When Dr. John Davis first arrived at what is now called Bassett Medical Center, a first-class postage stamp cost three cents, President Dwight Eisenhower occupied the White House and a young woman named Norma Jean Mortenson had just changed her name to Marilyn Monroe.
The year was 1956.
Other than a few years serving in the U.S. Army Medical Corps — 1958 to 1961 — followed by a three-year stint at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, Davis would spend his entire medical career at Bassett. Before retiring in 1995, he would spend more than a decade as the hospital’s director of medical education. Earlier, he had served as Bassett’s first gastroenterologist, a specialty he had acquired at Strong.
While officially retired, Davis has never really left Bassett. He has been a fixture at medical seminars and other events. In recent years, by his count, he has given some 50 talks to community groups on the history of Bassett.
And so it came to pass that when Dr. William Streck, Bassett’s chief executive officer, decided it was time to have a comprehensive history of the hospital chronicled, he asked Davis if he would conduct the research and stitch together the story.
That was a couple of years ago, and Davis said he’s still at it, spending at least a couple of hours each day at his keypad, sifting through boxes of old documents and photographs and checking in with local historians for assistance when he needs it. He has also spent considerable time at the New York State Historical Association, going through the Bassett archives that are kept in a climate-controlled storage area.
“It’s turned into something I am working on almost constantly,” said Davis, a native of the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park, a picturesque small town that reminds him of Cooperstown. “It’s my legacy at this point for Bassett. Whether they pay me any money or not I don’t care.”