Tillman’s work should be remembered

Published 12:24 am Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Miss-Lou recently lost a most valued individual, Dr. Clifford Tillman. He was involved in many things in our community that many people don’t realize. Of course, he was a great physician and he, along with Dr. Tom Gandy, established one of the first Coronary Care Units in Mississippi at the Jefferson Davis Memorial Hospital (now NRMC).

Thousands of people suffering heart attacks have found their lives prolonged because of this achievement.

He was involved in the management and decisions of the Armstrong Library. A reading room is deservedly named in his honor there. He was an avid bird-watcher/teacher and was fascinated by the form and brilliant, iridescent colors of birds. I never got to discuss the fairly recent discovery that birds are the direct descendants of dinosaurs with him, but I’m sure he would have filled me in on the finer points.

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Dr. Tillman treated most all the members of my childhood family at one time or the other. He would become frustrated (as most physicians do) when patients did not heed his professional advice. Knowing the ways of people helped.

People attempt to understand things through belief, knowledge or a combination of the two. With knowledge, ideas can be changed with new facts. However, belief is hard-wired and is extremely difficult to change. If one believes that playing with frogs causes warts, for instance, no amount of data will likely change their mind. Unfortunately, those who ignore scientific data from their physicians in reference to life-threatening diseases are not unlike lemmings waiting to cast themselves over a cliff and into the sea below.

One of my “hats” was to do library searches for local physicians on the Internet before the Internet, as we know it today, was established. Via computer, I could connect with medical information bulletin boards and glean new information from them. This system contained most of the latest articles of accepted scientific papers and periodicals. I could also print a daily information newsletter of the latest “hot topics” that were coming down the pipe. It was like a new Age of Enlightenment and I sat, in awe, at the feet of Socrates.

I did several library searches pertaining to medicine for Dr. Tillman who was, for all of his life, a student with an insatiable quest for knowledge. Case-in-point: One day he came in and asked, “What is Canola Oil? There is no such thing as a canola from which we can obtain its oil.”

A quick search revealed that “CANOLA” is a contraction for “Canada Oil Low Acid.” It comes from Canadian Rape seed (a type of turnip) that has been selectively bred for its low eruccic acid level.

This compound, when present, imparts a bitterness to rape seed oil and to the livestock feed that remains after processing.

Perhaps should we see “Dr. Clifford” again, we will find him studying in a gigantic library that has instant access to all knowledge.

We may also see that, from time-to-time, he pursues a glimpse of the magnificent birds of paradise. For him, I think, this would be heaven.

Ed Field

Natchez resident