The Spies Clinic was a nutritional clinic operated by physician Tom Spies which studied and eventually isolated the cause of pellagra, then epidemic in the Southern United States, as a deficiency of niacin.
Spies founded his clinic at the University of Cincinnati's College of Medicine in 1935. He was recruited to expand to Birmingham's Hillman Hospital by chief physician James McLester in 1937. Spies, with help from Seale Harris, was successful in soliciting funds for the clinic's research and treatment from Alabama business leaders, many of whom viewed the disease as an impediment to labor productivity.
For his efforts in battling pellagra, Spies was named "Man of the Year" in comprehensive science by TIME magazine in 1938. In the 1940s the Spies Clinic studied the effect of supplementing children's diets with milk, with funding from the American Dry Milk Institute. Martha Hutchinson led a group of six social workers involved in the study.
By 1948 the Spies Clinic occupied three floors of the Hillman Outpatient Clinic and had expanded as well to Northwestern University in Chicago and to Havana, Cuba. With the anticipated opening of the Medical College of Alabama, dean Roy Kracke began to pressure on Spies, whom he then characterized as a "squatter", to vacate the badly-needed space in Hillman. Kracke's request was overruled by University of Alabama president John Gallalee.
In 1955 a plan was developed to use federal Hill-Burton funds to establish a freestanding Spies Clinic. The plan required Jefferson County to pledge $100,000 for the $300,000 project, and then to lease the building on the clinic's behalf.
The clinic closed upon Spies' death in 1960.
- "Leaders start plan to obtain clinic for Spies." (September 28, 1955) The Birmingham News, p. 31
- "Spies Nutrition Clinic Collection" overview at UAB Archives
- McWilliams, Tennant S. (2007) New Lights in the Valley: The Emergence of UAB. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press ISBN 0817315462