March thoughts, idle and otherwise

WN/MT 6 March 2020

March thoughts, idle & otherwise
2102 words

 

One.

Be cautious in mid-March, the spirit of Julius Caesar warns. It’s not idle advice, for Caesar must have had a tin ear to the political dissent building up around him, or else the mantle of authority made him feel unassailable until he was terminally disabused of that conceit on the Ides of March 15 in 44 BCE. A coin issued by Brutus two years after Caesar’s assassination (shown above) celebrated the would-be king’s downfall. Before the Ides of March became notorious, that day in the Roman calendar was reserved for religious observances and settling of debts. It so happens that the big settling of debts in American society two millennia later has been displaced a full month in the calendar to April 15 for taxpayers like me and businesses not clever enough to find the loopholes. [Above: Eid Mar coin reverse, the tail side. Below: Wikipedia, The Tusculum likeness of Julius Caesar, photographer Gautier Poupeau.]

No one wants to be overly superstitious, but it is wise to venture forth with a measure of caution not only on the Ides of March but every day, monitoring your physical and political environments, on the lookout for “hungry looking” Brutuses and watching for reckless scooters, distracted walkers or drivers, rising seas, hurricanes, fires, blizzards, tornados, or merely uncovered sneezes and coughs. (By the way, why is it socially accepted that we expect ourselves or others to cover coughs or sneezes only when “feeling sick” with a fever? Why doesn’t every adult carry a handkerchief or tissue to cover every cough or sneeze – especially in these coronavirus times ?!)

Ancient Roman days were counted differently than they are now, with three named points each month: the Nones in the early month, the Ides in mid-month, and the Kalends on the first of the next month. Assassination perp Brutus issued the coin in the fall of 42 BC, and that Eid Mar denarius shows a “freedom cap” positioned between two daggers.

The denarius was the standard coin in the Roman Empire from 267 BC until replaced by the antoninianus in the mid-3rd century AD, the coin of Galen’s day. The silver in the coin was initially worth about a day’s wages for skilled laborers at that time in Rome, today that equivalent amount of silver is less than $4. Emperor Nero, about 100 years after Caesar’s assassination, began to debase the coin, substituting cheap metal for the silver, until hardly any silver was left by the end of its use. The Eid Mar value, however, has greatly appreciated – a single coin recently fetching 325,000 Swiss francs ($332,583) at auction on Oct. 6, 2016.

[Above: Eid Mar coin obverse – the head side with Brutus. Below: Silver content debasement by year of Roman Empire denarius and its successors, 11 BC to 250 AD. Wikipedia: Data from Walker, D.R. (1976-78), The Metrology of the Roman Silver Coinage. Parts I to III. Nicolas Perrault III.]

 

Two.

Coffee Houses. My youngest daughter and her husband, both academics, do much of their work in coffee houses, as do many of their generation. Before computers and the internet, coffee houses were places to meet and converse. Now, it’s more common to see people with ear buds in place and eyes focused on their work on laptops and (annoyingly) on phones.

The coffee house of Edward Lloyd on Tower Street in London around 1686 was the room where it happened that marine insurance blossomed and grew into an essential component of modern business and life. Insurance was a necessary ingredient in the emergence of the limited liability company, that is, the modern corporation underpinning modern capitalism. Coffee houses have been important social hubs for over 300 years in Western Society and the tea customs in Asia have been around much longer. The Cosy Corner Tea Shop of Mrs. Hugh Cabot opened in Ann Arbor 1923 and became a small part of the Michigan Urology story, with its own backstory of how social changes and the Great War changed expectations for one faculty wife. Coffee and tea houses today serve as primary places to plug into earpieces and computers so as to disconnect from people and immediate scenes around you and leap into distant people, scenes, and your own imagination. Oddly, socialization and social media are not very compatible.

The Coffee House, in the winter of 1905/1906, a painting by Alson Skinner Clark (1876-1949), shows the State Street Bridge amidst smoke, fog, and early “skyscrapers” over an icy river. You can barely identify the actual coffee house. [Above: Institute of Art, Chicago.] The title suggests Clark either painted the scene in real time (en plein air) or recalled it from his time in the neighborhood, although he was also an accomplished photographer and may have used that medium to help fashion the painting. The view is not vastly different a century later, the high rises are higher and more numerous, the horsepower of street transportation has increased (without much increase in the transit time per mile), and the price of a cup of coffee has gone up. That same neighborhood these days contains at least several Starbucks and other coffee houses. [Below: State Street Bridge in early spring 2019 during AUA national meeting.]

 

Three.

Coffee beans. I can’t spend too long in coffee houses without recalling the great Danish story teller Karen Blixen, known more widely by her pen name, Isak Dinesen. Out of Africa in 1937, described her years in British East Africa (modern-day Kenya) between December 1913 and August 1931. She initially tried to raise cattle, but switched to growing coffee beans although that, too, proved difficult. The soil and high elevation were not perfectly conductive, East African conflicts in First World War interfered with supplies and equipment, and ultimately the Great Depression made the business untenable. Having run through her family’s money, Blixen returned to her family home in Denmark to write. Her work there proved far more successful and enduring than the Karen Coffee Company and she became a world celebrity, dying in 1962 at age 77. Orson Wells planned a film anthology of her work, but never completed it, producing only The Immortal Story (1968). Babette’s Feast (1987) became an extraordinary black and white film of a somber isolated Scandinavian village and Out of Africa (1985) was gorgeously filmed in color featuring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. Last autumn, while at the terrific CopMich meeting organized by Dana Ohl and Jens Sønksen, I spent an afternoon at the Blixen family home in Rungstedlund. [Above: Photo by Sophus Juncker-Jensen (1859-1940) taken in 1913 shortly before Blixen’s departure for Africa. Below: Karen Blixen’s home, Rungstedlund, 2019.]

The Isak Dinesen quote that comes to mind after an hour or so in a coffee house is from Seven Gothic Tales:

“What is man, when you come to think upon him, but a minutely set, ingenious machine for turning, with infinite artfulness, the red wine of Shiraz into urine.”

Unpleasantly, the name Karen, like many other terms on social media, has become a derogatory meme. [Below: Wikipedia: Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke at Kastrup Airport CPH, Copenhagen 1957-11-02.]

 

Four.

A book on urine. In 1917, when Karen Blixen was cultivating coffee by day and telling stories to her friends at night and Michigan Urology founder Hugh Cabot was serving on the Western Front for the British Expeditionary Forces during WWI, Arthur Robertson Cushny, former University of Michigan professor from 1893 to 1905, was working at University College London when he published Secretion of the Urine, a book explaining the machinery and infinite artfulness of urine production. [Above: Cushny, Wellcome Museum. Below: title page.]

Cushny took uroscopy to a new level of detail. Uroscopy began in ancient times with basic sensory evaluation of urine (color, odor, taste, etc.). Medieval uromancy offered speculative linkage of urine findings to diagnosis, and microscopic evaluation later opened new levels of visual detail. Chemical and microbial analysis, using 19th century tools and technology, provided meaningful therapeutic opportunities, but Cushny’s book of 1917, Secretion of the Urine, explained how urine was formed in health and disease, by filtration at the glomerulus and reabsorption/secretion along the renal tubules.

Arthur Cushny (1866-1926) had come to the Medical School in Ann Arbor to replace John Jacob Abel, a UM graduate from 1883 who had returned to Ann Arbor in 1891 to teach, pursue research, and create the world’s first department of pharmacology. Abel transformed the formal and ancient lectures on materia medica and toxicology into pharmacology instruction with demonstrations applicable to clinical practice of his time. Johns Hopkins lured him away in 1893, but that opened the door for Cushny to replace him as chair. Dean Victor Vaughan found Cushny in Berne, investigating the problem of death from chloroform anesthesia and developing methods of titrating the delivery. Cushny was an effective teacher and a productive researcher in Ann Arbor, but returned to Europe for an attractive job as chair of pharmacology at University College London in 1905 and in 1918 returned to his native Scotland as chair in Edinburgh, where he died in 1926. Secretion of Urine was a major contribution to physiology and urology. [Cushny AR. The Secretion of the Urine. London, Longmans, Green, 1917.]

 

Five.

You are what you eat, like most aphorisms, contains truth and hyperbole. It extends easily to other bodily inputs such as you are what you drink. [Above: The Cook, Guiseppe Arcimboldo 1570. National Museum, Sweden.] Last month’s suggestion, that you are what you read, regarding on The Crisis periodical, fortifies a parallel claim for mental nutrition, which came to mind again in another magazine that compels interest, The Economist. A recent piece in the recurring essay entitled “Johnson” (after Samuel Johnson, of dictionary fame), combined the recent custom of selecting “words of the year” and the phenomenon of adverse climate change. “Johnson” offered a number of candidates for word of the year, noting that according to the Dutch dictionary Van Dale, Dutch-speaking Belgiums voted for winkelhieren, a term for “buying locally,” as the 2019 word of the year. [Economist Jan 4, 2020, p. 62.]

Ann Arbor offers excellent examples for buying locally including Zingerman’s and Kerrytown markets for food and stuff, Literati for books, or Camera Mall for photographic things. Amazon is convenient, luring, and addictive but it robs from local communities (livelihoods and taxes). Plus, given the packaging and reported 30% return rate, that particular limited liability corporation accelerates planetary degradation. Perhaps a community becomes what it buys. If people buy mainly from Amazon, they will be an Amazon community as local businesses recede like the glaciers – not such an attractive possibility.

 

Postscript x 2: peas and war.

Gastronomic identity. In 1826 Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote, in Physiologie du Gout, ou Méditations de Gastronomie Transcendante: “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai que tu es.” [Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are]. In 1940, Victor Lindlahr, nutritionist and enthusiast of the so-called catabolic diet, wrote a book You are what you eat: how to win and keep health with diet. In strict chemical and physiologic terms, it’s hard to deny that fact, although it’s nice to believe the human sum is actually greater than the sum of its nutritional parts, as the Italian painter Guiseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593) hinted in his arresting works, such as Vertumnus. [Above: Emperor Rudolph II as Vertumnus, Roman god of seasons. c. 1590, Guiseppe Arcimboldo. Skokloster Castle, Sweden.]

The Battle of Columbus. Just around this time of year, in 1916 (March 9), Francisco “Pancho” Villa’s División del Norte raided the small border town of Columbus, NM and retreated back to Mexico. United States President Woodrow Wilson, while holding the U.S. back from the Great War in Europe (that Hugh Cabot entered as a volunteer with the British Expeditionary Forces) eagerly sent 4,800 U.S. troops led by General John Pershing over the U.S./Mexican border to capture Villa. [Above: Unmindful of the Ides, U.S. troops crossed into Mexico in March 1916 in pursuit of Pancho Villa. Photo courtesy U.S. Army Military History Institute.] The 9-month punitive incursion south of the border failed to capture Villa, but it did recruit University of Michigan Ph.D. Paul de Kruif, who joined as a private. The campaign ended in January 1917, without achieving its objective. Pershing claimed the effort a success, even though it seemed that the U.S. soldiers were the main parties punished. de Kruif went on to join the WWI effort after the U.S. officially entered the conflict, serving in the Sanitary Corps as a lieutenant and then captain before returning to Michigan for a short time. His next job was at the Rockefeller Institute until he was fired, rendering him the freedom to become a medical journalist and collaborator in 1926 with Sinclair Lewis in Arrowsmith.

 

Thanks for looking at this month’s communication from the University of Michigan Department of Urology. What’s New is the email version and matulathoughts.org is the web-based version.

David A. Bloom

Matula Thoughts February 7, 2020

Matula Thoughts 7 February 2020 Leaps, literacy, & opinions 2142 words One. Leap Year. A celestial accounting anomaly this month on Saturday February 29 will have only minor impact on people’s lives and world economies. The extra business day, when … Continue reading

2020 – a new blank slate

Matula Thoughts 3 January 2020

A new blank slate

2376 words

One.

 

Tabula Rasa 2020.

Optimists begin New Years with clean slates. Most people negotiate internal tension between optimism and pessimism, but the sense of opportunity that comes with a new year generally tilts the balance toward optimism and the chance to start anew with mistakes and sins of the past perhaps forgotten, if not forgiven. The blank slate, though, is only a metaphor; each year ahead will build on stories of the past – history – and the contingencies of immediate moments. [Above: Blank wax tablet.Wikipedia.]

The new year, next decade, and century ahead for Michigan Urology, may be shaped by the century that unfurled after Hugh Cabot came to Ann Arbor late in 1919, but the critical determinants of the future will be the ingenuity, industry, and success of our educational programs, research, and clinical delivery. The idea that the essential deliverable of academic medicine is patient care, while not historically prominent, is absolutely clear today. That essential deliverable, as we have said in our department of urology for some years, is kind and excellent clinical care, thoroughly integrated with education and innovation. With that, as the “North Star,” navigation becomes simple.

The Latin phrase tabula rasa originates from blank slates or waxed tablets that, after erasure of chalk or melting the wax, are available for fresh notation. Aristotle was one of the early thinkers who likened the mind to a clean writing slate and Avicenna, Thomas Aquinas, and John Locke, among many others, expanded the idea until modern neurobiology brought science to the matter. Metaphors are merely tools for thinking and communication, not absolute “true facts” that Don Coffey sought to recognize amidst the litter of contemporary information. Steven Pinker’s book of 2002,Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, calls out the metaphor and explains that human behavior is not constructed on a blank slate, or tabula rasa, but is heavily programed. [See Pinker’s TED Talks 2008 and 2019.]

Blank Slate is also the clever name for an Ann Arbor Ice cream shop, the actual ice cream serving as a medium for an ingenious palate of flavors. Ice cream, one of the great inventions of humankind, is a delight in any season, although winter demand slackens enough for the Creamery to close up for the coldest months (above at Liberty and S. First Streets). Having borrowed the metaphor for this monthly message, I was duty bound to ask (and receive) permission from Michigan grad Janice Sigler who opened Blank Slate in July, 2014, with her husband.

 

Two.

January 1920 was an optimistic time for Hugh Cabot in Ann Arbor at a high point of his career. Modern Urology, his noteworthy 1918 textbook, capped his 15 year rise to central authority in the field. An early volunteer for the European conflict, well before American entry made it a world war, Cabot commanded a 2,500-bed general hospital on the Western Front by war’s end. His return to Boston at the end of January 1919 was front-page news in the Boston Herald, although not without glitches. Cabot’s team of doctors and nurses was blocked from leaving the train at the Boston station where a reception was waiting for them. A military authority ordered the ensemble to remain on the train and continue on the train to Camp Devon, Massachusetts and then New York City for official discharge of duties. After discussion Cabot declined the order and the entire medical team disembarked from the train to join the waiting reception and then dispersed into the crowd to resume civilian life. [Below: Boston Herald. Front page. “Harvard Surgical Unit held prisoners by error on arrival in Boston.” January 31, 1919.]

As Cabot resumed civilian life the world seemed enroute to a better future in terms of public health, geopolitics, economics, technology, and art. The devastating Great Influenza Epidemic was over, but other pandemics followed. Geopolitical solutions to WWI would pave the way to WWII and later conflicts. The economic world collapsed in less than a decade. Rapid advances of technology that seemed so wonderful in the early 20thcentury proved two-sided by century-end with antibiotic resistant bacteria threatening food safety, robots displacing jobs, computer malware holding businesses and cities hostage, identity theft via internet, and social media manipulation of public elections. The public eagerly embraces Orwellian Big Brother – reassuringly renamed Alexa, Hey Google, and Siri – with ubiquitous cameras on streets and in homes paving the way to authoritarian control of society through artificial intelligence.

 

Three.

The “blank slate” of the new year, brings to mind resolutions and the human itch for personal mastery of something – work, play, family, or hobby. Just as they were once inspired, Bach and Casals are posthumously inspiring future composers and musicians today. The cello suites have had a remarkable 300-year journey since Bach started writing them as exercises for his young wife in 1717. Casals discovered the largely-forgotten music in a shop in 1890 and mastered its performance by 1896 when he became principal cellist in Barcelona at the Gran Teatre del Liceu. [Below: Title page of Anna Magdalena Bach‘s manuscript: Suites á Violoncello Solo Senza Basso. Wikipedia.]

Casals had ups and downs, like everyone, but the worst immobilized him for two weeks in 1939 when he didn’t leave his room in Paris, exhausted from recording the six Bach suites (Casals hated the recording process) and despairing over Franco’s take-over of Spain. Casals was thoroughly burned out, although the favored terminology of the time described him as emotionally exhausted and depressed. Thankfully, he rebounded and his career reached new heights. Nearly 20 years later, at age 80, he married 20-year-old Marta Montañez y Martinez, dismissing concerns over their age discrepancy: “I look at it this way: if she dies, she dies!” [Cesare Civetta. Mar 14, 2018. “Pablo Casals sacrificed his career to protest Franco.” https://CesareCivetta.com/blog] [Below: From Encyclopaedia Britannica, Pablo Casals, 1965. Erich Auerbach, photograph, Hulton Archive/Getty Images.]

The inspiration of the suites lives on: Yo-Yo Ma was inspired by Bach’s cello suites at age 4 and today, at 64, travels six continents to perform all six suites in single sittings at 36 locations.

Combustion control has been a defining feature of our species beginning around campfires for comfort, cooking, and conversation. Heat may erase tabula rasas, but metaphoric self-combustion in modern society seems a new thing. It is not clear when burnout is a “legitimate” dysfunction or an extension of quotidian fatigue? That state of reduced personal efficacy, emotional exhaustion, and depersonalization describes the condition today called burnout, that suddenly, it seems, has become epidemic in many professions, including health care. Conferences, surveys, and editorials proliferate and  medicalize the matter. The Lancet offered a useful perspective in an editorial, Physician burnout: the need to rehumanise health systems. The wording is counterintuitive – the “rehumanization” of human health care. [The Lancet. 394: 1591, 2019.]

 

Four.

So how is it that health care became “dehumanized”– that very suggestion seems to be an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms, as René Magritte cleverly depicted in his surreal paintings such as the 1953 Wonders of Nature (©René Magritte). The dehumanization phenomenon in medicine seems linked to the systematization, corporatization, and commoditization of healthcare. Systems are necessary in modern healthcare, of course, but the displacement of what historically was called the doctor-patient relationship with checklists, guidelines, and clinical pathways distracts from the human element. The EHR-directed patient “encounters” have largely replaced the narratives of the human conditions wrapped-up in taking “the history.”. Corporate medicine is quickly replacing small practices and bringing with it tainted ideas of business management, specifically the failed ideas of Taylorism, managerial accounting, and the North Star of shareholder value.

The idea of the limited liability corporation has largely built the modern world, as human society has given corporations many special rights such as limited liability, free speech, and some special benefits that ordinary people cannot have. (Back around 2003 Julian Wan gave me a book that explains this – The Company – A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea, by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge.) Undeclared but implicit in that Victorian innovation is a social contract that businesses exist not merely for shareholder value, but more broadly for stakeholder value – jobs, employees, benefits, suppliers, community – and for value to society-at-large, the most important stakeholder of all.

It is natural that some parts of health care are legitimate commodities, functioning optimally in a market-based economy without the necessity of an intermediary professional agent. Examples are many – flu shots, over-the counter medications, food supplements, and countless others. Other healthcare functions are complex, multilayered, and highly professional, such as renal transplantation, mental health treatment, and management of malignancy. In between these extremes are the essential transactions of visits to physicians, dental care, emergency department visits, orthopaedic care, periodic eye care, and treatment of urologic conditions – these are a mix of commodity and profession. The arbitrage of those two elements of society is an endless conversation.

The extension of personal mastery in one’s subject of choice, whether by New Year Resolution or not, is self-vaccination against burnout. The enhanced personal well-being can re-humanize your medical workplace in more ways than this essay can explain. Recently, up in Flint at the Hamilton Community Health Center, Mike Giacalone, Jr., the Chief Medical Officer, was explaining Hamilton to interviewing journalists and said that for the Flint patients, “every visit is not just a medical visit, but equally so a social, economic, and behavioral visit as well.” While particularly relevant in Flint, this should be a universal aspiration in health care. The medical gaze should try to “take it all in” and triage the needs of a patient and family as best possible, in spite of the rigidity of the EHR- constrained medical encounter programmed around a chief complaint.

 

Five.

Media and messages. Whether the medium is ice cream, canvas, blank paper, musical instrument, computer screen, stage, construction site, clinic room, operating room, or learner – artistry can be performed.

Everyone is a lifelong learner, but the health care field demands special attention. Undergraduates and beginning medical students are the most impressionable blank slates and for that reason the responsibility of role models, teachers, and mentors is perhaps the greatest for them among the learners we teach. For many of the younger set their first experiences seeing a physician, nurse, or physician’s assistant at work (sometimes in instances of personal care of a UTI, stone, or surgical correction) imprints and fosters a lifelong pursuit. Whenever possible, these opportunities for shadowing or introductory teaching should be embraced. Residency training, however, is the most critical blank slate of all in medicine, fashioning the knowledge, skills, artistry, and professionalism for a career. [Images above & below from “the internet.”]

Blank slates are opportunities, but risk erasure of the past although that is necessary with wax tablets and chalkboards. Parchment and paper were a big improvement allowing durable manuscripts and books, still at risk from fire (accidental or intentional) or other forms of destruction or deterioration. The new world of digital information carried the conceit that humans could become “paperless”, but that is ultimately not only impractical but also a genuinely bad idea for free societies.

When governments, sectarian authorities, or corporatocracies control printing presses, airwaves, or other social media – society is captive to a few reigning opinions because inconvenient stories, opinions, ideas, or truths are conveniently avoided or erased. Clever memes and tweets easily subvert social groups and human ideals. One great feature of the human condition is the testing and synergism of opinions, ideas, and technologies that can build civilization for the greater good of mankind and sustainability of the planet. The central idea of free speech at the heart of civilization, is being sorely tested by the unexpected opportunities of modern technological social media.

From our parochial perspective in the art and business of health care, erasure of history is an especially unfortunate reality, but we see it with each change of technology in health records. The operative procedure notes and pathology reports from the earlier part of my career seem to have vanished with the paper records we utilized when I started here in Ann Arbor, as I have learned when trying to answer requests from people regarding, say, an exstrophy closure operative report in the 1940’s, a hospital course in the 1960’s, or thyroidectomy pathology findings from the 1970s. Those floppy discs we had in the 1980s and zip-drives of the 1990s are increasingly difficult to access as obsolete technologies disappear. No one today can ensure that the massive data in electronic records will be converted to the media of the future – it seems unlikely that the “data cloud” of 2020 will be maintained in a future data cloud or its equivalent of 2050.

When Ed McGuire brought me to Ann Arbor in 1984 my blank slates were 3×5 index cards and the newly launched Macintosh Computer. Our hospital then had separate inpatient and outpatient paper charts. The Surgery Department administrators cautioned me to not get used to my Apple Computer as UM was preparing to launch the Wang Computer System. I didn’t listen – but still have the cards (one for with every patient I saw at Michigan) and that original Macintosh (now a book end).

 

Postscript

Matula Thoughts analytics, 2019. We have no sense of the total readership of the monthly What’s New delivered by email, but the web version matulathoughts.org has levelled off at 3357 views and 2199 visitors from 78 countries as of 31 December 2019, down from 3458 views, 2226 visitors from 89 countries in 2018, probably due to personal retreat from the chair position of the Urology Department at the University of Michigan. This past year we shortened the essay from 10 to 5 numbered items and dropped the word count to 2000 or so, although still far less convenient than a 140-character microblog tweet.

This leveling-off of Matula Thoughts recalls the Hippocratic Aphorism: Art is long, life is short, opportunity fleeting, experience hazardous, and judgment difficult. Other interpretations of the Ancient Greek vary the nuance and words, but clearly this personal essay, the first Friday of each month, is anachronistic and risky in offering personal judgments and observations. Those facts are more than balanced by the personal delight in hearing back from a handful of readers each month, thus extending these essays to dialogue and conversation, challenging facts, pointing out errors, and teaching me. Comments last month were especially appreciated. For all these, thank you.

 

David A. Bloom

Department of Urology

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Mastery

Matula Thoughts December 6, 2019

Mastery

2473 words

 

One.

Master cellist Pablo Casals received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, on this December day in 1963, among the first cohort of recipients, in a bittersweet ceremony two weeks after President Kennedy’s assassination. Kennedy had come up with the idea for the award, but Lyndon Johnson presided at the event by default.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom was a successor to the Medal of Freedom that derived from Harry Truman’s Executive Order 9586 (signed July 6, 1945), establishing an award for notable civilian service during WWII. Over 20,000 such medals were given out, mainly by the secretaries of state, war, and navy up through 1961. Kennedy re-oriented the award with his Executive Order 11085 (signed February 22, 1963), broadening the name to Presidential Medal of Freedom and shifting its scope to include cultural achievements. Other awardees with Casals that evening December 6, 1963, were architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; painter Andrew Wyeth; singer Marian Anderson; writers E.B. White, Thornton Wilder, and Edmund Wilson; Rudolf Serkin pianist; Edwin Land inventor; Edward Steichen photographer; Clarence Randall businessman; educators Genevieve Caulfield, James Bryant Conant, Alexander Meiklejohn, and George Taylor, and others including John Enders for his vaccine work. It was quite a gathering. [Above: Casals at Carnegie Hall, 1917. Bain Collection, Library of Congress.]

Casals, one of the great cellists of all time, at age thirteen had found a tattered copy of obscure Bach unaccompanied cello suites in a Barcelona shop, mastered the six pieces, and took them to international attention that would inspire generations of cellists such as Yo-Yo Ma. On Wikipedia you can find audio clips of Casals playing parts of the First Cello Suite. The Casals entry from the same source offers a quote from George Carlin attributed to Casals, who when asked at age 93 why he continued to practice three hours a day replied, “I’m beginning to notice some improvement.” Fact or true fact, it’s a beautiful thought and one certainly in keeping with the artist’s persona.

 

Two.

Born in Catalonia Spain in 1876, Casals died in Puerto Rico in 1973. His life was one of mastery and professionalism, interrupted by a terribly low point around the time of the Spanish Civil War, when he was a refugee in France. Fleeing Franco’s efforts to liquidate political foes, Casals learned that he would have his arms cut off if he returned. Anguished over the fall of the Spanish Republic, distressed by it abandonment by democratic nations, fearful of his own safety in France as the Nazi’s rolled across Europe, and exhausted by demands of recording the Bach cello suites (the first recording made of them), Casals fell into a deep depression and didn’t leave his room in Paris for two weeks. Burned-out, as some people now would say, he eventually rallied and got back to his work. Much later Casals gave his memoirs to a writer, Albert E. Kahn, who published Joys and Sorrows: Pablo Casals, His Own Story in 1970.

Kahn, it should be noted, was nephew of the master industrial architect Alfred Kahn who worked with Hugh Cabot in Ann Arbor to plan and build Michigan’s acclaimed University Hospital in 1925. Kahn also designed Hill Auditorium, Clements Library, Angell Hall, Betsy Barbour Residence Hall, Burton Memorial Tower, Harlan Hatcher Library, Ruthven Museum, among other buildings on campus. Kahn’s son, Eddie, a contemporary surgical trainee with Nesbit under Cabot, became Michigan’s second neurosurgeon (after Max Peet). Sixty Kahn buildings are on the National Historic Register list, but it was the Clements Library in Ann Arbor for which Kahn wanted to be most remembered.

Stories of the Bach suites and Casals are interwoven by Eric Siblin in The Cello Suites (Grove Press, New York, 2009). Mastery is an aspirational trait that most people seek in one way or another, whether it be mastery of a skill or hobby, mastery of a job, or mastery of parenting. Kennedy’s idea for the Presidential Medal expanded a national honor related to war to the mastery of the constructive skills of civilization – the humanities. Kennedy’s empathy and respect for those arts reverberates today and marks him as a master statesman, no doubt imperfect as is anyone, but a master of the presidency. [Picture: Casals performing for the Kennedys at the White House, November, 1961.]

 

Three.

Kennedy had a special linkto the University of Michigan dating from his campaign speech on the steps of the Michigan Union at 2:00 AM on October 23, in 1960 when he proposed the idea of the Peace Corps. The national shock at his assassination only three years later was profound for most people, no matter how they had voted. [Above: Time cover from John F. Kennedy Library, Boston.]

At this time in 1963 the Section of Urology of the Department of Surgery at the University of Michigan was in the final stage of Reed Nesbit’s leadership. Nesbit’s mentor, Hugh Cabot, had been an undisputed master of the subject of modern urology in the early 20th century, while Nesbit subsequently became the undisputed master of many of its skills, most notably transurethral resection of the prostate. Nesbit was also a master educator, training at least 83 residents and additional fellows, although we are still trying to get a precise count (demonstrating once again how elusive true facts and actual history can be).

In December 1963, as Nesbit was winding up another good year as chief of urology at Michigan, he undoubtedly read of Casals and the other Presidential Medalists the following day in the Ann Arbor and national newspapers. The only other senior faculty member in the Section of Urology faculty with Nesbit in the Section of Urology in 1963 was Jack Lapides who was Chief of Urology at the VA and at Wayne County General Hospital (since 1950). Joe Cerny (N ’62) was a junior faculty member. Harry Lichtwardt had been Vice Chair of Urology at Wayne County General Hospital, since 1951. The three new residents in 1963, halfway through their year at this time of the season were Dale Alkema, Larry McDonald, and Bernie Sloan, while the chief residents were Robert Bishop, Dewey Heetderks, and Harold McDonald. Nesbit was likely starting to think about his annual Christmas letter around this time. Meanwhile I was in my first year of college, oblivious to the field of urology and wondering if I would master anything at all.

The news cycle, one hundred years ago, centered around the daily papers with a 24-hour rhythmicity. The national news for December 6 contained little information that today’s newshounds would recognize, except perhaps for mention of the Warren Commission in the New York Times, an Oswald reference in the Ann Arbor News, and a Big 10 athletic scholarship limit reported in the Michigan Daily. [Thanks to Katie Baxter for finding these.]

The inaugural Presidential Medals of Freedom winners were not revealed to the public until the next day, December 7, in addition to other newsworthy items, including the 22nd anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

 

Four.

Senait Fisseha. Not every week does The Lancet feature an article on a Michigan faculty member, but that happened recently with a profile on Senait Fisseha, Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. [Lane R. Profile. Senait Fisseha: empowering women through reproductive health.The Lancet. 394:1405, 2019.]  Medical Director of the University Center for Reproductive Medicine in 2008, Director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in 2011, and creator of the University of Michigan Center for International Reproductive Health Training, Senait  has developed a partnership between Michigan and St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Another shout-out for The Lancet relates to Ella Doerge, who graduated from our program last year and is currently pursuing further training in a London fellowship with Tim O’Brien. She recently sent me the following comments and picture she took at The Lancet Library.

Hi Dr. Bloom,

Just dropping you a line to see how things are going back on the homefront in Michigan. I’m a month or so into working at my fellowship at Guy’s and am getting more and more familiarized with life in the UK, both in the health care system and in the city at large. While we share the English language with the English, there have been more differences in culture and conversational conventions than meet the eye that I’ve been uncovering. While it’s been good here, I think I’m irrevocably American, in mentality, how I prefer to practice medicine, and how I interact with my environment.

Anyway, I thought of you in particular a few weeks ago because I had the opportunity to spend a day with one of the lead editors of The Lancet. I got to peruse the library with volumes dating back to their first publications which I’m sure you would have found particularly interesting (photo attached). I also sat in on their weekly editorial board meeting with their editor-in-chief in which they made all the decisions for papers to include in the coming week’s issue.

 

[Above: Lancet Library; Below: Ella with Duncan Morhardt during their days at Michigan.]

 

Five.

Burnout is a hot topic. It rightly focuses attention on our students, residents, and colleagues who are struggling more than usual. It offers many opportunities for blame, administrative burden, the electronic record, mandatories, administrators in general, third party payers, regulations, fee-for-service systems, RVUs, corporate medicine, throughput demands, constrained schedule grids, and the gray days of winter. It provides new opportunities for talks, papers, and even jobs. But let’s not blame burnout, per se; many physicians lose a sense of the magic in their profession and others are truly overwhelmed by “TMI” and conflicting responsibilities. And, of course, some organizations provide poor workplaces.

Burnout cannot be detected by biomarkers and as of yet has no ICD 10 diagnostic code. Once it was considered a binary phenomenon – you either have it or don’t, just as Casals in his darkest days couldn’t leave his room to re-engage with the world. Individuals, at some point, may be overwhelmed by work and can’t continue it. Surveys and questionnaires (“instruments”) allegedly diagnose “degrees of burnout” which seems to have been externalized, from an internal or personal condition, to a workplace fault. No responsible leader can avoid discussing the topic and “measuring” their teams for it with further surveys, thereby adding counterproductively to the enlarging ambient administrative burden. By medicalizing burnout and viewing it as a “disease,” like a generalized form of carpal tunnel syndrome, we gas-light the matter, conveniently obscuring leadership a causal factor, but no matter how we frame it we, as leaders, are responsible for workplace conditions that heavily contribute to the condition.

It is unreasonable to expect successful people, even the masters of their arts to be “on fire” every day. Pablo Casals had days of tedium, frustration, annoyance, and – as is well documented – anger and embitterment over the political realities of his nation. His dysfunctional interlude in Paris was multifactorial in origin – the recording process was particularly alien and painful for him – but he rebounded. Could intrinsic motivationbe the converse of “burnout” or provide a “vaccination” against it? Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, caught my attention in my early days as chair and affected my world-view. I gave out numerous copies of it and had many productive discussions on it with executive coach David Bachrach and faculty colleagues. The ideas integrated beautifully with concepts of lean processes that Toyota, John Shook, and locally Jack Billi, Jeanne Kin, and Malissa Eversole have shown me. The key features of intrinsic drive,or self-motivation, that Pink teaches are purpose, mastery, and autonomy.

Purpose envelops healthcare professions, you shouldn’t have to look far to find it, although it can become obscured in crowded and tense modern workplaces. Mastery is a matter of training, life-long learning, and deepening maturation of perspective. Our residencies and fellowships get us started, our practice and continuing education hone our skills, and hard-won wisdom opens the door to mastery, which is never complete, as Pablo Casals lightly noted in 1964 when he said: “I’m beginning to notice some improvement.”

Autonomy is the challenge, in these times of complex health care teams. Of course, no person is an island – we are members of a deeply interwoven eusocial species and rely on others to bake our bread, brew our beer, and prepare our meats and tofu. Autonomy is relatively conditional. In rare instances, some people can effectively bully their way into great degrees of autonomy and achieve wonderful things, although usually with a personal toll – e.g. Steve Jobs. The challenge for leaders, whether at single unit levels or presiding at large systemic levels, is to understand and protect the autonomy needs of workers under their authority. The complex teams of modern medical practice preclude absolute autonomy of any one person. Everyone reports to someone from custodian to CEO, yet members of most teams function best when driven by their own intrinsic motivation rather than external carrots or sticks, targets or incentives; the challenge is unleashing that intrinsic motivation. When employees understand their contribution is valued, when they have freedom to improve that work, and when they feel fairly compensated, then intrinsic motivation can thrive – and that is the best inoculation against burnout.

 

Postscript.

Dick Dorr passed away last month. He was an iconic figure in Michigan Urology and a pillar of the community, leader of St. Joseph’s Mercy, and faculty member in the University of Michigan Department of Urology in his later career. Richard Paul Dorr was born 8/17/1936 in Saginaw and became a loyal Spartan at Michigan State prior to coming to the University of Michigan Medical School to obtain an MD in 1961. After surgical internship at Wayne County General Hospital he served as Captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps and Commander of an Airborne Division Medical Company at Fort Benning, Georgia. Dick returned to Ann Arbor in 1964 for urology residency at the University of Michigan that began under Reed Nesbit and concluded under Jack Lapides in 1968, when he went across the street to St. Joe’s to begin urology practice and develop a superb team with Tim McHugh and Hugh Solomon. Dick served as chief of the medical staff from 1980-82. He became a member of the American College of Surgeons, in the tradition of Dr. Nesbit. A master of urology, and ever the student, Dick completed a fellowship in pediatric and reconstructive urology with the cutting-edge team at East Virginia Medical College in 1984. Following that he had important corporate roles in the St. Joe’s system before returning to fulltime practice in 1990 with Tim and Hugh. In the last six years of his career he worked at the University of Michigan Medical Center during the leadership period of Jim Montie. Dick died on 11/6/2019 and these pages cannot do justice to that master of urology. He is survived by two siblings, his wife Jane, and children Richard, Susan Dorr Goold (colleague in Internal Medicine here at UM), and Mark. Dick and Jane have five grandchildren, two step-grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

 

David A. Bloom

University of Michigan, Department of Urology, Ann Arbor

November one

DAB Matula Thoughts November 1, 2019

One hundred years of urology
2615 words

One.

The origin of urology at the University of Michigan centers around its first three urologists Hugh Cabot, Charles Huggins, and Reed Nesbit, each having enormous impact in their individual ways. Cabot’s impact was academic, clinical, and organizational. Huggins came to Michigan for what was then called “postgraduate training” under Cabot and was inspired to a career in urology that took him to the University of Chicago as chief of urology and eventually to a Nobel Prize. Nesbit, roommate of Huggins as trainees, became Cabot’s successor and a noteworthy urologist, whose clinical innovation, organization leadership, and education of future leaders of his century, had few equals.

The story of genitourinary surgery, of course, actually began much earlier, with pre-Hippocratic roots and slow evolution until the second half of the 19th century when health sciences, modern technology, and medical subspecialties emerged and revolutionized medical care. The University of Michigan story is entwined with those changes, as one of the earliest public universities and in 1869 it was the first university to own and operate a teaching hospital. By the early 20th century the University of Michigan Medical School was noteworthy among its peers in teaching and research, but lagged behind in the clinical arena, a fact that some viewed as due to its small-town location. After the 1902 neologism by Ramon Guiteras the term ii replaced that of genitourinary surgery, although not until many years later in Ann Arbor.

Exactly one hundred years ago, on November 1, 1919, the University of Michigan Medical School, although still stuck in educational and clinical paradigms of the previous century, was on the precipice of major change that would launch it into the major leagues of 20th century academic medicine. Dean Victor Vaughan, an immeasurable influence since his arrival in 1874 as one of Michigan’s first two Ph.D. candidates, had been distracted by duties in Washington during WWI and was reeling from the death of one of his sons who had been about to return home from his service in Europe on the Western Front. Vaughan had other national leadership responsibilities on his plate in addition to the war effort and his inattention to Michigan had left the Medical School without chairs for its two main departments – internal medicine and surgery. In Boston Hugh Cabot had recently returned home from 2.5 years of service overseas to find his private surgical and urologic practice “evaporated.” He discovered the Ann Arbor opportunity for a fulltime salaried job as chair of surgery and jumped at it. Beginning work on October 12, 1919, he initially stayed at the Michigan Union, but soon convinced the regents to allow him with his wife and four children to live in the unoccupied University’s President House until a new president was in place.

Cabot was a necessary change agent for the Medical School. He was a top-of-the-line international urologic celebrity even before his 1918 textbook Modern Urology. It is telling that his predecessors in genitourinary teaching and practice at Michigan, interim surgery chair Cyrenus Darling and clinical professor Ira Dean Loree, had been holding on to the older name for the field. Cabot was a self-declared urologist. A prolific speaker and writer, he was assiduous in connecting with new ideas, other specialties, and novel technologies. During the war he became a skillful administrator, ultimately rising to Commanding Officer (CO) of a British Expeditionary Force (BEF) hospital with over 2,000 beds near the front. While he would bring leadership and modernity to Ann Arbor, his brusque style had already created detractors on the national scene, as evident in files at the Bentley Library where a letter to Victor Vaughan from Bostonian Dr. Frederick Shattuck on September 30, 1919 commented:

“Dear Vaughan:
I am greatly interested in your capture of Hugh Cabot for whom I have high regard and much affection, not so much because he is a first cousin of my wife, though very much younger, as for himself and what he is. His departure will be a loss to me, personally, and I think a loss to this community; but the more I reflect on the matter the more I feel that he can render greater service, and thus derive greater satisfaction from life by accepting your offer. Like other strong, positive men, he has made enemies, but I think his capacity to deal with men developed markedly during his service as C.O. of Base Hospital No. 22, B.E.F. There were difficulties connected with that practice which do not appear upon the surface, and it is my belief that, taking all things into consideration, he handled the job extremely well…”

Shattuck concluded the note offering condolence to Vaughan on the recent loss of a son in Europe, referring to the actual moment Vaughan got the terrible news just about as he was to preside over a session of the AMA at its Atlantic City meeting that summer. Cabot also must have been at that meeting, according to the correspondence, and it is likely that it was when and where he first learned of the Ann Arbor job, perhaps directly from Vaughan (letter below).

 

Two.

The first century of urology in Ann Arbor: October 1919 to October 2020. Michigan Urology now entertains a year-long celebration of its centennial. Cabot introduced modern urology to the University of Michigan when he arrived on October 12, 1919, and began to build a formidable clinical engine. He recognized that clinical practice is the essential piece of the tripartite mission of academic medicine, providing the milieu for medical education, factory for new knowledge, and regional reference point for clinical expertise. The clinical milieu generates inquiry and provides a testing ground for the ideas and technology to improve healthcare, and it is the spiritual center of the organization. Clinical programs provide the essential deliverable of academic medical centers. The clinical enterprise is also the financial engine.

Since 1972, Michigan Urology has called its alumni group the Nesbit Society, not from ingratitude to Cabot, but out of respect to his trainee Reed M. Nesbit who became the first Section Head of Urology, after Cabot’s abrupt departure in February, 1930. Over the next 37 years Nesbit made Ann Arbor an epicenter for medical education and clinical innovation. Nesbit trained nearly 80 residents and fellows (we are still trying to determine the exact number), and an extraordinary number of them became leaders in academia and their communities. As a principal innovator and master of transurethral prostatectomy, Nesbit made Ann Arbor a destination for doctors wanting to learn the operation as well as for “patients in-the-know” to get treatment. A number of Cabot’s other clinical faculty also became internationally dominant figures in their newly evolving clinical arenas, of thoracic surgery, neurosurgery, and orthopaedics as well as general surgery, thus bringing the University of Michigan to the center stage of clinical medicine for the first time in its evolution. Nevertheless, Cabot’s vision of a synchronous multispecialty academic health system eluded the University because the hospital functions and professional units (the clinical faculty) were competitive rather than synchronized.

 

Three.

The Nesbit 2019 Scientific Day last month was packed: Peggy Pearle from UT Southwestern in Dallas (above, with Stu Wolf from Dell Medical School in Austin, and Rod Dunn from our Dow Health Services Division) was featured as our Nesbit Visiting Professor with one talk on controversies in medical management of stones as well as another on ureteroscopy; UM President Emeritus Jim Duderstadt discussed the unique impact of the University looking back and looking forward; Jim Cogswell of the School of Art and Design gave a multimedia presentation on the mysteries of dark matter; Dan Dierdorf UM offensive lineman from the famed 1969 team and famed sportscaster presented his Michigan Memories; Stuart Wolf our own star faculty alumnus described the Michigan lessons he is deploying at the new Dell Medical School in Austin, and our departmental leaders gave updates on their divisions including Program Director Kate Kraft and CopMich Co-chair Jens Sønksen. This writer presented Centennial Thoughts and Ganesh Palapattu gave the State of the Department address. We had many wonderful returning alumni and I wish I could have shown them all on these pages, but more pictures can be found on the Nesbit100.com website. I also wish we could have had our traditional alumni talks, but we deferred those for this special Centennial Program, save for Peter Fisher’s unique talk of his personal experience that was both terrifying and uplifting: Everyone should experience sudden cardiac death —- and live. [Below from the top: Dan Dierdorf, Pete Fisher between Will Roberts and Phil Sweetser, Ganesh & Manfred Stöhrer.]

Manfred Stöhrer from Germany, Jens Sønsken from Denmark, and Kash Siddiqi from the UAE travelled far for this meeting. Some of us had been with Jens just a few weeks earlier in Copenhagen, and our ties to him and his team in Copenhagen go back nearly 30 years. The association with Manfred is just as long, with strong ties through Ed McGuire (below) and myself. Our actual but geographically distant faculty included Sherman Silber, now adjunct professor from St. Louis (below with postdoc Yuting Fan – Fanny), and Brian Stork and Jessica Phelps of our Muskegon West Shore Urology practice.

We consider UMMS graduates, residency trainees and alumni, faculty, regional colleagues, and other friends of the Department of Urology as Nesbit Society members, and many joined us to enrich the meeting. Bruce Bracken, John Hall, Phil Sweetser, Betty Newsom, the Chang duo of Cheng-Yang and Ted, Mike Rashid, Dave Morris, the Taub duo of Marc and David, the Kozminski duo of Mike and Michael, C. Peter Fischer, Howard Usitalo, Stan Swierzewski, Charles Gershon, Charles Reynolds, Jay Hollander, Amy Li, Parth Shah, Hugh Solomon, Joanne Dale, George Schade, Noah Canvasser, Katy Konkle, Bert Chen, Tim Schuster, Craig Kozler with son Oliver, Pete Fisher with son Jake who was interviewing for medical school, Brian Lane, Herk Khaira, Atreya Dash, Ray Tan, Ron Suh, and Scott Gilbert. Rebekah Beach, Frank Begun, Tim Bradford, David Burks, Ward Gillett, David Harold, Will Johnston, Earl Koenig, Surendra Kumar, Amy Luckenbaugh, David Perlow, Paul Sonda, and Nick Styn. Ed Kleer and Elena Gimenez from St. Joseph’s Hospital. Samir Basata, Bob Isacksen, Andre King, David Lutchka, Konda Mouli, Eric Stockall, and David Wenzler. UMMS alumnus Richard Tsou came from Hawaii Pacific Health. Jim Peabody and Nesbit alum Hans Stricker from Henry Ford Health System. From East Lansing we were honored to have Shirley Harding from Michigan State and Nesbit alum Len Zuckerman and Sparrow Residents Margeaux Dennis, Eric McKeever, Andrew Schwinn, Alex Shannon, and Ross Voelker. David Miller won the Konnak Faculty Service Award.

The evening reception at Zingerman’s Greyline event space at the Marriott was terrific with Thad Polk and Red Berenson who offered stories of hockey and Putin. Next year’s meeting will conclude this year-long Centennial Celebration of Michigan Urology and will center around the Wisconsin football contest. The dates will be September 24-26, 2020.

 

Four.

The game. The tailgate at Nub Turner’s GTH Investments provided a more relaxed social gathering point than the scientific program of the previous day. With the concurrent Homecoming Weekend and Parent’s Weekend, Ann Arbor was hopping. The victory over Iowa was a modest win, and it was largely won by our defense. The B-52 flyover was a crowd-pleaser, and the Veteran of the Game was a UM graduate named Thomas Houdek (below).

Michigan Urology has many notable veterans, although none more distinguished than Edward J. McGuire, the man who succeeded Jack Lapides in 1983 and hired me in 1984. Courtesy of Julian Wan we sat in the Club seats with Khaled and Mary Ellen Hafez (below).

 

Five.

Seasonal note. Autumn is fishing season in academic medicine when senior medical students prowl the nation’s training programs for residency education to select where they hope to learn their lives’ work. This process of residency training, postgraduate medical education, was quite informal in Cabot’s time, a century ago – a sort of “arrange-it-yourself” process for periods of time from weeks to years in length. Now the process has been standardized and is regulated by professional organizations including the AUA, ABU, ABMS, and ACGME.

Training programs simultaneously audition medical students in clinical clerkships in summer and fall of the senior years and interview them formally in fall and winter. Each party then submits their “rank lists” to a national site and matches are made for urology residency training positions. The process of interviews, selection, and then the actual residency training of 5-8 years is delegated to the Program Director, a position that has grown increasingly complex over the years since the terms of Gary Faerber, Khaled Hafez, and now Kate Kraft. Selection, education, and supervision of residents requires a small village of helpers and Kate is assisted by Sapan Ambani and a team of committees. This year Michigan Urology had over 375 applicants, offered around 66 interviews, and will end up matching with four trainees who will begin their residency training next July 1. Michigan Urology matched five last year, one of whom will have an 8-year period that will include a substantial research component, and this is Joel Berends. Ganesh, Khaled, Kate, and Sapan plan to alternate 4 and 5 year classes.

 

Postscript.

Vaughan’s reply to Shattuck. Only two days after Shattuck’s revealing response to the dean’s reference inquiry, Vaughan replied:

“My dear Friend:-
I am fully aware of the fact that Dr. Hugh Cabot being as strong a man as he is has made enemies and their criticisms have not failed to reach my ear, at least some of them. However I believe in Dr. Hugh Cabot and am greatly pleased that the prospect lies before me of having him as my colleague in work which I believe to be of the greatest importance to the future of American medicine. I congratulate myself and my school upon being able to obtain his services.

I wish to thank you for your words of sympathy. I had five sons in the Army and it seemed that the good fortune of having all of them returned to us was about to be accomplished. My eldest son was Chief of the Medical Service in the Roosevelt Hospital at Chaumont during the entire period of the war. After the armistice he was detailed to work up typhoid fever in the American Expeditionary Force. He had collected all of his data and was on his way home when he was accidentally drowned in a small river in France. It is the first time that death has visited our family. Time alone will assuage the sorrow but words of sympathy from such a dear friend as you will do much to mitigate our sorrow. Yours sincerely, V.C. Vaughan” [letter below]

 

PPS

In little over a decade Cabot brought the University of Michigan Medical School into the top tier of academic health centers. He recognized that a superb, attractive, and financially robust clinical engine was at the center of medical academia and he delivered on that necessity. Yet he spent down political capital rather than building it and he had a tin ear for the faculty and staff he led; it was not quite like his successful, albeit shorter-lived, experience as commanding officer at the Western Front of WWI. His successors in urology at Michigan continued to build one of the finest urology programs in the world, and Cabot surely would have been astonished to see what it looked like 100 years after he first set foot in Ann Arbor as its one and only urologist. [Below: Faculty, residents, alumni, guests at Nesbit Society meeting 2019.]

We thank those who joined us for this kick off for our Urology Centennial Celebration and invite you and those who couldn’t make it this year to the conclusion in 2020, September 24-26.

Best wishes as we begin November, 2019.
David A. Bloom
University of Michigan, Department of Urology, Ann Arbor

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