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Today in My History

2000:  Crawling Home
2001:  No entry--in England
2002:  My Day in Numbers
2003:  Things That Go Bump
2004:  Hey, Look Me Over
2005:  Too Much Fun
2006:  This Day in the Life

2007: Google
2008:  Faw Down Go Boom
2009:  Seven Weeks
2010:  The Yuck List
2011:  Did You Ever Know that You're My Hero?

2012: Living Vicariously

Bitter Hack
: 5/1
"A Little Princess"

Books Read in 2013
 Updated: 5/2
"A Little Princess"

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8 May 2013

I knew Herbert Bauer wasn't going to live forever, but since he seemed to be going strong at 103, you did kind of start to think about how to make his 104th special.

But Herbert died at 4:40 a.m. this morning.  The conscience of Davis has finally gone to meet his wife, Hannah, without whom he has been for too many years.   She died in 2002, at age 82.

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I figured time was growing short when he announced a couple of weeks ago, after he went to his last Farmers Market, at which he had been a staple, that he thought he was going to have to give that up.  It was getting to be too much for him.  He gave up driving on his 100th birthday.

Dr. Herbert Bauer completed his medical degree at the Medical School of Vienna, Austria, in 1936. As the German army invaded, he left the country. For a couple of years he lived in London and organized a charity that helped find jobs for about 200 people who escaped from German-occupied countries. That’s where he met his wife, Hannah.

The couple moved to San Francisco, where he completed a one-year medical internship at Mt. Zion Hospital while working as a nursing assistant. After a few years working in public health in San Luis Obispo, he got his master’s degree in public health at the University of California Berkeley.

In 1952, he was assistant public health director in Sacramento County when he read in a newspaper that Yolo County had an opening in its health department. He got the job, which meant commuting on country roads to work in the basement of the county courthouse.

The health department had a staff of six people and two rooms. The bigger room was open to public view. The smaller one, he said, “was used for two things: coffee breaks and pelvic examinations.”

In the early 1950s, he wrangled some grant money from the state to construct a new public health building. That building was the health department’s home until 2006, when 255 county employees moved into the newly built Herbert Bauer, M.D. Health and Alcohol, Drug & Mental Health building.

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Before Bauer, public health in Yolo County mostly consisted of lining school children up once a year to make sure their hearts were still pumping and their hair wasn’t full of lice.

“There was no trace of any kind of mental health treatment,” he said. There was also no family planning clinic. And health inspections meant checking whether people were putting lids on garbage cans. Starting from scratch, Bauer built a real public health department.

“It was easy, because whatever you did in public health, that was automatically new,” he said. “It never had been done before.”

He drove the first dean of the University of California Davis Medical School from the airport to the campus, and soon medical students were rotating through the county’s public health department. He also joined the clinical faculty.

At 61, Bauer retired from the county and went back to school, obtaining a child psychiatry certification from UC Davis. He did not stray from his original career path, he said. He just switched his emphasis.

“I considered mental health simply a part of public health,” he said. “There is no borderline between physical health, mental health and social health.”

In his psychiatry practice, he took only patients who received Medi-Cal assistance, because “private patients have other opportunities,” he said.

After his retirement he was past president of the California Lung Association, and he chaired the bioethical committees of Woodland Memorial Hospital and Sutter Davis Hospital. He also took up dance and joined the Pamela Trokanski Dance Theatre in Davis.

How did Herbert make it to 103-1/2? 

“I live by my three commandments,” he said. “Try to put purpose into your life. It helps to have someone to love. And, maintain a certain amount of humor."

I was blessed to be a peripheral part of Herbert's world for a few years. I'm not sure he really knew who I was, but I loved helping out with his birthday celebrations.

Herbert will be missed by the entire community of Davis.


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