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A Tribute to Herbert Ratner, M.D. (1907 - 1997)

I was a only a young thing in my thirties.That means it was over 40 years ago.Pregnant with my third child I went to Dr. Herbert Ratner in Chicago in the hope that he could steer me to a doctor who would deliver this baby naturally.
That was what I wanted and Dr. Ratner told me Dr. Gregory White was my man. As an added bonus, Dr. White's wife, Mary, and six other women were starting a group to help women who wanted to breastfeed.
It was at Dr. Ratner's suggestion that I was asked to write the chapter in the first edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding on The Father's Role, published in 1958 in the days when breastfeeding was an unpopular way to nurture a baby.

Then came more babies.And more writing.Small articles of mine describing my experiences with breastfeeding, childraising, natural childbirth and family life were published and you might say I was mentored by Dr. Ratner who was THE voice in the area on these subjects.
My only hope was Dr. Ratner.I knew he was a Christian and felt he would have to love me even if I had gone crazy.

He did what Christians do.He found time to see me every Saturday after his morning office hours.There was no thought of charging me for my visits.Week after week I would take my nursing baby and endure the trip on the trolley to his office.How I envied the other people on the trolley for whom the ride was still a routine, serene event.We would talk about Dr. Ratner's work and my life and my writing.I wish I could say Dr. Ratner cured my agoraphobia but his caring was a healing of another sort.The agoraphobia was destined to continue for many years despite psychiatry and medication.I learned that I would not die from it and I could override the fear.

Eventually it yielded to serious prayer.Our family moved to Connecticut leaving behind Dr. Ratner and Dr. White who continued to be the M.D.s behind La Leche League, which now calls itself "the world's foremost authority on breastfeeding."
Though the vaccine was free, Dr. Ratner refused to give it to children under him and suffered a media blackout for his concerns.Because he spoke the truth as he saw it, Dr. Ratner was relieved of his post as editor of Bulletin of the American Association of Public Health Physicians.

Dr. Ratner died at 90 in 1997.
Ratner] who had an unopened case of polio vaccine from l955 which he had stored in his refrigerator for more than forty years…..Last summer Carbone finally completed tests on the vintage vaccine. He found that the tiny vials contained SV40 [Simian Virus 40] genetically identical to the strains found in human bone and brain tumors and in monkeys." When the Salk vaccine was replaced by the Sabin oral vaccine in 1962, some 400,000 people had been inoculated in what has been called a "calculated risk."My research tells me that FDA-approved polio vaccine has been free of SV40 since 1963.

In a letter to me in 1994 Dr. Ratner wrote, "I'll not only be promoting children at the Couple to Couple League meeting but I've just discovered that I'm listed for a talk on vaccines.It will stimulate me to put together what I have to say about the dishonesty and even the corruption that's going on in the actionist USPHS."

He was professor of family and community medicine at Loyola University where he also taught a course in Medical Ethics.Pope John Paul II appointed him as consultant to the Pontifical Council on the Family in 1982.He was visiting professor of community and preventive medicine at New York Medical college.

Dr. Ratner was a Jewish convert to Catholicism partly because of the Church's stand on marriage and birth control.As a member of the Catholic Physicians Guild he spoke often about the "gift of a child" and the sanctity of life."Without science we all know that the pregnant woman is a woman 'with child.' This is what pregnancy is about: two human beings, two lives, the life of the mother and the life of the child, both patients of the physician."For 25 years as editor of Child and Family magazine he showed how the revelations from Scripture and from the Book of Nature do not contradict each other.

I look at those old issues of Child and Family and my heart swells.
Every so often I would write Dr. Ratner when something of mine was published which showed his influence.He would sometimes write back, sometimes phone.The time difference between Chicago and Connecticut was such that his evening calls would often find me asleep and I would try to rouse myself to coherent speech.On one such night he told me he had had a stroke, leaving him with a deficit as described in The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat.I promptly got it from the library and was introduced to a new world of neurological illnesses.I was not home the last time he called and found on my answering machine a short message which I do not recall, but ending with the never-to-be-forgotten words "I love you."

Why had it never occurred to me that he loved me?
Dr. Ratner also loved Thomas Aquinas.It is reported that three months before St. Thomas died in 1274 he said "such things have been revealed to me that all I have written seems as straw…" Nevertheless I am sure there was much divine inspiration in what they both wrote and we have much to be thankful for in "the straw" left behind.Others have chronicled the brilliance and accomplishments of Dr. Ratner over his long life.
Dr. Ratner's daughter, Mary Timothy Baggott, M.D., has edited a selection of her father's writings which were published in 2007 as Nature, The Physician, and The Family.