Paul Obis entered nursing school a year after me. He was a slightly built young man with an engaging personality and shoulder length hair. The hair issue was a big deal in nursing school and addressed frequently at uniform inspections. Hair was thought to be a source of infection and everyone on the nursing staff had to keep their hair off the collar while working in the hospital. Paul opted out of the Brilliantine butch haircut for the typical men in nursing coiffure and went with a pony tail to keep his locks off the collar. What worked for the girls worked for the guys.
Every student nurse has a shocking epiphany early on in nursing school, for me it was how much patients suffered. For Paul, it was how terrible hospital food choices were for recovering patients. In the early 1970s the ideal meal was a huge chunk of meat surrounded by something deep fried. The notion of "healthy food" was decades in the future. When someone heard that artificial ingredients and colors were a big component of their diet, the line of thinking was; those clever scientists are at it again. What will they think of next?
Nutition classes in the early 1970s nursing programs promoted notions that white bread was just as nutritious as whole grain and the ideal protein source was a big chunk of animal flesh smothered in gravy. Paul was quick to note the malnourishment present in hospital patients as diets of the time did practically nothing to promote recovery. Vascular bypasses of one variety or another were the cutting edge procedures of the era. The sad part of this miraculous new surgery was the temporary nature of the complicated fix. Patients were returning to the hospital a few years down the road with their fancy grafts occluded by the very same atherosclerotic changes that afflicted their native anatomy.
The cholesterol theory relating saturated fats to vascular disease was in it's infancy, but this did not deter Paul who began researching and promoting vegetarian diets as a boon to good health. Vegetarians were few and far between in the early 1970s and excluding meat from a diet was viewed in a freakish light. There was no internet or social media for folks to connect so Paul started writing a little 4 page newsletter with the proud title of Vegetarian Times.
Distribution was limited to the area around the immediate hospital on Chicago's North Side. By Vegetarian Times Issue No. 3 the newsletter circulated to areas that Paul could reach on his bright green Schwinn Varsity bike. The VT footprint gradually grew to the point where I let Paul deliver them in my brand new Ford Pinto. Paul christened the little Runabout as the Vegetarian Times Staff Car. A "LOVE ANIMALS -DON'T EAT THEM" bumper sticker was proudly displayed which got me bemused looks in the Burger King parking lot. I was a blatant carnivore and never really adopted the meatless life.
Vegetarian Times evolved into a full scale magazine and by 1990 Paul had a media blockbuster on his hands. He worked from an office in Oak Park with a staff of 25 producing the monthly magazine. When I saw the magazine for sale in the gift shop at the hospital where I worked in Pittsburgh, I came to realize the publication had journeyed full circle back to a hospital.
Yep, That's me endorsing VT. It's a good thing that
scrub nurse thing worked out. I was an awful model!
When we were young nurses it seemed as though time was giving us more and more. I now realize it can take everything away too. Sadly, Paul died of Lewey Body dementia last June His memorial website of a life well lived is: http://paulobis.com/