Carson's senior doctor brings 45 years to medicine

At age 77, Dr. Henry Stewart is the oldest practicing physician in Carson City, with a medical practice spanning 45 years. And while there are many fond memories of his work here, his life was rich long before he arrived.

The son of an U.S. Army officer, Stewart was born in the Philippines. His mother was the daughter of a Spanish officer stationed in the Philippines and he spent his first 13 years there.

The family didn't return to American soil until his father retired from the military in 1935. They moved to Lovelock, where he attended grade school, high school, and ultimately the University of Nevada, Reno.

But World Watr II interrupted his education.

He joined the Navy in 1942 and by 1945, just 10 years after he left the Philippines, Stewart found himself once again in the South Pacific as a Navy corpsman.

"I returned to the Philippines, but this time they were shooting at me." Stewart said. As a member of the hospital corps he was assigned to a ship and served in five major battles during the conflict: Pelielu, Leyte, Lingayen, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.

None of the battles was small, but he vividly recalled the action in Pelielu. Waves of Marines hit the beach, and the Japanese waited until the last Marine landed before opening fire from above.

He called it the worst Marine battle of the war, and he remembered his feelings of helplessness as the ship was overwhelmed with casualties. Men were dying in his arms. He was 20 years old.

"We had three operating rooms aboard, and the injured were coming in so fast, we couldn't take care of them," Stewart said. "I shouldn't be alive today. Why were my buddies killed and not me?"

The experience was central to his decision to attend medical school and in part responsible for his deep religious faith. A Seventh Day Adventist, Stewart conducts services as a layman in Silver Springs, Yerington and Sparks.

"Anyone can profess religion, but it's you're character that determines whether you're a Christian," Stewart said. Tolerance of the differences between people is one of the cornerstones of his belief.

He also received religious training while attending medical school at Loma Linda University, a Protestant institution. He graduated from medical school in 1953 and after completing his residency he, his wife and first son moved to Carson City.

Stewart said there were seven physicians and 3,500 people in Carson City when he moved here in 1955. The population stayed about the same, but the number of physicians dropped to four.

"(Each of us) ran the emergency room for a week," Stewart said, noting he rarely got more than four or five hours sleep during that period.

He remembers sulfa was the primary drug used to treat infections, and phenobarbital was prescribed for high blood pressure. He also remembers the day Carson-Tahoe Hospital burned in 1968.

"I was riding my bike to the hospital when I saw the flames," Stewart said, noting he thought he would try to save one of the expensive electric beds the hospital had purchased. As he rolled the bed out, however, a timber fell right beside him, and he gave it up.

Stewart has forsaken the brutal hours and now works about 30 hours a week as a general practitioner. He devotes most of his practice to the elderly. He has no plans for retirement.

"When I was 65, people began to get concerned about my retiring," Stewart said. "I told them I'd be retiring when I'm 90. But if feel this good when I'm 90, I'll work until I'm 95."


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