Springer Clinic History

Contributed by Robert A. Jordan, M.D., October 23, 2001

SPRINGER CLINIC HISTORY

Dr. M.P. Springer, founder of the Clinic, had had specialty training in the emerging field of Internal Medicine, and conceived the idea of a multispecialty group in the 1920’s. Early partners were D.0. Smith, Emery Hyatt, and in the early 30’s Homer Ruprecht, G.R. Russell and Carl Hotz. Dr. Springer became independently wealthy in the oil business and retired early from medical practice. The old Clinic building at 6th and Cincinnati, previously an apartment house, was sold by Dr. Springer to 6 partners in the 1940’s–E.G. Hyatt, C.J. Hotz, H.A. Ruprecht, K.F. Swanson, Don Mishler and G. R. Russell. This group was called the Clinic Foundation and rented their facility to the Clinic Partnership. This became a source of contention in later years-always friction over how much rental to be charged to the non-owner Clinic partners. Some of the younger partners were apparently offered a share in the “Foundation,” but declined the purchase-for whatever reason I am not certain. This created a definite split among the Clinic Partnership: on one side were the 6 building owners, and on the other side the non-owners.

An additional cause of friction was the fact that the balance of voting power on Clinic matters was held by the 6 partners owning the building, each having 2 votes versus other partners who held only one vote each. Income distribution was a third source of friction. The pool was shared equally among the partners, without regard to productivity. A new physician joining the group was usually started at 0.5 of a full share of income and annually increased by a tenth of a share until full partnership was reached at the end of 7 years. Usually partnership was offered after 3 years of associate status. Voting was by tenths of a share. This system lent itself to numerous abuses. Some highincome producers were unhappy with this arrangement and eventually left the Clinic. In any event, the balance of power was held by the 6 owner-partners, each holding 2 votes.

In the late 1950’s most medical offices were concentrated in the downtown area – the old Medical Arts Building at 6th and Boulder, Perry Clinic, Tulsa Clinic, and Springer Clinic at 6th and Cincinnati. The Glass-Nelson Clinic was 2 1/9 miles away at 21st and Xanthus near St. John Hospital. Across the street was the newly developed Utica Square Shopping Center where the Utica Square Medical Center was opened. St. John Hospital and Hillcrest Hospital were the major hospitals at 21st and Utica and 11th and Utica respectively. Tulsa’s population was beginning to spread south and eastward. New shopping centers were opening such as Ranch Acres at 31st and Harvard. Edison Junior High and Senior High Schools were opened on 41st Street between Harvard and Yale avenues.

During this period the Springer Partnership began to consider construction of a new building. Properties considered were the Columbia Building at 21st and Columbia, empty at the time. Also considered was acreage at 51st and Lewis, just south of the old Children’s Medical Center and priced at the time at $17,000 an acre. In addition, acreage owned by Max Campbell on 41st Street, where Mercantile Bank now lies, and priced at $25,000 an acre was also considered. The Partnership took an option on this property, but reneged when residents just south of this tract hired an attorney and fought the zoning. The northeast corner of 41st and Yale was a large tract owned by the Vandever family, priced at $25,000/acre; however, this was considered too expensive at the time. This is now the site of Southroads Mall. At the time, land was also available at 71st and Sheridan for $ 1 000 per acre. However, 71st and Sheridan was considered too far out from the City. Finally, ten acres of land at 41st and Hudson, just west of Kelly High School was purchased for $160,000 and plans to build a clinic were started in 1961-62.

Several members of the Clinic, along with the Business Manager, Arthur A. Johnson, made onsite visits to a number of recently erected clinic buildings located in Mason City, Iowa; Carle Clinic, Champaign, Illinois; Marshfield, Wisconsin; Lexington, Kentucky; and Charlotte, North Carolina. Most of these structures had been planned by Ellerbe & Co., architects out of the Twin Cities, who were considered at the time to be “state of the art medical architects” having planned the new addition to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. A contract with Ellerbe was executed for the architectural plans and Tulsa Rig & Reel (a part of what is now FlintCo) was hired for the construction.

During this time the Saint Francis Hospital was opened with approximately 250 beds at the southeast corner of 61st and Yale. All of the Springer physicians were charter members of the Staff and Homer Ruprecht admitted the first patient to the new facility. During the first year of operation, Saint Francis Hospital fell on some very rocky times, losing an average of $100,000 per month and the Warren Foundation and the Hospital Administration quite naturally were disturbed. At this time, Mr. W. K. Warren, Sr. called together a meeting of the Springer Partners and offered to build the Clinic at its present site, slightly less than 7 acres of land at approximately $16,500 per acre. He offered to take the 10 acres at 41st and Hudson on a trade-in arrangement. The Clinic was to be built and leased back to the Partnership with an option to purchase during the first 15 years. In the light of present day values, the land values cited seem dirt­cheap; however, $25,000 per acre was considered to be on the high side. The 20 acre tract where Shell Data Processing Center now lies was sold by the Warren interests for $20,000 per acre. (This information privately given to me by the official who supervised the Shell construction.) Construction costs in the early 1960’s were about $21 per square foot.

Several partners left the Clinic when plans were made to build a new clinic. Don Mishler (Otolaryngology) resigned from the Clinic and opened his practice in the new Doctors’ Building at 21st and Lewis. Tom Ozment (Ophthalmology) resigned and invested in a small office building across the street to the west at 21st and Lewis. Joe Tyler (Psychiatry), Tom Turner (Neurology) and Charles Brighton (Orthopedic Surgery) resigned and left the Clinic to open new offices elsewhere. James E. White took Brighton’s place in Orthopedics, but left within a year.

When the new Clinic opened at 6160 South Yale, September, 1963, two of the old partners retired, Karl Swanson (Urology) and Emery Hyatt (Internal Medicine). Some new men had joined the Clinic, Roy Lawson, William Moore, and Charles Grammes in Medicine and Clarence Britt in Thoracic & CV Surgery. Charles Grammes left the Clinic after a year or so to move to the Geisinger Clinic in Pennsylvania (reason: wife was homesick and did not like Tulsa).

In the Spring of 1964, it began to be apparent that the lease agreement with Warren interests would, in the long-run, be expensive and that out-right purchase of the new building was undoubtedly the best course since we would be our own landlords and likewise would be a great investment . At this time 12(?) partners purchased 3,000 shares of stock at $1 a share. To avoid future accumulation of power in the hands of a few, all partners who wished to purchase stock were issued an equal number of shares to be surrendered back to the Corporation, known as Clinic Properties, Inc. (C.P.I.), on retirement, withdrawal from the Clinic, or death. The Clinic Partnership would then rent the Clinic building as well as certain equipment from C.P.I.

A new partnership agreement was written in approximately 1962 which abolished the old system of voting, shortened the period of associateship, changed methods of governance to an elected Executive Committee, etc. This agreement has been amended many times since, but the original agreement broke the power of the “old guard control” and gave new men, before reaching middle age, some hope of gaining a substantial voice in Clinic affairs.

During the 1960’s it became even more apparent that the income-distribution plan was grossly unfair, rewarding low producers and penalizing high producers. Ophthalmologists, Otolaryngologists, and Orthopedists could not be retained in the Clinic under this system, thus the incentive system of income distribution was formed. The initial formula was very complicated and resulted in much quarreling. The present system was finally agreed upon and, although not perfect, is much simpler and more equitable than the earlier system. One group, Pediatrics, in the Clinic preferred the equal-distribution system, and all bookings from that department were credited equally to each member of the department.

Springer Clinic enjoys(?) the reputation of having staffed the City of Tulsa with more specialists than any university in the fields of Orthopedics, Ophthalmology, Otolaryngology, etc.

In the early days, prior to WWII and for perhaps 20 years after, there were few subspecialists and special fields were broad e.g. General Surgery, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, OB/GYN and Psychiatry. The subspecialties were Neurosurgery, Otolaryngology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Urology, Orthopedics and Radiology. There were a few Allergists, Rheumatologists and Endocrinologists. Quite often Internists and Surgeons and occasionally Pediatricians were called to surrounding towns to consult and sometimes perform surgery. Bristow, Henryetta, Pawhuska, Claremore, Vinita, Miami and Pryor were among some of the more common places visited. Very often these hometown physicians referred their problem cases to some members of the Springer Clinic. Some of these old patterns deteriorated with time, but new ones are being established now. Some of the old-timers in other towns were Dr. King at Bristow – a salty old practitioner who practiced in an upstairs office until past age 90 and it was alleged that he had had 5 wives. Then there was “Slim” Howard at Chelsea, a striking figure over 6 feet with copious white hair and a booming voice, a cuspidor in his office, and an ancient typewriter on which he typed his referral letters. Carlton Smith had a huge Henryetta practice. Also there were Drs. Haynes and Cotteral and before them Dr. Bollinger. Drs. Manning and Daugherty (still practicing) in Pawhuska, inherited Roscoe Walker’s practice (Dean’s father).

Prior to the opening of Saint Francis Hospital, most of the Springer physicians took their patients to St. John Hospital and a few to Hillcrest Hospital. Beds for patients were sometimes hard to come by particularly for the more junior members of the Staff. Surgical beds and operating room time was dominated by Dr. Garrett and his associates Drs. Sheppard and White, and by Drs. Hotz and Pratt of the Springer Clinic. Medical beds were always available for Ruprecht and Hyatt in the Clinic and for Sam Goodman, Eric and N.S. White, but the rest of us had some problems. This factor led many of us who were young internists to take our patients to Saint Francis Hospital, where beds were served up on a “first come first served” basis.

UPDATE: In the Friday, January 6, 2006 edition of the Tulsa World, Saint Francis Health System announced the purchase of Springer Clinic for an undisclosed sum. Under the terms of the deal, Springer Clinic’s 12 locations, 52 physicians and more than 350 employees will become part of the hospital system’s Warren Clinic.

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