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P&S Journal

P&S Journal: Spring 1995, Vol.15, No.2
Profiles in Giving -Professorship Honors Pioneer in Neurosurgery

"The brain is full of so many great and complicated mysteries that one could go on forever trying to find out how it works," ruminates J. Lawrence Pool'32, '40MSD, professor emeritus and retired chairman of neurological surgery at P&S.

In recognition of Dr. Pool's lifelong contributions to solving those mysteries and with gifts totaling more than $1 million, friends, colleagues, and Neurological Institute alumni have joined in creating the J. Lawrence Pool Professorship in Neurological Surgery. The chair was announced to a standing room only crowd in the new Neurological Institute Alumni Auditorium at NI Alumni Day Dec. 1, 1994.

Credited with groundbreaking work on acoustic nerve tumors, aneurysms, and arteriovenous malformations of the brain, Dr. Pool helped pioneer the fledgling discipline of neurological surgery and shepherd it to its present state of sophistication. He was among the first to perform microsurgery on cerebral aneurysms and, when a patient's heart stopped during cerebral aneurysm surgery, Dr. Pool not only saved the patient and completed the surgery, but also introduced the concept of intentionally stopping the patient's heart for such surgery, turning an operating room crisis into an advancement in medicine. His work on aneurysms culminated in the publication of the definitive and classic textbook, "Aneurysms and Arteriovenous Malformations of the Brain."

Dr. Edgar Housepian'53, a former resident and devoted disciple of Dr. Pool's and now P&S professor of clinical neurological surgery, cited Dr. Pool's extraordinary creativity and personal drive as his trademarks. "He could come up with 1,000 ideas a month, maybe 100 of which would be terrific ideas, and many of which actually came to fruition with very useful clinical applications. He was also extremely determined and demanding of himself and others. One time I came up with a surgical device that worked well but not perfectly on the first try. 'Move it over here,' Dr. Pool told me. I told him I couldn' wouldn't reach. And he said, 'Well, it has to!' And, of course, he was right. It did have to, and we had to work at it till we got it to."

Dr. Housepian chuckles while recalling, too, a certain mischievousness to Dr. Pool's teaching style. "We were doing a procedure and he said, 'Look! Look! There's the motor division. Don't you see it?' I replied that I didn't, and he smiled and said, 'I don't either.' He would have been very upset with me if I had seen it."

Donald Quest'70, professor of clinical neurological surgery and another former student of Dr. Pool's, remembers the time a fly got into a colleague's O.R. "Everyone tried and failed to catch it and shoo it out. Then Dr. Pool sauntered in with a fly swatter, hit that fly right out of the air, and calmly walked out again!"

"Brain surgery," reflects the ever-agile Dr. Pool, "demands great dexterity and concentration."

Dr. Pool has applied the same dexterity of mind and body in and outside the O.R. A two-time U.S. national squash racquets title holder, an ocean sailing racer, seaplane pilot, skier, salmon and trout fisherman, fox hunter, and painter, he is also the author of a host of peer-reviewed papers, three surgical texts, four scholarly books on various topics in American history, an autobiography titled "Adventures & Ventures of a New York Neurosurgeon," and two medical books for educated lay readers, "Your Brain and Nerves" (1973) and "Nature's Masterpiece: The Brain and How it Works" (1987).

Dean Herbert Pardes expressed the medical school's sentiments for Dr. Pool when the Pool Professorship was dedicated: "How can we adequately thank this remarkable man for the zestful intelligence he has imparted to our profession and our culture, for his leadership of the Department of Neurosurgery from 1947 to 1972 which brought global recognition to that department as the very top in its field, for his service as a dedicated and inspiring teacher, for his expertise and acumen that benefited countless patients? We hope that with the creation of the Pool Professorship, whose appointees will be chosen from among the most eminently qualified scholars and neurosurgical experts in the world, P&S will be able to demonstrate to Dr. Pool its heartfelt appreciation."

Colleagues, students, trainees, and friends are invited to participate in completing the Pool Professorship at its full funding level of $1.5 million. For information on making a gift, contact Anke Nolting at the P&S Alumni Association, (212) 305-3498.

copyright ©, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center

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