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Oral History Interview with Dr. Stanley Hand, Jr.

Dr. Stanley Hand Jr. pictured third from the right and to the left of his wife Joanne Hand in this Hand family wedding photo.

My name is Stanley Hand, Jr. and I was born in Louisville, KY. My dad was in WWII when I was born. I was born in May of 1943. He was a B-17 pilot stationed in England. He went on 25 missions and I never saw him until I was about a year and a half old when he came back. He decided to make a career in the Air Force and so growing up we moved several times. I’m told by my parents that we moved 35 times growing up and I went to 18 different schools. And part of my schooling was here in Orlando because he was originally stationed at Orlando Air Force Base…

LISTEN  Part I  (18:06)

Orlando Air Force Base

Orlando Air Force Base has now become Baldwin Park. And at that time it was the only Air Force Base in existence that was not associated with its own airfield. And they had to go to Herndon for their airplanes to take off and on. So I went to middle school in Winter Park at that time. And then we came back to Orlando in the late 50’s and he was stationed at then called Pine Castle Air Force Base. And we were here when Colonel McCoy crashed and people were killed during that accident and it became McCoy Air Force Base.

Howard Junior High School and Boone High School

I lived with my dad and mom on McCoy Air Force Base and at that time there were only four houses out there. And because he was the Director of Operations for the Bomb Wing, he had to live on the base. And a school bus would come and take me and another person to school. I went to Howard Junior High School and also Boone High School. And during my senior year at Boone we were transferred to Tampa so I wasn’t able to actually, officially graduate from Boone. But they have accepted me in their class. So I tell everybody I graduated from Boone High School in 1961.

Extern at Orange Memorial Hospital

And then because our family is from Kentucky I went to Louisville to school pre-med and medical school. And it was during medical school that I became an extern at Orange Memorial.

And so I was there in the summer of 1968. 

50th Dedication of Orange Memorial Hospital

And usually wherever I go I keep little memorabilia of that exposure. And I came across this Orange Memorial folder that I have. I found this Orange Memorial Press. And I noticed that it was a small newspaper that the hospital did and that during the time that I was at Orange Memorial as an extern they had their 50th dedication of the hospital.

So I know some of the folks that are in administration at ORMC. I told them about this and they got all excited about this because I actually was present during the 50th dedication of the hospital. So, I guess, I don’t know if it is certain, but I’m probably the oldest person probably still living who has a history going all the way back 50 years to Orange Memorial. 

Externship in the Morgue and Emergency Room

While I was a junior in medical school they allowed students at that time to do externships. It is sort of like shadowing doctors. I actually was paid for doing this. I actually was a member of the staff at that time. And the first part of my exposure there was in the morgue. And they had me bring the dead bodies from other parts of the hospital down into the bowels of the hospital where I would do the autopsies and so I really started at the bottom you might say. And I was so fortunate to be able to leave that area and they put me in the emergency room. So I was sort of a gopher in the emergency room. And I got to see a lot of the cases that came in and work with a lot of the interns who were there.

Cuban Doctors Intern at Orange Memorial Hospital for Medical Training in the United States

And it’s strange, at that time, this was after the Cuban [Missile] Crisis and a lot of the Cuban doctors escaped from Cuba; but when they came to the United States they had to redo all of their training. So on looking at this 50 year old little paper here and opening it up and looking at the interns at that time, they were all middle age or younger, certainly older than I was at that time. They were all Cuban.

Orange Memorial Express, July 1968, newspaper featuring photos of Orange Memorial Interns. Doctors from Cuba had to repeat their medical training and work as interns in order to practice medicine in the United States.

And I noticed that Dr. Alfonso was a third year resident in medicine at that time. And when I came back to practice medicine here in Orlando in 1979 I knew of him from my exposure back in 1968 and it turned out that he was my neighbor across the street. And some of the other folks that I recognized on here, Dr. Robert Howard, was a first year resident, surgery. He went on to have a great plastic surgery career and I’ve been on mission trips with him. And Dr. Leroy Ochen, at that time was a third year resident in urology, and I have worked with him when I was at Nemours Children’s Clinic here in Orlando. So it’s amazing how when you go back in time that the associations that you make as a very young medical student come back to be relevant to those individuals that you may work for later in your practice.

J. Thomas Gurney

The other thing that’s really interesting about this “Orange Memorial Press”, July 1968, was they were introducing new people onto their board and J. Thomas Gurney at that time came onto the board. He was a fantastic person in Orlando and I knew him through our church. He went to First Baptist Church. And not only that, but he was a friend of my family’s and I’m very glad that I had that association with him.

Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital Founder

So my initial exposure to Orange Memorial, Orlando Regional Hospital, Orlando Health System has been from a very small, nascent beginning when I worked at Orange Memorial. It wasn’t anything like it is now.  When I finished my medical training, which included an ophthalmology residency and a fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology, I came back here and started my practice in 1979. And at that time the pediatric ward on the seventh floor was the only thing that was working in the area of pediatrics. And so, I was fortunate to get acquainted with several doctors. We each contributed money for a feasibility study to develop a children’s hospital. And that eventually became Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital. So I was on the founding group of pediatric physicians which sought and, thankfully, got a pediatric hospital in Orlando. And at that time, at the beginning time, it was very difficult to raise the money required to do all that. And if it hadn’t been for Arnold Palmer who saw this vision and who was able to involve all of his associates in this we would not have the hospital that we have now. And that was a great accomplishment that he did for our community and for the children of Central Florida.

I’ve been a pediatric ophthalmologist here since ’79

So this, starting in 1968 and going all the way through today, I’ve been a pediatric ophthalmologist here since ’79.

I still practice. I’m semi-retired. I gave up operating when I turned 70, five years ago and I don’t have any admitting privileges now for the hospital. But I still have the clinic. I still see patients. I see the children of the ones I operated on 30-40 years ago. And so, I’m very happy the Lord has given me this ability to continue my practice. And so, I’ve finally come to a point where I’m ready to retire. So we have set a date for my retirement as an ophthalmologist. It is February 20, 2020. So it will be 2-20-2020. So that’ll be great for an ophthalmologist to retire in 2020.

You mentioned what your father did, what did your mother do for a living?

Well, when you are a wife of a military commander, and he was always a commander of something, whether it was a squadron or a group, or a wing, your responsibilities were to support the wives of his men and his unit. So when you asked what she did, I’ll give you a couple of examples. When we were stationed in Massachusetts she formed and organized a kindergarten. When we were in Reno, Nevada my dad had a unit that was an air rescue, and they were learning how to fly C-47’s which are DC-3’s a hundred feet off of the surface; what they call, “off the deck”. And their mission was to take these cargo planes into the areas where someone had been shot down, and because you can’t be detected at that low altitude, they were learning how to do this. And as a consequence, several of the aircraft crashed. And it was her job along with the chaplaincy to go in and minister to the families of those that lost their husband. So that made a big impression on me.   

I think she worked pretty hard.

There was always organizations of military wives that she was part of. 

And not only did she have to pack multiple times, move multiple times, but if you’ve ever had to do that you know what a thrill that is. And most of the time during these packings, my dad was at work or he was gone. And, of course, she had to raise me, you know. Because I was always moving from one school organization to another I was either way ahead of the people I was going to, or I was way behind. So she was actually a tutor for me. I’m an only child. So she put a lot of her efforts into raising me. I think she worked pretty hard.

Did you have meals at home as a family?

We always ate at home. She always had dinner. And she had to entertain a lot, especially when my dad was air rescue and was part of the headquarters. That entailed a lot of entertaining other people that would come to Orlando. You know, wherever we lived, I remember there being a lot of work in finding places to take people or to have them to our homes. Because it is a very social atmosphere, the military is. Even though it is constrained to the military people, there’s a lot of socialization that goes on.

LISTEN  Part II  (19:56)

What was a typical Sunday like for you growing up?

Well, a typical Sunday was the church. Every place we went we tried to find a Southern Baptist Church. We very seldom went to the chaplaincy on the base. I remember one time my mother was invited to teach Sunday School to my age group so she did that. And so, growing up my dad always felt that his relationship to God and his faith in God was important to him because of the dangerous job he had. And he was a believer in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. I was baptized early on when I was eleven. And it was his faith walk that helped him in his decision making a lot of the time, and what he did with the men that were under him. Most people that served with my dad would comment about not only him being a hard person to work for, because he expected you to do your job, but he was fair. He was always fair. And I think this was related to his faith. And so, a typical Sunday would be going to church, Sunday School and church, and us coming home and having something to eat.

My faith in the church and my relationship with Christ is a very important part of my medical practice.

When I came to Orlando and my dad retired, I think he retired in like ’68 or ’69, something like that, he had been a deacon at First Baptist Church in Orlando and that’s where I met my wife. I looked up one day and there she was in the choir.

Joanne Hand and her husband, Dr. Stanley Hand Jr. celebrate Fourth of July at First Baptist Church in Orlando.

And so, my faith in the church and my relationship with Christ is a very important part of my medical practice. I have always tried to pray with the families of those who were getting ready to let their children come under the care of me in surgery. In all the many years that I operated on [patients], I only had twice where people didn’t want me to pray for them. When you’re putting your six month old or your two year old under anesthesia and somebody’s working on their eyes, I think  they really want to feel like God is there and is helping. And so, it’s been part of my practice, my faith.   

Did you know your grandparents?

Sure. I knew my grandparents. My grandparents on my father’s side, because we were in the military and we moved so much, I didn’t know my Hand grandparents very well. My mother’s grandparents I knew very well because we would always go home for the summers to be with them. Wherever we lived, we went to Louisville to be with their family. And my Grandparent Soup was their name, was an entrepreneur. He formed a bus line which became part of Greyhound. He had rights to a drink he called Ocean Breeze which became 7Up. He had oil wells. he sold cars. He would come to Miami during the winter to escape the cold weather in KY, but particularly because he liked the horse races. He was a cowboy when he was 16 out in Colorado. And so, he was a very interesting character.

Was your Grandfather Hand in the military?

No. None of these folks were. My dad got interested in the military because his older brother Frank was a mechanic and learned how to fly. And Uncle Frank at one time before the war was a barn burner. And he would go around in these post WWI aircraft and take people for rides. You know, circle the town, get a lot of people out in a pasture, land, and take them for a ride for a quarter. And one of  these times, my dad, who was maybe 10 or 12, went with him. And they called my dad Shorty because he was short in comparison to other people that age. So Uncle Frank told dad to get up in the cockpit, because you had to start the airplanes by hand cranking them. So he told dad to get up there in the cockpit and when he cranked it, to punch the button. And so, he cranked the engine up, dad pushed the button and the airplane started moving with my Uncle Frank outside, my dad in the cockpit, and the passengers in the back. And my dad didn’t know what to do. He’s coming up toward the end of the field there; he figured out, oh well, if I push this button to start it, I”ll push this button to stop it. So he did. And Frank pulled him out. And that’s when he became interested and in love with aviation.

8th Air Force – Bomber Command in England

And so, when dad went to University of Kentucky, he went there specifically to join the Air Force. He wanted to be an Air Force pilot. So in 1939, when they came, he was a junior at the time and they said, you know, “Do you want to join?” So he joined before and actually went into the war and helped to form what became the 8th Air Force which became one of the Bomber Commands in England. And so, he’s been part of that history.

Unfortunately, he’s dead. He died when he was 97. So I’m part of the 8th Air Force Historical Society. I go once a year to an annual meeting with members who are left from the group and squadron that he was with. And I think there are like four now that are left out of all those thousands of people in our little area. Now the 8th Air Force, there are actually over a hundred of these men that meet, but in our little area, there’s about four left.

Your father also served as Executive Director of the Florida Council of 100…

Yes, that’s what got him out of the military…. When dad was the SAC Wing Commander at McCoy, he would set up a program to invite the economic leaders in his area to come out and learn about the mission and to see some of the aircraft. And at the time, the man that was the head of Minute Maid was a man by the name of Ben Ulrich and he struck up a relationship with him. So the Council of 100 rotates the presidency every year. And when Mr. Ulrich became the president, he asked my dad to be the Executive Director. And so, that’s how my dad decided to retire and do this because it was great job. Then he got different other jobs from that and he retired as the Executive Director of Florida Concrete Products Association. So he’s actually had several retirements if you will, but that’s how that happened.

I did see his name mentioned in some of the Sentinel articles relating to developments in this area.

It’s interesting, when my dad was the wing commander that was about the time that they were landing 707’s in different places.

Colonel Robert W. Strong Jr., USAF Commander of McCoy Air Force Base, left, and Orlando Mayor Bob Carr, center, wish Colonel Stanley I. Hand, Commander 321st Support Group McCoy Air Force Base, a happy birthday in this 1959 photo.

And so, I think it was Mayor Carr, I’m not sure about that, that asked dad if he couldn’t ask the SAC Headquarters people if they couldn’t use these long runways out at the airbase. And so, my dad was instrumental in allowing that to happen. And, in fact, it was through his work that the government allowed McCoy to become Orlando International Airport. And so, he was kind of like the go-between the government, the Air Force, SAC, and the local government in establishing that. So that was a great accomplishment for them. They had two long runways and they did give one of them to the city for a dollar. I thought that was interesting, they sold the runway for a dollar.

When did you start writing for The Sentinel and how did that happen?

I had several summer jobs off of medical school. And one of the professors told me that I had a better chance of getting what I wanted, which was ophthalmology, if I could show some extra nonscientific background in something. My journalism career actually began when I would write little pieces about the Teen Club for the McCoy Air Force Base paper. And then in high school, I was on the staff of the yearbook and I had to write descriptions of parts of the yearbook. And I was always interested in this. And so, because of my dad’s association with the people in Orlando, he got me a job at “The Sentinel Star”. And my first job duty there was to write obituaries for the Sentinel. And also to act as a person who knew what was written in the paper.

So my job started on the night desk, and there was a guy named Fred Bishop, who was a local reporter at that time who went on to be a local newscaster for one of the TV stations. I became friends with him. But anyway, eventually it went from obituary writing to one time the person who was to write about the movies went on vacation, and so I got to look at all the information that they give you about the movies. I wrote for a couple of weeks, articles about which movie to go see and what it was about; who these people were. And finally, they gave me a byline. 

Wilson C. McGee, Editorial Director of “The Orlando Sentinel” congratulates Stanley Hand Jr. on his first byline in this interoffice memo, June 30, 1964.

And the first assignment that I had was to go to Rotary Club and report on what the Rotary Club was saying… but the big thing, the big byline that I had was they had a Sunday insert about people in the community who they wanted to feature. And I got to write about Ivey’s Department Store because Ivey’s Department Store had an escalator. And this was the first time that there was anything like this in Orlando. So I would have to look at the article to remember who the person was in charge of Ivey’s, but I went there and I interviewed him and we went through the store and I got pictures of everything. He ended up on the front page.

But that was really exciting. I enjoyed it. I had a great time in learning about the newspaper and interviewing people and writing. So, I guess, that was a career I could have followed if I hadn’t gone into medical school….

It was more or less small town then…

Oh, yes, yes. I mean, you know, they had Colonial Plaza and T.G. Lee Dairy. It really was a dairy. There was nothing out there but cows. And what became Semoran & 436 was a two lane road. And there were many roads in Orlando back then that were dirt roads. I mean, this was a little Mayberry Place: citrus, agriculture, and, of course, Martin Marietta, that was it. There was no Disney.

LISTEN Part III  (21:09)

What influence did Martin Marietta have on this community?

Oh, it was the industrial reason for Orlando. It brought the engineers in here and it brought the economy in here. That and citrus were the primary reasons for Orlando. You know, back then if you said you were from Orlando, Florida nobody knew where that was. And then after Disney came, then they all knew where Orlando was because of Disney… Pre-Disney, 50’s and 60’s, that was when Martin Marietta came into the area. A lot of the military men when they retired went to work for Martin. 

Was your dad connected to some of those people because some people worked at Martin and at the military installation?

I’m sure he knew about them. He knew the head of Martin.

When you look now at these pieces in terms of the development of the medical community…

It’s fantastic! Oh, my gosh, yes! I mean, you have the medical school here – that was just a miracle for that to have developed. And for the community to have supported it in the way they did monetarily. The medical school will be eventually if not already the leaders in our community. It’s still colloquial in the sense that Orlando Health controls the south part of town and Florida Hospital controls the north part of town. And I’m not taking away from any of those two organizations because they have grown throughout Central Florida both of them. You wouldn’t be able to have the quality of medical people here without those two hospitals. I mean, when I was here it was Florida Sand, Florida Sanitarium, and Orange Memorial was just nothing on Orange Avenue. And so, the fact that they became two huge organizations giving healthcare. And then the UCF medical school, that’s a biggie, that was a biggie. And what will become out at Lake Nona. It’s a little early now to say that, but in 20 years that will be really an outstanding medical community of its own. To have the VA Hospital, to have Nemours out there, to have a hospital that’s connected with the university. It does take away some of ORMC’s and FL Hospital- because they will eventually be competing for interns, for residences, for fellows, so eventually it will probably be the star in the area where as now it’s not quite yet.

Would you agree that just as Martin brought some of the top engineers and scientists in the world to this area that now today in Central Florida we have some of the top medical professionals internationally?


And so, that is another landmark on the global map.

Absolutely. I don’t know if it will ever be like Miami. Miami draws from Central and South America. I don’t know if it will ever be that huge. But it has the potential of reaching to more than just Central Floridians. Ophthalmology has not risen in this community like heart surgery, like intrauterine pediatric surgery for example. Like the robotic program that Florida Hospital has for robotics that they could bring in someone like the doctor from Ohio State to do prostatectomies under robotic surgery, but it has the potential, absolutely. And as long as we can continue as a nation without having another civil war, the things that are about ready to happen to medicine are explosive. All the nano techniques from medicine, all the stem cell techniques that are on the horizon… all of the changes of your DNA to avoid having all the genetic illnesses, we’re just on the cusp of learning how to do that. But it does require a certain amount of stability. And when you look at our culture, we seem to be so divided… we need a political person that’s a unifier and not a divider. and the last two presidents that we’ve had were both dividers… We’re all Americans regardless of what your beliefs are or your color is….

Regulation in the Medical Industry

The medical practice like the banking industry has been totally changed because of rules and regulations. And most of these have been because some bureaucrat decided to do something without asking the person involved. For example, I was with a large children’s group here which I won’t name, but it was a compilation of almost all pediatric sub specialists. And so, whether you had a heart problem, a lung problem, a kidney problem, an eye problem, an ear problem, whatever problem you had, you could come to this organization and be treated. And decisions were made on a bureaucratic level against really what the physicians thought was correct. And that’s why there was a big turnover. A lot of doctors who belonged to them got out, quit. So when you have rules and regulations that require you to run through…. It seems that the more progressive we’ve become, the more regulated we’ve become. 

In medicine, that’s really – I go to doctors now and before I see my doctor he pulls out his computer and starts writing all this stuff in his computer or they pay somebody to do all that in the computer. And when I get a referral from a doctor and I ask for their medical records, I get 15 pages of this stuff which doesn’t mean anything…. The sophistication of technology as changed the people aspect of it… So, I think, what helps me in meeting different people in my practice is that we’re all made in the image of God. We’re all his children and so, we all should be respected regardless of what we choose to be.

And it’s the same in the church. I’m grateful that the church that I go to has a multiplicity of people in the church. We have Brazilian, we have Spanish, we have other cultures. When the problem with the Pulse occurred, it was our church that opened its doors to have a prayer for all the people in the Pulse. That was a horrible thing right down the road. That was horrible. So, it’s not the way it was. It can’t be the way it was when you have the television, when you have the computers, when you have all this information that you can find out about. It’s never going to be that way again. What you have to do is accept where you are and I know it’s a cliche, but to bloom where you are planted. To be open to other people and to be able to communicate without cutting the other person off. Would I go back to the way it was? No. I couldn’t be practicing here. I couldn’t be practicing if there wasn’t a children’s hospital here. I couldn’t be having the advanced medical care that I need as a 75 year old person. It’s so much better in so many different ways….      

I think one of the reasons you enjoy living here is your grandchildren. When I arrived they at your office hey said your grandchildren were here last night.

I have nine grandchildren. One family has six, the other family has three, and they’re all with an hour’s drive. So I’m very fortunate….

Dr. Stanley Hand Jr. pictured third from the right and to the left of his wife Joanne Hand in this Hand family wedding photo.


Interview: Dr. Stanley Hand, Jr.

Interviewer: Jane Tracy

Date: August 15, 2018

Place: Dr. Hand’s Office, 1622 S Orange Ave, Orlando, FL 32806.

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Family of Dr. Stanley Hand

Family of Dr. Stanley Hand.

Strong, Carr and Hand

Colonel Robert W. Strong Jr., USAF Commander of McCoy Air Force Base, left, and Orlando Mayor Bob Carr, center, wish Colonel Stanley...

Mr. and Mrs. Hand

Mr. and Mrs. Hand


Wilson C. McGee, Editorial Director of "The Orlando Sentinel" congratulates Stanley Hand Jr. on his first byline in this interoffice memo, June...

Dr. Hands 1968 Cuban Interns

Dr. Hands 1968 Cuban Interns

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