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The strange tale of Dr. Bischoff

August 28, 2016

Photo on 4-12-16 at 4.17 AM

In 1988 or 1989, soon after I had been commissioned as a pharmacist in the Indian Health Clinic in Lame Deer, Montana, on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, I recruited for an assistant pharmacist.  The prescription volume was increasing and, although I’d gotten a volunteer to help me prepare prescriptions, I needed another pharmacist.

I didn’t start out as chief pharmacist.  The person who at first held that title, Dave Miller, got discouraged when he couldn’t control me and he transferred to the Bureau of Prisons in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  Dave had recently gotten divorced and his kids lived in Ohio, so he didn’t leave just because of me.  We mostly just counted pills and read the labels to the patients.  I thought reading labels to people, whether they could read themselves, was silly.  I advocated getting to know the patients a bit better.

Soon Bob Ashmore, the Billings Area Pharmacist, gave me the name of Walter O. Scott, a pharmacist in Alabama, who had just received a commission with the U.S. Public Health Service Commission Corps as a Lieutenant.  “He seemed pleasant,” observed Bob.

I phoned one of Scott’s references at the pharmacy he was currently working in in Alabama, and a pleasant woman with a southern accent told me with a laugh, “you’ll hate him!”  I responded with a thanks, believing she was making some humor.  Soon I did hate him.  Importantly, most others in Lame Deer loved him.

No other applicants to choose from, I hired Lieutenant Scott, a great tall man, with a charming manner and mild voice.

He moved in with his beautiful family of three kids and wife.  She was second wife and the two older kids were hers by a previous marriage.

Walter proved to have some extreme views, in my opinion.

He didn’t know that before he arrived a policeman, Mr. Spottedwolf, had recently been killed in a collision with a horse near Busby.

Walter and I clashed.  He told me he doubted the veracity of most scientific evidence, especially if it concerned matters addressed in the Bible, such as creation.  The Scott family homeschooled their children.  His wife, Camilla, had long black hair.  She could almost pass for a Native American.  In fact she was listed as such by the bank who loaned them money for a home in Ashland, just off the reservation, thus proving they didn’t discriminate.  Only they did discriminate, by indiscriminately falsifying the loan application.  Walter boasted that the bank official wasn’t making a careless mistake, but was deliberate.

Once when Walter and I were discussing the burgeoning AIDS epidemic and the loss of life, he exclaimed “Good!”  I told him how horrible I thought his attitude was, but he said he thought homosexuals deserved to die for their lifestyles.  We argued about this.  I began to understand his views.

Walter bristled when I put a condom dispenser out where our patients could reach it without any interaction with us pharmacists.

Eventually, the chief pharmacy officer of the Indian Health Service, an admiral, was so impressed with this, that when he visited us he took a photograph of the dispenser.  The clinic eventually burned to the ground in 1996, but Walter had divorced and remarried by then.  He had also moved to Nixon, Nevada.

Another time, a young lady received a medicine for anxiety from one of the physicians and Walter called the girl’s mother to tell her not to allow the girl to take the medicine.  I thought this was a breech of ethics and told him so.

Surprisingly, several of the elderly Northern Cheyenne loved Walter because he made an effort to learn the Cheyenne language and practiced it whenever they came to the pharmacy.  Walter could greet them and carry on a simple conversation.  For years later, old Dan Pine asked about Walter, adding that he could “talk Cheyenne.”

Things are never so simple.  After a couple of years arguing with Walter I transferred closer to my Billings home to Crow Agency to shorten my commute from 100 to 60 miles one way.  Walter became chief at Lame Deer and hired a woman from Chicago who began phoning me, complaining that Walter made her life miserable.  He refused to do any work, making her do all of the prescription filling while he either sat at his desk doing nothing or was off somewhere at meetings.  The woman phoned me repeatedly, sometimes in tears.

During the first year of Walter’s tenure at Lame Deer the Scott family bought the house just over the border of the reservation.  Their house burned to the ground and the people of Lame Deer generously held a benefit powwow to raise money to help the family rebuild their lives.

During the next five years Walter managed to discourage the woman from Chicago until she quit; then he hired a motorcycle hippie named Tim Dodson who was uncontrollable, hence popular with everyone at the Cheyenne clinic.  Tim drove off Walter.

Walter and his wife had divorced after he caught her cheating on him.  This made one of the clinic doctors ecstatic.  Jim Bischoff, doctor of medicine, hated Walter, who hated him back.  For good reason.  Bischoff had been stealing antidepressants from the pharmacy after hours, and Walter set a trap for him.  Bischoff wasn’t all bad; he espoused the prescribing of the cholesterol-lowering drugs to prevent heart disease.  Walter was against the use of them, saying they were too expensive.

Here’s the strange part.

Walter who had high cholesterol, developed heart disease and had a heart attack within ten years.  Walter had married Anna Spottedwolf, widow of the policeman killed just before he moved away from Alabama.

Dr. Bischoff quit the public health service and became a clinic physician in a small town near Yellowstone Park.

All was well until he killed an elderly woman with an overdose of narcotic and, near the same time, Bischoff also got caught by the clinic nurses stealing narcotics after hours.

Bischoff’s wife died in an auto accident and, in order to hire a lawyer to defend himself from the narcotic charges, he attempted to rob a bank at gunpoint  and ended up in the Montana State Prison, stripped of his license to practice medicine.  He is still in prison.  The last I heard, Camilla and Anna are both alive and well, as are Camilla’s three children.

That’s how things happen.

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