I read with great interest the article about Charles Parry in the Fall 2006 edition of P&S.
You might find it of interest to know that Samuel C. Silverstein, M.D., professor of physiology and cellular biophysics and professor of medicine (also the former chairman of the Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics) is an accomplished mountain climber. In 1966 Dr. Silverstein was one of the leaders of an expedition that became the first to climb the highest mountain in Antarctica (while conducting research experiments). For their 40th anniversary of the event, four members from the original expedition, including Dr. Silverstein, returned to Antarctica in December 2006 to again climb a mountain, though not the same one. And my understanding is that recently some portions of mountains in the Antarctica were named after Dr. Silverstein and others from the original expedition.
Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics
Subject: Dr. Edelman’53 professional courtesy. (Fall 2006 Letters)
As a graduate of the class of ’39, I lived through the halcyon days of medical professional practice before it became corrupted by hospital companies. The advent of Medicare was a mixed blessing involving paperwork galore. Professional courtesy, almost routine, started to disappear as doctors’ families obtained insurance coverage.
Many trained physicians are forgetting their training for saving lives and have become cosmeticians. That after they have benefited from subsidized education from great universities.
On the pleasant side, I still receive special treatment as a colleague. Very flattering. I recommend you look in the parking lot and see the car your doctor is driving. If it’s a BMW, he’s a high liver. It’s not the high cost of living; it’s the cost of living high!
In 2005 you published my letter about some of the “unsung” greats on the faculty, in particular Dr. William Silverman, who had just then died. It has recently been called to my attention that a book was published recently by Ruth Levy Guyer, Ph.D., a professor of bioethics at Haverford College and a commentator on NPR. The book is titled “Baby at Risk: The Uncertain Legacies of Medical Miracles for Babies, Families and Society.” Bill is the hero of the book; the author interviewed him late in his life and dedicates the book partially to him. His pioneering role in the “birth” of neonatal intensive care (the NICU) at Babies Hospital in the 1940s and his simultaneous probing of their medical and social consequences is recounted in this volume. “Pandora’s Baby,” a 2004 Cold Spring Harbor book by Robin Marantz Henig, tells the bittersweet story of Dr. Landrum B. Shettles (1909-2003), a P&S professor of obstetrics and gynecology. Dr. Shettles pioneered photographic records of human embryo development among other areas and might well have invented in vitro fertilization (IVF) at Columbia in the early 1970s if that had not been considered too radical by the medical establishment of the time. His story was also recently told in a PBS television documentary. During the last year in addition to my day job, I have also become the acting NIH historian and in this role encounter many fascinating personal stories, in each of the major medical centers, that constitute our heritage.
Alan N. Schechter’63
Our class arrived in the fall of 1947. Many of us were veterans of WWII. Imagine our discomfort when we arrived in the histology room to find ourselves arranged at long benches in strict alphabetical order. Kindergarten all over again. A sample: Chevious-Christy-Close. Us grizzled ex-warriors had made no progress. Wrong. The alphabet threw us together; it worked fine. Bill Close and I became good friends, so much so that he sent me a copy of his most recent book. My aim with this letter is to hope you will read it. Excitement, humor, “inside” history, and much else. He’s written three books about rural practice in Wyoming. From the writing of those three, he taught himself to write good stories: short, funny, moving, instructive. In this fourth book, “Beyond the Storm: Treating the Powerless and the Powerful in Mobutu’s Congo/Zaire” (2006, Meadowlark Springs Productions, Marbleton, Wyo.), the text embraces several themes, the most dramatic and instructive being the account of Close’s 16 years as an intimate associate of Mobutu Sese Seko, president of Congo. Other main themes are his surgical training in New York City, the difficulties of a family when the father is passionately devoted to his work, short accounts of famous people involved in African political matters, anecdotes about patient-doctor encounters in ordinary and exotic settings, etc. All this Close has harmonized into an exciting account. He vividly brings to life Congolese patients, small children and very older folks, and upscale politicians, European, American, and African. What sticks in memory is the rise and fall of Mobutu. As physician to the president of Congo, chief physician of a huge hospital in the capital, and much else, Close had a unique and delicate position as personal physician to the boss and as candid adviser. Delicate, tricky, uncomfortable. Read it. You’ll love it.
I wonder if a present-day premed student has to sacrifice too much? Can he get a “liberal education” to make his life more fulfilled (philosophy, history, literature, etc.) or, because of the tremendous increase in scientific knowledge, is it his “duty” to concentrate on science courses? This seems to be a dilemma that is not discussed enough.
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