A Proud Line

What started as a meandering around various spots I’ve landed in medicine led to the realization I have a pretty famous (in some circles) Grandfather.

I was actually looking for symbols and crests.  Some places I’ve been, like my medical school, have some pretty awesome crests.  The back of my new business card has crests or seals from high school, U of C and Barnes Hospital.  U of M doesn’t allow private use of its seal.

I had the privilege of studying in London part of my senior year in medical school.  Should be some great seals and crests at those places, right?

My first rotation was in cardiology at St. George’s Hospital at Hyde Park Corner, S.W.1, the most expensive piece of real estate in London.  The great white building dates to the early 1800s and was designed by the same architect that did the National Gallery

The place has a magnificent history https://www.ezitis.myzen.co.uk/stgeorgehydepark.html. Letita Elizabeth Landon, a poet of some repute in her time, penned an homage to St. George’s in 1822 https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Landon_in_The_Literary_Gazette_1822/St_George

In the late 1800s, patients were rationed 3 pints of beer a day.  The practice had fallen off by the time I got there.  Indeed, I was there for its last days as a hospital.  St.  George’s medical school had been building in Tooting, SW17, a far less fashionable (and expensive) working class neighborhood 2 postal districts over from Wimbledon (SW19).  Old St. George’s became a luxury hotel in 1980.   I stayed in Tooting and took the train into Hyde Park.  The man I came to follow – Dr. Aubrey Leatham – was one of the greats of his generation https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/dr-aubrey-leatham-lwrqqhs0vt7

He brought bedside auscultation (listing to the heart) from an art to a science by comparing what the doctor said he heard to what a machine recorded (phonocardiography).  The main attractions to me in cardiology (and they were strong attractions) were the bedside exam and electrocardiography.  I came to London as that is where the bedside exam is still well taught and revered.  Dr. Leatham was gentlemanly, precise, encouraging, and charismatic.  I felt privileged to be included in the small crowd following him around.  He’d invented a somewhat complicated and awkward stethoscope https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/leatham-stethoscope-1813889663 which I did not buy as I liked my simple Littman.  Now WorthPoint states it’s “arguably the finest stethoscope ever made”.  Would have made a great conversation piece.  And Professor Leatham was a distinguished looking fellow

My request for a place on his team was guided by my Professor at U of C, Leon Resnekov, then the star of the Cardiology Division, but very much involved in the teaching of this particular student: attentative, critical, demanding but encouraging.  He even made special arrangements to see my nurse girlfriend after I heard a click-murmur (she indeed did have mitral valve prolapse).  He knew of my independent wanderings with my friend and classmate Marty Sanders chasing down patients rumored to have interesting auscultatory findings.  He died young 14 years after I graduated, at 65. http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/930930/resnekov.shtml

Both Drs. Resenekov and Leatham passed through the National Heart Hospital in their training.  Dr. Resnekov came from Cape Town, one of several talented South Africans on faculty at U of C.  My class even did a bit on them in our Senior Skit.  Dr. Leatham spent his life on the Island.

The man who trained them both had been born of a British father in India, grew up in New Zealand, going to medical school – struggling sometimes – in Melbourne, before going back to Christchurch to start.  He clamored his way into the London hospitals and dazzled all he encountered, except for those who disliked his criticism of the older methods he found lazier and sloppier.  He became the most renowned British cardiologist of the 20th century: Paul Wood.

Dr. Wood died of an MI in 1962 at age 55.  He’d asked not to be resuscitated, which in those days would have involved cutting open his chest to massage his heart.  Defibrillators were a few years off.  Detractors blamed his insistence on being anticoagulated with heparin – controversial them – possibly taking a pericarditis situation into tamponade.  His autopsy showed a solitary obstruction in his left anterior descending artery: a widowmaker.

It was only while putting this information together to tell Mike Shea, Michigan Medicine’s finest cardiologist and a good friend and colleague of many years, that I realized the connections.  Mike spent a couple of years in London early in his career and appreciates the British tradition in Cardiology.

Mike had met Dr. Leatham.  He did not know Dr. Resnekov.  When I realized my cardiology mentors were from the Paul Wood line, I asked Mike if I could claim lineage.  Mike assured me I could.  From a straight shooter like Mike, with his great respect for the British way and Paul Wood (he still has a copy of Paul Wood’s textbook, published in the 50s), I’ll take that as an endorsement.  So, it’s like finding out you have a grandfather you never knew you had.  And a famous one at that.  Thank you, Dr. Wood.  Had cardiology remained just what you taught, with careful bedside assessment and scrutiny of the heart’s electrical signals, I might have joined your many grandsons in the field.   But the catheters you were beginning to employ to fine tune physiologic assessments became brute force tools for assessment and correction of plumbing while high stakes life-and-death scenarios became the norm.  Rheumatology has been a much better fit, but careful listening serves this field well also, and I learned that on cardiology.

Published by rike52

I retired from the Rheumatology division of Michigan Medicine end of June '19 after 36 years there. Upon hitting Ann Arbor for the second time (I went to school here) it took me almost 8 months to meet Kathy, 17 months to buy her a house (on Harbal, where we still live), and 37 months to marry her. Kids never came, but we've been blessed with a crowd of colleagues, friends, neighbors and family that continues to grow. Lots of them are going to show up in this log eventually. Stay tuned.

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