A century and a millennium

DAB Matula Thoughts October 4, 2019

A century and a millennium

Michigan urology begins its centennial celebration
2087 words

One.

But first, consider what happened in 1623. Horace Davenport, the great American physiologist, University of Michigan educator, and de facto historian of the Medical School asked that question when he introduced physiology to a class of medical students. This story has been told here before, but it deserves repetition for each new generation of trainees as well as for the rest of us, who tend to forget Davenport’s lesson. The prize for the correct answer, Davenport said, would be an “A” for the class with no further expectations – no attendance, no labs, no homework, or exams.

The medical students scrambled with answers, all erroneous and some ridiculous, but no one came close to the correct one – the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio in 1623. After the playwright died in 1616, friends collected his works, many printed in smaller books called quartos, and they published the First Folio, actually titled Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. This consisted of 38 plays and over 150 poems, in addition to Shakespeare’s portrait by Martin Droeshout, one of two authentic images of the author. Of the 750 copies printed, 223 survive and 82 are in the Folger Collection in Washington, DC.
Davenport’s point was that the practice of medicine doesn’t play out in isolation, it is part of the context of life, the unique circumstances of humanity with its individual stories, dramas, aspirations, co-morbidities, and accomplishments. William Shakespeare’s work encompassed the range and depth of the human condition more completely than any artist before or since.

Before learning physiology, much less practicing medicine, Davenport claimed, the human condition must be studied to the extent best possible by each of us although the “self-awareness” of humanity as a species can never be complete. Self-awareness requires some sense of time and place, and these senses are enhanced by knowledge of history. The history we each know may be reality or mythical, a distinction that good historians just as good scientists work to discern. The arts help navigate the ambiguities of that distinction.

 

Two.

And what happened in 1919? One hundred years ago, Hugh Cabot, Michigan’s first urologist and new chair of the surgery department arrived in Ann Arbor and performed his first operative procedures at the University of Michigan. Cabot’s first specific urologic cases in Ann Arbor have not yet been identified, but a letter in the papers of UM President HB Hutchins of 1919 explains the successful appendectomy on a patient known to and likely referred by Hutchins “in the Surgical Clinic October 13.” This was Cabot’s second day at work and he helpfully told Hutchins:

“Since the operation patient has progressed very satisfactorily and we see no reason why he should not make an uneventful recovery. Twenty-four hours later this case would have been a complicated one, and the prognosis would not have been as hopeful.”

The letter was typed on stationary that read: University of Michigan, Department of Surgery, University Hospital (nearly identical to what this senior author found on arrival to the Medical School and Hospital 65 years later, although the names were different). The faculty listed in 1919 were C.G. DARLING. M.D. GENERAL SURGERY; I.D. LOREE. M.D. GENITO-URINARY SURGERY, C.L. WASHBURN. M.D. ORTHOPEDIC SURGERY; AND C.J. LYONS. D.D.Sc. CONSULTING DENTIST.

Ira Dean Loree was Michigan’s principal genitourinary surgeon up until that time in the small Surgical Department, although his senior, CG Darling, also did work in that emerging subspecialty as well. If stationary is to reflect mindset, neither Darling nor Loree embraced the new terminology of urology, the neologism of Ramon Guiteras in play since the formation of the American Urological Association in 1902 (of which Cabot had been president in 1911) and embraced by Cabot in his influential textbook Modern Urology in 1918.

 

Three.

A thought experiment. Given that Hugh Cabot came to Ann Arbor and introduced modern urologic practice to the University of Michigan a century ago, we might reflect upon what happened a century before then, in 1819, when the fledgling University of Michigan was only two years old. Not much was actually going on educationally in its initial Detroit site then and no medical school existed in the territory of Michigan, which was not yet a state.

The year 1819 brought the first major peacetime financial crisis in the United States and the Tallmadge Amendment that was passed in the House of Representatives, but got lost the next year in the Missouri Compromise. The amendment would have prohibited slavery in the impending statehood of Missouri, but got traded away for the admission of Maine as a free state.
What about 1719, 300 years ago? The world was being mapped with increasing realism and imagination. Herman Moll’s “codfish map,” A New and Correct Map of the Whole World in London was a step along the way to visualization of the political and geographical reality of the planet. Also that year Robinson Crusoe, was published, arguably the first English novel, a fictional account of an actual event.

Slavery began in the American colonies a century earlier, it was in August 1619 according to the illuminating 1619 Project, a partnership of the Pulitzer Center and the New York Times. The Idea of America, an essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones, is informed and provocative. [NYT Magazine. August 18, 2019. The 1619 Project.]

Five hundred years back in time, on 20 September 1519, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan began his trip that would circumnavigate the planet, thereby quieting down the Flat Earth enthusiasts of the time, although that stubborn phenotype reappears in alternative forms, notably, the climate change deniers of today. Magellan had five ships, two more than Columbus, and carried supplies for 270 men and two years. In spite of mutiny, desertion, catastrophic storms, starvation, and raids from local natives, Magellan made it to the Philippines by March, 1521, where he was killed in battle by natives who resisted his offer of religious conversion. Other officers took charge and a single ship made it back to Spain on 6 September 1522. Leadership lessons still abound.

In 1419, during the Hundred Years War, France surrendered to Henry V and Normandy was re-annexed to England providing the nidus for Shakespeare’s great imaginative play 180 years later. Joan of Arc would have a fiery end in this town in 1431 and Charles VII, King of France, recaptured the city in 1449. A strong earthquake devastated the city of Ani in Armenia in 1319. A century earlier, in 1219, Genghis Khan sought advice on the Philosopher’s Stone from Qui Chuji (Taoist Master Changchun) and St. Francis of Assisi introduced Catholicism to Egypt during the Fifth Crusade. Navigation was improved in 1119 by Chinese author Zhu Yu who described the innovative use of magnetic compass and separate hull compartments in ships. Japanese statesman Fujiwara no Michinaga (966-1028) retired from public life in 1019 after installing his son as regent, but remained behind the scenes as Japan’s de facto ruler until his death nine years later. In spite of the coincidence of pronunciation, however, there is no way to connect Michinaga to our State of Michigan today in October, 2019, more specifically than as bookends to a millennium of human stories and progress.

The point to this thought experiment is that matters of immediate moments pale in the grand scheme of human centuries and glacial millennia. Nevertheless, those momentary and seasonal concerns constrain most human attention. Our lives are framed by the past and moments of grand inspiration transcend the mundane times. King Henry V’s exhortation to his troops at Agincourt, as imagined by the Bard of Stratford, is as inspiring as George Gipp’s softer “Win one for the Gipper” speech before Army played Notre Dame in 1928, and portrayed by Ronald Reagan in the classic film Knute Rockne, All American, in 1940.

 

Four.

Autumn in Ann Arbor brings the excitement of new students, football, and the academic season of meetings and visiting professors. Marty Koyle came from Toronto (with provenance from the Brigham, Dallas, UCLA, Denver, and Seattle) last month as our visiting professor in pediatric urology. Marty is a great clinician, surgeon, and educator, and he is one of the few urologists today with an active practice in pediatric renal transplantation (in addition to the astonishing John Barry). Over three days Marty interacted with faculty and residents, leaving an indelible imprint. Courtesy of Julian Wan, we repaid Marty and his wife Ellen in part with the Michigan Football experience, witnessing a close struggle to defeat Army. [Above: Army on the defensive; Below: Marty at the Pediatric Urology Conference.]

The tradition of visiting professors was indoctrinated at Michigan in the time of Cabot, who himself shuttled among peer institutions and brought the best experts to Ann Arbor faculty and students, notably with strong relationships between the Mayo Clinic and St. Bartholomew’s in London. Cabot’s successors, Frederick Coller, Reed Nesbit, Jack Lapides, Ed McGuire, and those who followed, maintained the important tradition to expose our learners to the best surgical educators and ideas. [Below: Puneet Sindhwani, Department of Urology and Transplantation Chair, University of Toledo with Marty Koyle after Grand Rounds.]

[Above: Tailgate at Zingermans.]
Athletic traditions have been closely entwined in the academic mission, offering counterbalance from book-learning and clinical medicine. Performances, great or aspiring to greatness, entertain and serve as rallying points for institutional spirit. Even back in Cabot’s time, important conversations and political alignments took place on the sidelines as the following letter shows – when Cabot followed up to Governor Green (1927-1930, Republican):

“You may remember at the time of the Wisconsin Football Game you were kind enough to suggest that I write you after election concerning certain matters of medical interest which we discussed that day. Now that this turmoil of election is over I am taking the liberty of complying with your suggestion. …”

This was hardly a rare follow-up to social encounters at Michigan games.

 

Five.

A century of urology followed at the University of Michigan after Cabot’s arrival, directly impacting hundreds of thousands of patients, more than ten thousand medical students, and hundreds of residents – who in turn impacted their share of patients and learners. In that century, two world wars and other conflicts were fought, two major economic collapses occurred, and climatic and geologic catastrophes pummeled the planet. In the grand scheme of things, the particular story of urology at Michigan may be small, but it is our history to know and tell. Furthermore, some of the myriad stories within the larger story are instructive, many are inspiring, others are sobering, and all should be examined in context.

Today, October 4, 2019, our current departmental faculty, residents, nurses, clinical teams, research teams, staff, and alumni are gathered for the Nesbit Society events, culminating with the Michigan-Iowa gridiron contest, where, no matter the outcome, important conversations and good fun will be had at the tailgates and on the sidelines.

 

Postscript.

October factoids. On 16 October 1901, shortly after moving into the White House, President Theodore Roosevelt invited his adviser and friend Booker T. Washington (below), to dine with him and his family, provoking an outpouring of condemnation from southern politicians and press. No other African American was invited to dinner at the White House for almost thirty years.

Sinclair Lewis, author of Arrowsmith, a book modeled on the University of Michigan Medical School in the early 1900s, suffered a terrible personal loss this month in 1944, when his first son was killed during efforts to rescue the Lost Battalion.

The 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry (36th Infantry Division, originally Texas National Guard) had been surrounded by German forces in the French Vosges Mountains on October 24, 1944, and attempts by other troops failed to extricate the men. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated unit of Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans), ultimately was successful after 5 days of battle and rescued 211 men by October 30, but suffered more than 800 casualties. For size and length of service the 442nd is the most decorated unit in U.S. military history. Above is Wells Lewis with father and stepmother Dorothy Parker in 1935 on way to accept Nobel Prize. The death of Wells in France took place only nine years later.

131st Field Artillery, 36th Infantry Division (Texas National Guard of the U.S. Army) who were survivors of the sunken USS Houston. They were captured by Japanese forces and taken to Java in March 1942 and then sent to Singapore and Burma where they worked on railway construction crews, as later depicted in the 1957 film The Bridge on the River Kwai. It was not until September of 1944 that it became known they were prisoners of war.

Thus went some highlights from the last century and the last millennium.

Thanks for reading Matula Thoughts.

 

David A. Bloom
University of Michigan, Department of Urology, Ann Arbor

3 thoughts on “A century and a millennium

  1. Three other Davenport stories:
    His lectures promptly started at 8 AM – he locked the door then – you’re late, your locked out.
    One day he asked how many of us medical students were carrying a slide rule. Answer = 0. He remarked how this was surprising, since when he went on vacation with his family, and posed the same question, the answer was 6!
    During a lecture on respiratory physiology he mentioned a colleague from Boston who had done some ground breaking work in this field – C. K. Drinker. For some reason this name struck a large majority of the class as humorous, resulting in laughter. He became so upset, that he dismissed the class and walked out!
    Our class celebrating 50th year graduation tonight at the Art Museum, so lots of memories rekindled.

  2. Great article – I couldn’t resist tweeting a sentence (with attribution, of course). Maybe you would let the Didusch Museum use some of your thoughts in a history of urology newsletter?

  3. Thanks Craig & Tupper! I only knew Horace in his retirement, but even then he was a tough critic.
    I’d be glad if the Didusch Museum saw fit to use any of our thoughts.

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