Rear Admiral William M. Narva, MC, USN, and Captain Mitchell Edson, MC, USN, met as members of the School of Medicine’s Class of 1956, and have remained friends throughout their adult lives. More than 50 years later, with their medical school years firmly etched in memory and their careers largely behind them, they still speak on the phone regularly.
The two met, Narva says, because “the class was an intimate class. The whole community was very close.” Narva and Edson’s first days on Cedar Street in the fall of 1952 coincided with the arrival of Dean Vernon W. Lippard, M.D. “His pitch was, ‘I’m a freshman like you are, I’m just starting like you. You’re my class—we’re going to do this together,’ ” Narva recalls. “Everybody at Yale was on your side.”
The two old friends have also joined together in giving back to Yale. Edson has generously contributed to the Annual Fund for years, and he added to this long record of support in 2005 by establishing the Mitchell Edson, M.D., Endowment for International Clinical Rotations. At that time, Edson was the gift chair for his 50th reunion, and discussions with Narva planted the seed for Narva making a new $200,000 bequest in honor of his and Edson’s 55th reunion next spring. In happy coincidences, that event falls at the close of the School of Medicine’s Bicentennial celebration and at the conclusion of the University’s five-year “Yale Tomorrow” fundraising campaign.
After medical school, Narva interned at the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) in Bethesda, Md. He then completed a three-year residency in dermatology that included stints at the U.S. Naval Hospital in San Diego and Los Angeles County General Hospital. From 1966 to 1986, as a medical officer in the Navy, he was a consulting physician to the White House and the United States Congress, and in 1986 he became Attending Physician of the United States Congress. Edson, also a career Navy man, completed residencies in surgery and urology at the St. Albans Naval Hospital in New York City, where he eventually became chief of urology in 1966. Edson subsequently became chair of the Department of Urology at the NNMC, and then at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C., where at 82 he still practices four days a week..
Although their military careers took them on different courses, the friends’ paths did cross. When Narva was assigned to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Oakland, Calif., Edson, having finished his residency, joined the Department of Urology there. Edson and Narva met again in Washington. Narva had moved from Oakland to San Diego when, “out of nowhere, I got a set of orders after eight months to go back to be the chief of dermatology at the NNMC in Bethesda,” Narva says. Soon afterwards, Edson also was assigned to Bethesda, initially to serve as assistant chief of urology.
In Washington, Narva saw and treated members of Congress, the Supreme Court, and five U.S. presidents, and Edson once had President Richard Nixon as a patient. Narva “was never intimidated by any of these folks,” he says. “Every one of them was very appreciative and compliant.” But he soon corrects himself: “Lyndon Johnson was truly an intimidating personality.”
Edson, who attends class reunions at Yale every five years, says of himself and Narva, “It was a very exciting time for us. And that’s why we feel so strongly that we should continue to support the School of Medicine, financially and in other ways.”Narva, of course, agrees: “Everybody was so receptive. Everybody was so supportive,” “It really was a pleasant, warm experience. That’s what I conjure up every time I think about New Haven and the medical school.”