‘Life is for learning’ says cardiologist John Carson upon retiring from Scripps Health in La Jolla
John C. Carson was born in Wichita, Kansas, the youngest of six. He attended Taft boarding school in western Connecticut, which he credits for instilling in him the joy of learning. Carson joined the US Army in 1945, serving as a technician in the 4th Army Area Medical Laboratory at Fort Sam Houston. Entering Yale in 1947, he graduated with an English degree in 1950. It was at Yale that Carson met his future wife, Elizabeth Hill, of Des Moines, Iowa. They married in 1954 and had five children, a family which now includes 19 grandchildren. Carson attended the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine interning at the university hospital (1950-1954) and serving as a fellow in cardiology (1954-1959).
He joined the Kansas University Medical Center in 1959.
After moving to La Jolla, he worked at the original Scripps Clinic on Prospect Street.
In 1964, he and Dr. E. Grey Dimond established the cardiology department in the new hospital on the mesa — now Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.
After spending two years at Scripps Clinic, Carson and Dr. David Carmichael started Specialty Medical Clinic, absorbed by Scripps Clinic in 1996. At this time, Carson chose to remain in private practice.
Carson attributes his interest in medicine to Sir William Osler, publisher of the first textbook of medicine in 1892 and the inspiration for the American Osler Society, dedicated to medical history, which counts Carson among its membership.
Carson inherited signed “Oslerian” artifacts from his uncle, a collection to which Carson has added. His treasured piece is an 18th century apothecary chest with bottles containing their original contents within a rosewood case. Much of the collection, which Carson rotates on a regular basis, is on display in the lobby of Scripps Memorial Hospital.
What brought you to La Jolla?
In 1960, Dr. E. Grey Dimond, professor of medicine at Kansas University, was asked to set up the Cardiovascular Institute at Scripps Clinic and he asked me to come with him.
If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in the area?
What we have is so much: excellent schools, churches, hospitals, UCSD, a fine medical school, The Salk Institute, The Sanford Burnham, splendid research facilities and researchers, the weather, the beach — all in our community. I would only ask that more of our citizens support them financially and by personal involvement, following the lead of the Jacobs, Audrey Geisel, the Thornton’s and scores of our fellow citizens who give back to all of us.
Who or what inspires you?
My wife, children and grandchildren inspire me.
If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?
My Elizabeth and I would love to have dinner with our parents and grandparents, asking them questions we did not know were important when they were with us.
What are you currently reading?
“On Paper,” by Nicholas Basbanes; “Eugene Braunwald and the Rise of Modern Medicine,” by Thomas Lee; “Exploration and Empire” by William H. Goetzmann;
“The Last Man Who Knew Everything” by Andrew Robinson; and “Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History” by Seth Lerer.
What is it that you most dislike?
I most dislike spending my energies on the dislike of anything. It is so negative and time consuming — and accomplishes so little.
What is your most-prized possession?
My wife and family are my most-prized possessions.
What do you do for fun?
For fun, I have had my profession. I read, write, work and go to the flea markets, antique shops, bookshops museums, libraries and book fairs.
What is your motto or philosophy of life?
There is no excellence without great labor. If you like we’re you’ve been, you’ll like where you are going.
What would be your dream vacation?
Lake Mohonk Mountain House — halfway between New York City and Albany — with all my children and grandchildren
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