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Genius on the Edge: The Bizarre Double Life of Dr. William Stewart Halsted

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  • Posted May 6, 2010

    The Professor: A Surgical Giant On Whose Shoulders We Stand

    This book is a remarkable tour de force by Gerald Imber MD about the father of modern surgery William Stewart Halsted. I heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of medicine. Dr. Imber uses Halsteds career as also a look into the beginnings of modern scientific medicine. Such notables are named as Sir William Osler, the father of modern diagnostic medicine, William Henry Welch the who established the first pathology department and discoverer of gas gangrene, and Howard Atwood Kelly, the father of modern gynecology. It spans the time from the mid 19 century when medicine was still based on the idea of laudable pus and bad air causing infections and surgery was the ugly step sister that usually resulted in the patient expiring to the time of modern science base medicine based on germ theory, experiment and antisepsis with the majority of surgical patients surviving. Other notables Harvey Cushing the father of modern neurosurgery and Louis Pasteur are mentioned and intimately involved in this intriguing story of one of the true giants in medical history. Halsted virtually invented the modern techniques of surgery and training of modern surgeons, indeed the big four invented modern medical education in the United States at John Hopkins University. Halsted did this while fighting the demon of addiction to the drugs he help develop in fight for pain free surgery. This is a must read and will definitely go on the recommended read list.

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  • Posted April 25, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Dr. Imber contributes an excellent perspective in the history of medicine

    This work provides an extremely interesting and informative perspective on the individual growth, development, training, and professional and personal personas of one of the greatest clinicians and medical innovators, William Halsted. The story is couched within a well detailed descriptive framework of the tremendous scientific and institutional transformations occurring during Halsted's life that both allowed and propelled him to implement the advances clinical medicine attributed to him.

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  • Posted March 27, 2010

    a cutting edge novel

    If you want great insight into the history of American surgery and a nice overview of medicine in the US at the turn of the last century this is the book for you. As a surgeon, I was fascinated with both the professional and personal life of Dr.Halstead. Did you ever wonder where the association between Nip and Tuck came from? Would you operate on your mother in her kitchen? The writing is good not great. The historical events are fascinating. If you are a surgeon, this is required reading. For the rest of you it is an amazing look at American medical history.

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  • Posted March 14, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    The biography of William Halsted MD

    It is unfathomable to imagine a time in medicine when there was no sterile technique; where surgeons operated in their street clothes; where patients were fully awake and the surgeons operated as quickly as they could so that the death of the patients due to trauma or blood loss would not be counted against them; when bare handed surgery was the norm. But before William Halsted MD applied strict sterile technique, slow meticulous anatomic dissection such was the world of medicine. Indeed much of what passes as accepted routine...from grand rounds, residency... in medical education originated at the time and at the behest of Halsted.
    Having read William Osler: a Life in Medicine by Michael Bliss, I knew much of the story behind Halsted's addictions and the crucible of Johns Hopkins at the turn of the 1800s to the 1900s. Even knowing his travails, Dr. Imber has focused on Halsted in great loving detail.

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