Born: May 29, 1871 in Salem, North Carolina
Died: Jan. 18, 1961 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Known for: Being one of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County’s highly venerated practicing physicians in the 19th century.
Samuel Frederick Pfohl, or Dr. Fred as he was affectionately known by many of his patients, served as one of the area’s most beloved practicing physicians of general medicine for 63 years. He is credited with bringing the first cardiograph machine to the city sometime in the early 1930s after returning to his alma mater to learn the emerging study of electrocardiography. In Winston-Salem, a city filled with notable physicians, references to Pfohl frequently label him the “Patriarch of Medicine.”
He was born the fourth of six children to Christian Thomas and Margaret (Siewers) Pfohl in Salem; both the Pfohl and Siewers families played key roles in the 18th-century foundation of Salem and the Salem Boys School. Pfohl attended the Salem Boys School and then went on to study at the University of Pennsylvania, where he pursued a degree in medicine. After graduating, he spent three years at Boston Emergency Hospital to gain more clinical experience, even though internships were not required at the time.
He returned to Salem in 1897 and opened a general care practice in his
parents’ home in Salem. It was a practice he went on to keep his entire career, working from home in order to be near his family and to keep costs low. He counted R.J. and Katharine Reynolds among his patients, and delivered at least one, if not all, of their children. At the same time, published memories of the man are filled with anecdotes of him taking blankets, clothing, and food from his home to give to poor patients. He is also reported to have paid for medicines he prescribed for “charity” patients.
A local obituary summed his life up: “Though he was a man of few words, he conveyed love, understanding, and selflessness in service which can be described, not as a profession, but as a ministry.”