An Interview with Dr. Turner
The following text is an excerpt from the first time Dr. Turner had an interview about the syndrome that would later be named after him. The location of this interview can be found at http://www.turnersyndrome.org/files/what-ts/what-ts-177.pdf. In the interview, Turner discusses his work at the Endocrine Clinic with Turner’s Syndrome. He discusses common symptoms that he noticed among the women that came in to the clinic.
Dr. Howard: But then, Dr. Turner, I think that this is a good time to ask you a little bit about the early successes of the Endocrine Clinic. You had thyroid diseases-did you-diabetes, no? Was there another diabetic clinic?
Dr. Turner: No. The diabetes was in there too, in the same clinic.
Dr. Howard: So you did have diabetes in there; and obesity and adrenal difficulties. Of course, this was before cortisone and really before adrenal cortical extract. I think that was ’36, Hartman and so on, about ’35 or ’36, within a year or so.
Dr. Turner: I don’t believe that adrenal hyperplasia was even thought of It might have been, but certainly not as we know it today.
Dr. Howard: No, but you were looking for pituitary disease.
Dr. Turner: Yes, starting along, we knew that.
Dr. Howard: Cushing’s and Simmonds’ diseases had been described.
Dr. Turner: Yes.
Dr. Howard: When did you find that you not only could recognize some of the classic endocrine diseases which you had mentioned Dr. Englebach and Dr. Moore and you reading, but when Did you find that maybe you could make some original contributions yourself, Dr. Turner? I am referring to the one that you described so well from Oklahoma City?
Dr. Turner: Well, during this, at the endocrine clinic and in private practice, I had seen a few young girls who had not matured, and they were short in stature and they had short necks with a low hair line and increased carrying angle at the elbow. And I became intrigued with them and I was wondering what in the world could do this to them. And finally I had seen patients who on x-raying neck they did not show any absence of the cervical vertebra or any fusion of it like you find in Klippel-FeU 181 Syndrome. They all followed a definite pattern. They were all, as I say, short in stature and had no breast development and no internal organs that we could find except perhaps with an endoscope. We could see a little nipple that might have been a cervix less than one em. in size, and…
Dr. Howard: Of course, the vagina was present?
Dr. Turner: Yes, but we could not palpate any ovaries whatsoever. They had only a small tufting, a few pubic hairs. And finally I just reported it with the hope that these 7patients, I believe it was,-I believe I reported them in 1937. Then immediately, of course, others found a high FSH, follicle stimulating hormone, in the urine. I believe that was Varney, wasn’t it?
Dr. Howard: Could well have been; that is one of the early names.
Dr. Turner: Yes, Varney and well- Allen Kenyon.
Dr. Howard: Kenyon. Those were early endocrinologists.
Dr. Turner: Then, weren’t you with Albright, then-or later?
Dr. Howard: I wasn’t one of the first ones with Albright. Albright became interested in that syndrome with Smith, Patricia Smith, and Reifenstein before I joined them. But, of course, Albright was very interested in what we called Turner’s Syndrome, or gonadal agenesis, to try to get a pathologic type of a name, and so was J. S. 1. Browne in Montreal. Two of the people who taught me in the period from ’45 to ’47 thought this was one of the most fascinating endocrine diseases of all. And as you recollect, we differentiated it from hypopituitary eunuchoidism in girls. So you brought this syndrome to the attention of the endocrinologists and of the world and then you ‘ve been participating in the further unfolding of it these number of years. But, some of your original patients are still alive aren’t they?
Dr. Turner: Oh, yes. It has been a pleasure to follow some of them. I think the majority of the original 7-at least, I recall 4 of them are still living. Of 182 course the fact that they responded to estrogen therapy which will develop their breasts and increase the size of the uterus and develop feminine curves and really feminize them right up to the point where they can get married and lead a normal life as a female.
Dr. Howard: They may adopt children.
Dr. Turner: With the exception, of course, they cannot have children.
Dr. Howard: Still they can be partners in marriage and success; fully bring up the children. They can rear them. Well, Dr. Turner, remind me again-in your original paper, I remember so well the pictures and descriptions of the disease, but you did mention improvement with estrogen therapy?
Dr. Turner: Yes.
Dr. Howard: So, you not only described it but really gave us the practical treatment of it right off. I am sure that we have had-of course, you have many contributions and published about it for many years since. You have been called to describe it in Societies throughout the world and I am going to come to that again. But you were already a member of the Endocrine Society before you described this. You had joined the Endocrine Society?
Dr. Turner: Oh, yes.
Dr. Howard: When did you first join it: Do you remember-after you were in Oklahoma City apparently, a few years?
Dr. Turner: I think it was before then.
Dr. Howard: Around ’23 or ’24 then. When did you first become an officer in the Endocrine Society? How long have you been Secretary?
Dr. Turner: Oh, I was on the council for some time before I was elected Secretary-Treasurer. I believe, I was made Secretary-Treasurer in 1942.
Dr. Howard: That would be a few years after you described Turner’s Syndrome; and then you were Secretary-Treasurer up until last year.
Dr. Turner: Yes, approximately twenty-five years.
Dr. Howard: And then you were kicked upstairs to be President-Elect.
Dr. Turner: Yes (laughter).
Dr. Howard: That is grand; and this coming June is your time for presidential address, is it not? Well, Dr.Turner, carrying on with the Endocrine Society and you as a physician, a recognized physician of Oklahoma City and endocrinologist and officer of the Endocrine Society because of your contributions and great interest, I know very well how much time you have put into the duties with the Endocrine Society that must have been, I’d say, a quarter-time job or half-time job in itself, wouldn’t you?
Dr. Turner: In the early days, of course, I had no assistants. In fact, 4 or 5 years now we have had a full time executive secretary with an assistant, which reduced the load. Of course the membership, I think we had 300 members when I first became Secretary, now we have over 1700.
An older Henry Turner