Physician and mentor uses life as a teaching tool

John B. Bass, Jr., MACP.

John B. Bass, Jr., MACP

Occupation: Full-time faculty member, department of medicine, University of South Alabama.


Age: 63

Current residence: Mobile, Ala.

Hometown: Gadsden, Ala.

Family: Married to Rebecca Fordham, with two kids John Burrell, III, age 30, and Anna Fordham, age 27.

Medical school: Tulane University School of Medicine.

Residency: University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Specialties: Board certified in internal medicine and pulmonary disease.

First job: Director of the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine, University of South Alabama.

Select ACP involvement: Alabama Chapter Governor, 1995-1999; MKSAP and MKSAP II Subcommittee for Pulmonary and Critical Care, 1991-1993 and 1996-1998; Board of Governors Executive Committee, 1995-1996; Vice Chair of Education Committee, 1996-1998.

Personal heroes: My father and grandfather, both internists. My grandfather, Herschel Bass, was the first internist in the South, back in the early 1900s.

Most meaningful accomplishments: Teaching awards, becoming a College Master.

Most rewarding part of my current position: Far and away, it's being with the housestaff and medical students and teaching them. I have the best job in the world.

Item I can't live without: My stethoscope is pretty important.

Pet peeves: None. The reason I went into medicine—the joy of helping people—is still there and is not affected by economics and other things.

Future goals: I'll probably cut back and work six months a year. I want to continue to contribute to the education of students.

One thing I wish I'd done differently: Not a thing.

Outside interests: I play bluegrass on a five-string banjo. I was in a band throughout medical school but it's hard to have a regular band when you're a doctor.

I also like to cook. I attend on a general medicine ward 12 months a year, and I like to have the entire team over to my house for a dinner at the end of the month. I guess I've become known for my barbecued ribs.

Medicine and literature: I've been responsible for the Literature and Medicine Retreat for the Alabama chapter for the past 10 years. It's one weekend a year, and about 35-40 physicians and their significant others meet and spend two days discussing real literature—not medical literature. We've done a couple of physician authors—Anton Chekhov, who happened to be a physician, and William Carlos Williams, who was a full-time practitioner in New Jersey. But we've also done a lot of authors who are not physicians, like Cormac McCarthy and Ogden Nash and Lewis Carroll. We assign a novel, some short stories, a play and some poetry, and discuss it with an English literature professor who comes and leads our discussions.

Favorite author: Walker Percy.

Favorite poets: Robert Frost, William Butler Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Billy Collins, Sharon Olds.

Book on night stand: “The House of the Seven Gables” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I have been invited to speak in Salem, Mass. next month, and that house is still standing up there. I've been there before, and I thought I'd read the book again and go back.

If I had to pick a different career: English professor at a college.

A colleague says: “John has trained generations of internists, including me, and is part of the reason I am in the ACP and am the current Alabama Governor. Beyond his role as physician and mentor in medicine, he is truly someone who teaches you about life.” —Maryella Sirmon, FACP