Thomas Machella, MD
The following are excerpts from a memorial tribute written by Dr. Calvin F. Kay.
Dr. Thomas D. Machella was born January 28,1910 in Eckley, Pa. After completing his studies at the Mining and Mechanical Institute in Freeland, Pennsylvania, he entered the University of Pennsylvania. He received his B.A. degree from Penn in 1931 and his M.D. in 1935. From 1935 to 1937, he was an intern and medical resident. He served as Chief Medical Resident on the service of the late Dr. 0. H. Perry Pepper from 1937 to 1938, and then as a Fellow in Experimental Physiology at the Mayo Foundation in 1938 and 1939. He returned to the University of Pennsylvania as a Fellow of the Gastrointestinal Section under Dr. T. Grier Miller in 1939. He was appointed Chief of the Gastrointestinal Clinic of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in 1948, and as Chief of the Gastrointestinal Section of the Department of Medicine in 1952, with the rank of Associate Professor of Medicine.
Dr. Machella served in the Army of the United States from 1942 to 1945 with the 20th General Hospital, stationed in Assam, India. Much of this period of service was spent in working with Chinese soldiers engaged in the North Burma Campaign. Dr. Machella distinguished himself and his unit by conducting many crucial investigations of antimalarial drugs while continuously carrying a heavy burden of clinical responsibility. In the days when atabrine was first being given, in doses that later seemed almost ridiculously small, Dr. Machella was pioneering in much larger, intravenous (doses with dramatic benefit to the many patients with malignant, cerebral malaria who came under his care. His studies of relapsing fever, scrub typhus, and intestinal parasites were most helpful in the development of military treatment policies and in the understanding of the toxicology of many drugs then newly introduced.
In all, Dr. Machella contributed 142 articles to the medical literature. These were mainly concerned with gastrointestinal physiology and the diagnosis and therapy of gastrointestinal diseases. He was perhaps the first to recognize and prove that the dumping syndrome was related to the entrance of hyperosmotic fluids into the small bowel. He made many important contributions to our knowledge of the influence of drugs, especially cholinergic agents, upon the gastrointestinal tract. He was a strong exponent of the widely accepted tenet that many major gastrointestinal problems have a psychosomatic basis.
He was one of the outstanding clinical teachers Penn's Medical School. He was also a Member of the Association of American Physicians, the American College of Physicians, the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the American Gastroenterologic Association. He had served as Secretary of the Philadelphia College of Physicians since 1957.
Dr. Machella's hobby was fishing, at which he was an expert. It is said that he was much more concerned that his companion made a fine catch than that he do so himself. Generosity was one of the outstanding features of his character. Dr. Machella married Ruth Conrad in 1944, shortly after both had been discharged from military service. He died in 1962.