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"History is who we are and why we are the way we are."
– David McCullough

Abstracts of Talks 2014-2015

The Life and Surgical Firsts of Michael E. DeBakey, M.D.

George P. Noon, M.D.Date: Sept. 3, 2014

Speaker: George P. Noon, M.D., Professor of Surgery, Division of Transplant and Assist Devices, Baylor College of Medicine

Abstract: Dr. Michael E. DeBakey was a surgeon, educator, inventor, innovator, soldier, statesman, humanitarian and philanthropist. This presentation will discuss some of Dr. DeBakey's accomplishments as a medical student, an Army officer in the Surgeon General's Office during World War II, and his arrival in Houston in 1948. He directed the development of cardiovascular surgery in the Texas Medical Center, at Baylor University College of Medicine and The Methodist Hospital. He played a seminal role in obtaining NIH funding for the development of the artificial heart and cardiac assist devices. As president he lead the change of Baylor University College of Medicine to Baylor College of Medicine in an effort to increase funding opportunities for Baylor College of Medicine, which was successful. His numerous awards and citations include The Congressional Gold Medal of Honor presented by President George Bush.

Medical Care and Learning During the American Civil War: The Horror and the Hope

Eugene Boisaubin, M.D. Date: Sept. 30, 2014 (Tuesday)

Speaker: Eugene Boisaubin, M.D., Professor of Medicine, The University of Texas Medical School at Houston

Abstract: Although America declared its independence in 1776, the Civil War was the defining experience that created our nation. But even today the causes and outcomes of that war permeate American culture and politics. The Civil War was also the greatest healthcare crisis in our nation's history. In 1861, 122 physicians were enrolled in both armies but by 1865, the number was over 10,000. Existing American medicine was primitive with minimal formal education and the profession, as the country, was totally unprepared for the tidal wave of carnage and associated diseases that followed. Although not a medical or surgical renaissance, the Civil War did afford countless opportunities for advances in treatment and care

The Quest for Certainty in Medicine

Garabed Eknoyan, M.D. Date: Nov. 5, 2014

Speakers: Garabed Eknoyan, M.D., Professor of Medicine-Nephrology, Baylor College of Medicine

Abstract: Throughout most of history medical knowledge has been descriptive, derived from the personal experience of healers pursuing careful but often chance observations. With the advent of writing and then printing, these individual findings were generalized, authoritatively composed, and dogmatically transmitted. This, coupled with divine determinism, defined medical knowledge through the 16th century. The gradual erosion of this scholastic edifice began with the introduction of the basic sciences and the analysis of tabulated demographic data in the 17th century. While clinicians applauded these mathematical contributions, there remained resistance to their application to the study of disease and therapy. The "numerical method" of Pierre Louis (1787-1872) first introduced systematic quantification into clinical medicine in the 19th century. The subsequent adoption of probability calculus for the analysis of quantifiable data refined the process and led to the gradual emergence of medical statistics and the introduction of clinical trials in the 1950s. Since then, mathematical precision has established certainty in medicine, and ultimately changed the conjectural art of empirical medical practice to a disciplined science founded on clinical investigation.

The Birth of the Science of Immunology

Armond S. Goldman, M.D. Date: Dec. 3, 2014

Speaker: Armond S. Goldman, M.D., Professor Emeritus, Department of Pediatrics, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

Abstract: The birth of the science of immunology required a long gestation and discoveries in many basic sciences. The last initiating event was Pasteur's demonstration in the early1860s that infectious agents did not generate spontaneously but were transmissible. Twenty years later Pasteur found that immunizations with altered microbial pathogens prevented those same infections in certain species. Soon thereafter, the biological bases of immunological protections were discovered by Metchnikoff (cellular immunity), Bordet (complement), and Ehrlich (antibodies). How these discoveries were made and how they influenced the subsequent uncovering of the vast complexity of the immune system will be discussed.

Advanced Surgical Contributions of Early Middle Eastern Physicians

Kenneth L. Mattox, M.D.,Date: Jan. 7, 2015

Speaker: Kenneth L. Mattox, M.D., Distinguished Service Professor, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Baylor College of Medicine

Abstract: The cradle of civilization was in the fertile crescent of the Middle East, from the Caspian Sea through what, today, is Azerbijahn, Armenia, Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Israel and Egypt. It is not surprising that the early shamen, physicians and scientists of this region should also make important discoveries, invent instruments and therapies, and create educational aids that have modern day implications. What is surprising is that it would take us so very long to discover these important "early contributions." One major reason is that prior to the invention of the printing press, all such written history, including medical history, was written in a few books, by hand, in Arabic (and other non-Latin or English) language. Such writing was unavailable to the writers and historians of Europe or early America.

Between the 7th and 15th centuries, many Middle Eastern physicians and scientists made sentinel contributions to the art and science of medicine, especially EMS, emergency medicine, education, surgical instruments, public health, establishment of hospitals, and surgical technique. The drawings of the era are particularly descriptive of anatomy, physiology and therapy.

Although more than a score of medical leaders are part of this era's wave of innovators, no one was more aggressive in his many contributions than Ibn Nafis, who wrote many books on medicine and law, established the Almansouri Hospital in Cairo Egypt, and accurately described the circulation several centuries prior to William Harvey.

Truman G. Blocker Jr., M.D.: A Superlative Man

Robert O.  MarlinDate: Feb. 4, 2015

Speaker: Robert O. Marlin, Archivist, Moody Medical Library, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

Abstract: Told by his mother at the age of four that he would one day be a surgeon, Dr. Truman G. Blocker Jr. recalled "there was never any doubt in my mind" that would be true. What he could not know was that the path to his dream would entail a pregnant cat, the Galveston Police, an organized crime boss, and chasing ambulances to the emergency room. Dr. Blocker served his country during World War II and his experience in treating mass casualties proved valuable during the Texas City Disaster. This presentation will be a biographical overview of a superlative student, surgeon, administrator and historian.

Illness in the White House: The Health of the U.S. Presidents

Andrew DuPont, M.D. Date: March 4, 2015

Speaker: Andrew DuPont, M.D., Associate Professor, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Abstract: Despite access to the best health care, U.S. presidents in general have died at ages earlier than expected for males who had reached a similar age as the presidents. During this lecture, some of the reasons for this phenomenon will be discussed, which include physical and emotional stress and iatrogenic factors. In addition, the medical and psychological complications of five past presidents will be presented. Some of the topics discussed will include the death of George Washington; the gastrointestinal, cerebrovascular and neurologic complications of Woodrow Wilson; Calvin Coolidge's depression; Franklin Roosevelt's congestive heart failure and health state at the time of his final reelection; and the full public awareness of Dwight Eisenhower's myocardial infarction.

Annual John P. McGovern Lecture and Banquet Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the UT McGovern Center

An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted and the Miracle Drug Cocaine

Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D. Date: March 17, 2015
Place: La Colombe d'Or Banquet Hall, 3407 Yoakum Blvd (map and directions). Reservations required. Please RSVP to
Time: Cocktails 6:30 p.m., Dinner 7 p.m., Presentation 8 p.m.

Speaker: Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D., George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine and Director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan

Abstract: Medical historian Howard Markel describes the astonishing account of the years-long cocaine use of Sigmund Freud, young, ambitious neurologist, and William Halsted, the equally young, pathfinding surgeon. Markel writes of the physical and emotional damage caused by the then-heralded wonder drug, and how each man ultimately changed the world in spite of it—or because of it. One became the father of psychoanalysis; the other, of modern surgery. An Anatomy of Addiction tells the tragic and heroic story of each man, accidentally struck down in his prime by an insidious malady: tragic because of the time, relationships and health cocaine forced each to squander; heroic in the intense battle each man waged to overcome his affliction as he conquered his own world with his visionary healing gifts.

Medical Quackery – All But Eternal

Donald M. Marcus, M.D. Date: April 1, 2015

Speaker: Donald M. Marcus, M.D., Professor Emeritus of Medicine-Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology, Baylor College of Medicine

Abstract: In the 19th century, medicine in the United States was a jungle; there were no regulations governing the safety or efficacy of medicines, or qualifications for practicing medicine. Patent medicines contained large amounts of alcohol, opiates or cocaine, and sweeping claims were made for the healing powers of magnetism and electricity. Despite remarkable progress in medicine in the 20th century, modern versions of patent medicines remain popular, as do some traditional healing practices that lack supporting evidence and expose people to severe adverse events.

The History of Vitamin B12 and Pernicious Anemia: An Interesting Cast of Characters

David A. Sears, M.DDate: May 6, 2015

Speaker: David A. Sears, M.D., Professor Emeritus of Medicine-Hematology and Oncology, Baylor College of Medicine

Abstract: The first written description of pernicious anemia (PA) is attributed to Thomas Addison in his classical 1835 monograph, "The Constitutional and Local Effects of Diseases of the Suprarenal Capsules" (the "real" Addison's disease). Thus the identification of PA was a classic within a classic. In the following half century additional Lab to William Castle whom some of us "seniors" remember from scientific meetings in the mid-to-late 20th century. In 1960 Oxford's Dorothy Hodgkin won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for the x-ray crystallographic demonstration of the 3-dimensional structure of cobalamin (B12). This talk will deal mostly with bits of information and anecdotes about this interesting "cast of characters" involved in the evolution of our understanding of vitamin B12 and pernicious anemia.

* Audio clips and transcripts courtesy of Adept Word Management, Inc.