Henry Renfert, MD Papers

Manuscript Collection No. 111


Overview of the Collection

Repository: Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library, John P. McGovern Historical Collections and Research Center1133 John Freeman Blvd.Houston, Texas 77030
Creator: Henry Renfert, MD
Title: Papers of Henry Renfert, MD
Dates: 1935-1992
Quantity: 1.5 cubic feet
Abstract: Dr. Henry Renfert, Jr. served in the United States Navy during World War II aboard the U.S.S. Hydrus and U.S.S. Independence. He served aboard the Independence when it was assigned to the atomic bomb experiments on Bikini Atoll. He served after the war at Sasabo base in Japan. For his work there he received the Naval commendation medal for his success in controlling communicable diseases. In 1956 he and Dr. Virgil Lawless founded the Austin Diagnostic Clinic, which grew into the Austin Diagnostic Medical Center and eventually was called the Austin Medical Center.
Identification: 111
Language: The records are in English.

Biographical Note

Dr. Henry Renfert, Jr. was born May 5, 1920 in Fort Worth, Texas, to German immigrant Heinrich Renfert and his wife, Wisconsin native Wanda Stresau. He had an older brother and sister, Frederic and Wandy, and a twin sister, Melita. His parents sent him to Wisconsin to attend high school at the Milwaukee Country Day School (1934-1937), and he graduated from Cornell University in 1941. He earned his M.D. from Cornell University Medical College in 1944 and interned at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

He served as medical officer in 1944-1945 aboard the U.S.S Hydrus and U.S.S. Independence; during this time, the Independence was assigned to atomic bomb experiments on Bikini Atoll. He completed his residency training in internal medicine at the University of Michigan before returning to the Navy to serve as Senior Medical Officer at the U.S. Navy Infirmary in Sasabo, Japan. He was awarded both a Naval commendation medal for the success of his program to control communicable diseases at the Sasabo base, and a Navy Reserve medal for ten years of service to the Navy.

Upon returning the United States, he spent a year as an assistant professor at Ann Arbor and then returned to his home state to go into private practice in Austin. He was joined by Dr. Virgil Lawless in 1956 and went on to found the Austin Diagnostic Clinic; their dream was to build a smaller form of the Mayo Clinic in Central Texas. In 1958, Dr. Renfert returned to Cornell as Associate Dean and Assistant Professor of Medicine, staying two years before returning to Austin to rejoin the Austin Diagnostic Clinic. The Austin Diagnostic Clinic was the first clinic in Austin to provide in-house radiology and laboratory testing, as well as the first to supply its own specialists in many different fields. It eventually grew into the Austin Diagnostic Medical Center, with a hospital and over 130 doctors. Today, it is called the Austin Medical Center and has several branches.

Dr. Renfert was also an avid collector of railroad china and donated his collection, thought to be the largest in the United States, to the Gulf Coast Railroad Museum in Galveston in 1991.

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Scope and Contents

The papers of Dr. Henry Renfer are made up mostly of personal letters from his time in the Navy during and after World War II, letters from the time of his residency training in between tours of duty, and official paperwork regarding his time in the Navy and Navy Reserves. Most of the material dates from between 1944 and 1954, with a few exceptions.

The collection also contains some miscellaneous items such as budget lists, bills, novelty poems, newspaper items about Renfert, Sr., and Dr. Renfert’s military medals.

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The material is generally organized in chronological order.

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Henry Renfert, MD Papers, Manuscript Collection No. 111, John P. McGovern Historical Collections and REsearch Center, Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library

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Detailed Description of the Collection

Box Folder
1 1 Biographical material – scholarship fund pamphlets, autobiographical outlines.
1 2 Correspondence – family letters, notes, and budgets, 1935-1944.
1 3 Graduation from Cornell University Medical School, 1944.
1 4 orrespondence – letters and telegrams to parents, 1945.
1 5 Correspondence – letters, appointments, 1945-1960 (primarily 1950-1952), United Fruit Company, University of Michigan.
1 6 Correspondence – letters from parents in Galveston, 1945-1946; copy of birth certificate issued 1985.
1 7 Correspondence – letters to and from parents, 1946.
1 8 Correspondence – letters to and from parents, 1946.
1 9 Correspondence – letters to parents, 1951-1952.
1 10 Correspondence – letters, telegrams, and budgets, 1946 and 1958-1960.
1 11 Rotation lists – 1949-1950.
1 12 Partnership agreement – Renfert and Virgil Lawless, 1956.
1 13 American College of Physicians – convocation program, 1959.
1 14 Henry Renfert, Sr. – newspaper clippings from Galveston Daily News and from Switzerland ca. 1930s and 1940s (dates mostly cut off).
1 15 Medical licenses – 1947, 1971, mostly late 1950s.
1 16 Navy papers – 1942-1949.
1 17 Navy papers – 1949-1953.
1 18 Navy papers – Navy and Navy Reserve, 1950-1960, with ID cards.
1 19 Navy Reserve and retirement – 1947-1953.
1 20 Navy Reserve and retirement – Navy Guide for Retired Personnel and their Families, 1980.
1 21 Navy Reserve and retirement – 1980s and 1990s.
1 22 Oral history interview – Austin History Center, December 5, 1991.
1 23 Article for Austin-American Statesman, newspaper clippin, December 22, 1992.
2 1 Provisions for the Care of the Sick Aboard Ship.
2 2 Navy Reserve and retirement – pay and insurance papers, receipts, negatives for photographs of ships.
2 3 Navy – official letters and award notifications, 1946.
2 4 Navy – official letters, writings, U.S.S. Hydrus 1946-1954.
2 5 Navy – official letters, 1951.
2 6 Navy – letters to and from Admiral C.A. Broaddus, 1950-1952.
2 7 Navy – official letters, 1953.
2 8 Navy – official letters, 1951-1954.
2 9 Navy – official letters, 1955-1960.
2 10 Navy – official letters, mostly 1956-1960.
2 11 Navy – papers, 1950s.
2 12 Navy – papers, 1953-1956.
3 Navy Reserve medal: Red ribbon with blue and gold edges, bronze medal with an image of an eagle with an anchor. Reverse bears the inscription “United States Naval Reserve – Faithful Service.” Dr. Renfert was a member of the Naval Reserve for many years following two tours of duty as a medical officer. Navy Commendation Ribbon: (three forms) enameled bar; ribbon bar – green ribbon with white stripes on either side; full medal with ribbon and pendant – bronze hexagonal medal with eagle, wings spread with a shield on its chest holds arrows in its talons. A letter included in Box 2, Folder 3 indicates that Dr. Renfert was awarded the commendation for his efforts to reduce the spread of certain communicable diseases while he was stationed in Sasabo, Japan.