By David R. Cohen | david@atljewishtimes.com

Gastroenterologist Harold Asher of Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital was recognized for 50 years at the hospital and received Emory’s Medical Staff Years of Service Award on May 21.

Dr. Harold Asher

Dr. Harold Asher

The ceremony also included the presentation of the hospital’s E. Napier “Buck” Burson Physician Award of Distinction to vascular surgeon Peter B. H’Doubler Jr.

Born and raised in south Atlanta, Asher grew up as a member of Congregation Shearith Israel and attended Emory University and Emory Medical School, from which he graduated in 1959.

His medical career includes time in the U.S. Army as the chief of medicine at Valley Forge General Hospital in Phoenixville, Pa. He rose from captain to lieutenant colonel in the service.

Asher also was a resident at Tulane University in New Orleans and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and had a gastroenterology fellowship at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

In 1965, he returned to Atlanta from Boston to work at St. Joseph’s in its former downtown location. Amid the civils rights movement, Asher got referrals from white and black people.

“Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. used to send his congregants over to St. Joseph’s,” Asher said. “Some of them couldn’t afford any care. It was an interesting period.”

St. Joseph’s was founded in 1880 and is Atlanta’s longest-serving hospital. It moved to what is now Sandy Springs in 1978 and merged with Emory in 2012.

Over the course of his 50 years with St. Joseph’s, Asher has seen many changes in gastroenterology. In 1970, he said, Atlanta had only about eight practicing gastroenterologists. Today, the area has more than 100.

“I think the biggest change I have seen was the invention of the modern colonoscope,” he said. “In 1969 I used to go to New York to visit Dr. Hiromi Shinya at Beth Israel Medical Center. He brought the first colonoscope into the country. I was going down there about every week to learn how to use that technique. The improvement of endoscopy equipment was also huge. More people are able to get medical care today, although it’s still not where it should be.”