chair of the new Physicians and Lawyers for National Drug Policy.” ~ April 20, 2004, National Press Club, Washington, DC. Taken from 'George D. Lundberg Opening Remarks Physicians and Lawyers for National Drug Policy: A Public Health Approach Kick-off Event.'

     The most famous and influential person to live in Silverhill, and attend Silverhill School is Dr. George David Lundberg, II. This distinguished pathologist began his career in medicine mopping floors in the City Hospital of Mobile, Alabama in 1951. Now he is known as a “pioneer” of the medical internet. Dr. Lundberg and his Silverhill family have taken part in many “firsts”. Click here to read more about his Silverhill family.

     Dr. Lundberg's parents, Louise Johnson and George D. Lundberg, Sr. were married on July 25, 1920 at her family home in Silverhill. After their marriage they moved to Foley, Alabama to live for a very short time, then moved back to Silverhill to live the rest of their lives.

     Their first and only child, George David Lundberg, II, was born in Pensacola, Florida at Scared Heart Hospital on March 21, 1933.

     George David grew up and attended Silverhill School where his mother also taught. It was during these early years that he decided he would like to become a doctor. If he became sick with a childhood illness the family doctor, Henry C. Jordon of Robertsdale, would make a house call. Dr. Jordan was friendly, sympathetic, and easy to talk to, with a professional competence that inspired George David.

     He and his family were faithful church members at the Mission Covenant Church in Silverhill. He was very active in church and youth activities. There, George David learned about mission work and the importance in helping others.

     Since both of his parents taught music, George David took lessons in violin and piano. He also taught himself to play the clarinet. He enjoyed singing in the church and community choirs, sometimes performing solos.

     Many summers the Lundberg family would move to Troy, Alabama where they boarded in private homes while Louise attended college classes full time. A couple of those summers, George David was enrolled into the “Training School” which was experimental educational classes for children. This boost in his schooling was one of the reasons he was able to skip three grades: fifth, eighth, and eleventh.

     With all of his studies, George David enjoyed other pastimes. These included fishing in the bays and gulf, swimming, playing softball, baseball, and football.

     At Robertsdale High School he proved himself to be an excellent scholar and considering the amount of time his parents required him to study and the fact he was younger than his classmates, he was also a very good athlete. His high school graduation was two months after his fifteenth birthday in 1948.

     George David went on to North Park College, the Mission Covenant college in Chicago to study premed. He enjoyed the college's intramural sports and being a part of the North Park Orchestra. He was an outstanding competitor in their ping-pong competitions. He graduated in 1950 with an Associate in Arts degree in premed.

     Still having a desire to be a physician, he continued his education in premedical studies at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. It was during his third year of premed that George David was hired by the City Hospital of Mobile to mop floors in the operating rooms between operations and clean everything up before the next patient was wheeled in. He was paid only about $100 a month which was about half of what minimum wage was at that time. After a few weeks he was promoted to orderly, working with nurses, interns, and patients.

     When he had finished biochemistry studies in graduate school, he helped to set up a chemistry lab at the Druid City Hospital in Tuscaloosa and was the first chemistry technician to work in that laboratory. There he introduced the first Flame photometer in the western part of Alabama, which helped to advance the care of diabetics in coma.

     Even with all of his work and studies, he still found time for intramural sports, and playing in the Alabama Million Dollar Band from 1950-1953. He finished premed, graduating in 1952 at the age of 19 with a Bachelor of Science degree. After several attempts he was admitted into what was then called the Medical College of Alabama in Birmingham in 1953.

     George David Lundberg, II, and Nancy Ware Sharp were married on August 18, 1956 in Birmingham, Alabama. (They eventually had three children, George III, Charles, and Carol).

     It was also in 1956 that he joined the army. During his four years in medical school he stayed at the top of his class academically, and during his last year was at the first of his class, graduating in 1957. Since he was in the army, he completed his internship at Tripler General Hospital, in Honolulu, Hawaii, 1957-1958, and his pathology residency at Brooke General Hospital, in San Antonio, Texas 1958-1962, and received his Master of Science degree in Pathology from Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, Texas. The New England Journal of Medicine published his first scientific paper he had ever written, in 1961.

     In 1963, Dr. Lundberg had his first experience with a computer, back when one computer was large enough to fill an entire room. From his book, “Severed Trust”, on page 134, he says:

     I began working with computers in 1963, when I was stationed at Letterman Hospital in San Francisco as a captain in the U.S. Army and was assigned by my chief to automate the California Tumor Tissue Registry. He told me to put it on a computer, and I asked how I would do that. “Go over to that building,” he said, pointing. “They’ve got a huge machine in there called a computer. Talk to those folks, and they will tell you how to take this information off these cards and put it onto a different set of keypunched cards. You can then feed the keypunched cards into a computer, and it will print out information in an orderly, sorted-out way.”
     He was successful in automating the registry. Two years later the Army sent him to the IBM education center in Poughkeepsie, New York to take a one-week course called “Computing for Physicians”. About one hundred other physicians gathered to learn how to use computers. One of their main teachers was Donald Lindberg who was also a pathologist and an expert in computer medicine. Dr. Lindberg would become Dr. Lundberg's lifelong friend, joining him years later on the editorial board at JAMA and even later at Medscape.

     With the information he learned at IBM, Dr. Lundberg went to William Beaumont General Hospital in 1965 at El Paso, Texas, as chief of pathology and installed the first computer system into a U.S. military hospital clinical laboratory. In the process, he became the first military pathologist to use computers in a hospital lab. Two years later, while still at Beaumont, he installed the first electronic microscope in a U.S. military hospital lab.

     After leaving the army in 1967 as a lieutenant colonel, he was Professor of Pathology and Associate Director of Laboratories at the Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center. During his ten years there, Dr. Lundberg took part in many firsts:

  • Founding member of the California Association of Toxicologists;

  • Originator of the Critical (Panic) Value system for reporting very abnormal clinical laboratory results in 1972 (now national policy);

  • Created the concept of the Patient-Focused Laboratory, organized around Turn Around Times for lab test results;

  • Founding member of the California Society for the Treatment of Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies in 1973 (later became the California Society of Addiction Medicine).

     From 1977 to 1982, Dr. Lundberg was Professor and Chairman in the Department of Pathology at the University of California at Davis.

     From 1982 to 1999, Dr. Lundberg was at the American Medical Association (AMA) as Editor in Chief, Scientific Information and Multimedia Group with editorial responsibility for its 39 medical journals, American Medical News, and various Internet products. Dr. Lundberg is particularly noted for his skilled editorial leadership of the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), covering some of the most dramatic transformations in American health care. He was widely published in the scientific and lay press with frequent appearances on national television on health care issues. Over his seventeen-year period at AMA, Dr. Lundberg was a part of some more firsts:

     Even though Dr. Lundberg had been working with some form of computers since 1963, it was not until the mid-1990s that he became involved in working with the Internet by helping to create the “medical” Internet. He has been a part of the medical Internet from its first beginnings.

     In 1999, Dr. Lundberg became Editor in Chief and Executive Vice President of Medscape and the Founding Editor of Medscape General Medicine the world's first and still only, primary source, peer reviewed, fully electronic general medical journal on the internet. He also became founding Editor in Chief of CBS In 2002, Dr. Lundberg became Editor in Chief Emeritus of Medscape and Special Healthcare Advisor to the Chairman and CEO of WebMD. A frequent lecturer, radio and television guest, and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Lundberg holds academic appointments as a professor at Northwestern and Harvard. In 2000, the Industry Standard dubbed Dr. Lundberg “Online Health Care's Medicine Man”.

     In his book, “Severed Trust”, on page 159 he says:

     I have learned that there are four reasons for wanting to become a doctor.

     First, people who aspire to become doctors want to take care of sick people. They want to be of service, to help people stay well, and to help them get well if they are sick. This is a real motivation for almost everyone who applies to medical school.

     Second, people who want to become doctors are good at science. They are good students who have studied mathematics, biology, and other sciences and earned good grades throughout their primary, secondary, and higher education. Otherwise, they couldn’t get into medical school.

     Third, people who want to become doctors want to have a good deal of independence. They like being in charge of their own lives; they look forward to opening their own practices and making up their own minds about how best to proceed in caring for patients. They want to govern themselves, to not be intruded upon by others.…

     Fourth, people who want to be doctors want to make money.… People who go into medicine often make a lot of money – certainly not as much as captains of business, finance, and industry, but well beyond the average income. Physicians usually can live in nice houses, buy good automobiles, and send their kids to good schools. They can go to the symphony when they want and rarely worry about the cost of a new camera.

     During his career, Dr. Lundberg has also worked in tropical medicine in Central America and Forensic Medicine in New York, Sweden and England. He has received honorary degrees in science from the State University of New York, Syracuse; Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia; the University of Alabama at Birmingham; and the Medical College of Ohio, Toledo. His major professional interests are toxicology, violence, communication, physician behavior, and strategic management. Throughout his career Dr. Lundberg has focused on ways to make the American health care system better. His views on the issues and directions for change have been thoughtfully addressed in his book, “Severed Trust - Why American Medicine Has Not Been Fixed”, published in 2001.

     Dr. Lundberg has been married to Patricia Lorimer Lundberg, Ph.D., since March 6, 1983. She is the former Patricia Ann Blacklidge, and is presently an English Professor and Dean at Indiana University Northwest.

Written September 2003 by Debbie Owen.