Iowa Alumni Magazine | August 2004 | People

A Medical Marvel: Dr. Donald Mishler

By Kathryn Howe

In 1929, the UI was universally known as the State University of Iowa, and Kinnick Stadium stood at the brink of its opening day. The stock market eted, launching the Great Depression, and Iowa boy Herbert Hoover beplummcame the 31st president of the United States.

Another thing happened that year—Donald Mishler became a doctor. Now, he celebrates the 75th anniversary of his graduation and the fact that he represents the oldest UI medical school class with a surviving member. He also achieves another milestone this month—turning 100.

In recognition, UI Carver College of Medicine students, faculty, and staff created and signed a special card that Gerry Clancy, 83BA, 88MD, 92R, dean of the medical school at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa, delivered personally to Mishler’s home. Mishler, 29MD, 33R, was so moved by the gesture that he propped the card by the fireplace in his den so he could look at it every day.

“He was tearful,” Clancy recalls. “His comment was, ‘I thought they’d forgotten about me.’ I told him that the University of Iowa wouldn’t do that.”

A native of Centerville, Mishler completed residencies in otolaryngology and ophthalmology before launching his career in Nashville. Eventually, he landed in Tulsa, where he’s lived since 1934. He formed his own practice in 1959 and retired in 1984. “I was a doctor for so long that I used to say there wasn’t a throat in Tulsa that I hadn’t looked down,” Mishler told the Tulsa World last year.

A medical pioneer, Mishler performed some of Tulsa’s first facial plastic surgery operations, as well as procedures that restored hearing to the deaf. In the early 1950s, he was among the first doctors to link smoking with cancer. Far more than a man in a white coat, Mishler once aspired to become an opera singer, and he plays a mean saxophone. An avid outdoorsman and amateur rancher, he’s sold bulls to celebrities such as Bing Crosby.

These days, he enjoys spending his time simply—surrounded by the comforts of home. “He helped a lot of people,” his daughter, Helen Santee, told the Journal of the Oklahoma State Medical Association. “People came to him, and he changed their lives.”