Expectations and epistolaries

Matula Thoughts
January 1, 2021
Expectations and Epistolaries

2941 words

One.

Calendar reset. After all the hoopla, brouhaha, and general ruckus, today’s customary greeting “Happy New Year” looks ahead with optimism. Human nature, on the other hand, nudges us to also look backward with caution, Janus-like. One year ago, few people expected 2020 would be dominated by a tiny RNA virus. Clues were present but, even without those signals and others soon following, common sense alone should have kept us, vulnerable species that we are, on guard for recurring global pandemics, the last massive one having been only a century ago. [Above: Janus, Wikipedia, source Vatican.]

Some argue that the present pandemic is more accurately described as a syndemic: an unfortunate coincidence of a global infectious disease and a range of noncontagious comorbidities. The term came from medical anthropologist Merrill Singer in the 1990s, referring specifically to the interactions among substance abuse, violence, and AIDS (SAVA). Syndemic now denotes occurrences of multiple categories of disease interacting in specific populations. The Lancet expanded the concept for a new series in the journal beginning in 2017. [The Lancet, 389:881, 2017.] A Lancet article this autumn discussed the syndemic nature of COVID-19 in India and the dangers of false optimism as restrictions were lifted there in June. [The Lancet, 396:867, 2020.] In syndemic terms the COVID-19 situation is an acute respiratory viral condition interacting with an array of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) that tend to cluster within social groups. The key operative words here are respiratory viral infection and social groups (social translates to behavioral, economic and caste). DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32000-6

It is beyond ironic that, when the worldwide COVID deaths reached one million by the end of September last year, the United States accounted for 20% of fatalities although representing only 4.25% of the world’s population and arguably possessing much of the world’s best resources to contain the virus. Lacking in this country were national leadership, public trust, and the good will and sense of its people to take sensible measures to minimize spread of a somewhat fragile and moderately contagious virus, SARS-CoV-2.

 

Two.

Expectations. History shows that uncertainty about what a new year will bring is nothing new. New years bring gains, losses, and some recoveries as I’ve seen while researching the story of Michigan Urology with far more discovered than two books and Matula Thoughts could contain. One letter found in the Bentley Library fits this January essay nicely: a note sent by UM Medical School Dean Victor Vaughan to his friend Dr. Arnold Lorand in Karlsbad, Czecho-Slovackia, written January 12, 1920. The two friends had lost touch during the terrible war that disrupted their lives, as it had millions of others. They were lucky to reconnect. 

“Dear Doctor:-
Mrs. Vaughan and I were much pleased to receive your Christmas card. We have often wondered what had become of you, and we have often expressed the wish that we might look down upon Karlsbad, its splendid mountains, and its beautiful walks, many of which awaken in us pleasant memories. We have gone through the dreadful cycline [‘cyclone’], I and my five sons were in the Army, and my oldest son now rests in French soil. I often wonder whether I will ever desire to visit Europe again. However this may be, we remember you with the greatest pleasure, and we send you best wishes, not only for the coming year, but as we hope, for the many years to come. Yours truly, V.C. Vaughan.”

Lorand (1865-1943) was a physician at the Carlsbad Spa, longevity researcher, and pioneer of modern geriatric medicine. His 1911 book, Old Age Deferred, was popular in America and went through a number of printings. [New England Med Gazette, 47:845, 1912.] He was one of many academic friends gained and visited by the Vaughans during their lives, and epistolaries such as Vaughan’s were the common way people kept in touch, taking more time and crafting than today’s phone calls, emails, or texts. [Below: Lorand and 1913 edition of his book.] 

In 1919, with the end of WWI in sight, the Vaughans looked forward to better times as they returned from military duty in Washington, DC to Ann Arbor, but grief followed that summer when their son “Clarence” drowned accidentally while swimming in a river in France, just as troops were drawing down near the end of the war. Dean Vaughan had gotten the news while at the American Medical Association national meeting in Atlantic City in mid-June 1919, just as he was to chair a session. After a few moments to collect himself he stepped onto the stage and took the chair. It was also during this meeting that Vaughan first met Hugh Cabot who had recently returned from more than two years on the Western Front in France serving with the British Expeditionary Forces. Allied Powers and Germany ended their conflict and signed the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, but within the next 20 years, Germany would break its postwar agreements, subsume Czechoslovakia, and initiate another world war.

After a difficult 1919, the Vaughans hoped for a happier 1920 and the Christmas Card from the Lorands was a happy signal.

 

Three.

Little things, unnoticed by most people at this first moment of 2021, may become consequential to us in the near future, just as they did last year and every previous new year. The little things may be microorganisms, memes, or people. For example, few in Ann Arbor noticed in January 1933 when Adolph Hitler became chancellor of Germany, although the world soon took note. Many people admired his German patriotism in the dark days after the Treaty of Versailles with his ability to energize domestic industry and get railroads to run on time, but autocratic governance and tyranny never serve a people well and end badly.

In contrast, the 1933 presidential inauguration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on March 4 was universally noticed throughout Ann Arbor and beyond, marking a turning point in the Depression, although his new administration disturbed many conservative citizens. Where Reed Nesbit stood on this issue can only be imagined as he was not as public with his political beliefs as had been his mentor, Hugh Cabot. Nesbit, however, seemed always to favor the common man.

Roosevelt may not have been a “common man”  but his disability brought him close to the myriad daily struggles of common people. Few Americans knew, at this time, that FDR needed assistance to stand and walk, due to polio, it had been believed, incurred in 1921 although a modern view suggests that Guillain-Barré was the more likely cause. [Below: a scene unimaginable in 2021 – Herbert Hoover and Roosevelt together enroute to 1933 inauguration. Library of Congress.]

In retrospect those 1933 transitions began a new chapter in the recurring contest between democratic rule and authoritarian rule, in this instance precipitated largely by the residue of WWI and the Great Depression. Which system best solves a nation’s problems and improves the lives of its people? Hitler exploited his nation with coercion and physical force, while Roosevelt deployed a lucky mix of democratic process, capitalistic enterprise, “New Deal” big government, and moral authority. The public, the press, and academia took far too little notice of this contest until it spilled over into another world war that would give democratic ideas and humanity another reprieve. Cats have a finite number of lives, but we hope democracies have more. 

 

Four.

Annus mirabilis. In January 1971 Jack Lapides began his second year as Section Head of Urology and it was an extraordinary one. As someone who had grown up in Depression times, served in the Pacific in WWII, and seen university and national politics up close, Jack was no “Polly Anna.” Yet, while cautious of threats ahead politically, economically, and globally he relished the opportunities of his new position and robust ideas. 

Now, a half century later, it is tempting to try to understand his thoughts as 1971 opened up. Just like today, that New Year began on a Friday. This would be the year Lapides broadcast his ideas on clean intermittent catheterization (CIC) that at the time contradicted medical convention, initially bringing him more ridicule than praise. Nonetheless the concept proved worthy, opening the door to a new era of surgical urinary tract reconstruction and improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with urinary tract dysfunction globally.  A generation later, leaders like Bernie Churchill in Toronto equated Lapides’s retrograde idea to the most “Nobel Prize worthy concept” in urology.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.juro.2016.10.080

Lapides (above) published nine papers in 1971 and was appearing on the national center stages of urology regularly just as his predecessors at UM, Hugh Cabot and Reed Nesbit had in their times. At the American Urological Association (AUA) annual meeting in Chicago, May 16, 1971, Lapides moderated a panel called “What Constitutes a Good Urological Residency,” consisting of Peter L. Scardino of Savannah (father of our friend Peter T. Scardino), Clarence Hodges of Portland Oregon (trainee of actual Nobel Prize winner Charles Huggins of UM and then the University of Chicago; later mentor of John Barry), Ralph A. Straffon of Cleveland Clinic (trainee of Reed Nesbit), W.V. Tynes of Norfolk, J.J. Buchierre of Rochester MN, and John Hall of Ann Arbor (chief resident at UM). 

The UM urology brand was in wide display at the 1971 AUA in Chicago. Notably, the chairman of the Society of Pediatric Urology that year was Ian M. Thompson, formerly from Ann Arbor, but currently chair in Columbia, Missouri. The 1971 AUA Meredith Campbell lecturer, Willard E. Goodwin of UCLA (a friend and supporter of Lapides) spoke on “Some hermaphrodites, pseudohermaphrodites, ambisexuals, and other ambiguous types I have known.” An “Ask the professor” session featured Goodwin and John J. Murphy urology chief at the University of Pennsylvania. Murphy was a 1952 graduate of the Nesbit program. Residents on the podium “grilled” the professors about their training and absorption into the field of urology, and “seemed to have the feeling somehow that they had been misguided in a urologic career.” [AUA Centennial History Vol. 1 p. 58.]

That oddly negative view of those residents was not repeated the following years nor did it seem to indicate a trend. Lapides’s trainees in Ann Arbor harbored nothing less than great respect and admiration for their chief and experiences in Ann Arbor, as based on my recent conversations with many of them. In the summer of 1971 Charles Adams, Sahir Cittan, John Gambee, and the late Ed Tank completed their urology training at UM while Robert Barnett, Thomas Kub, Thomas Newman, Lee Underwood, and Robert Vinson began their three years of residency under Lapides. I began my training at UCLA that summer, falling under Goodwin’s spell and far from ever feeling misguided considered myself lucky to be there. Sadly 1971 was the year that Jack’s wife, Alice, passed away.

 

Five.

Ups and downs. A half century ago, 1971, was a great year for an ascending Jack Lapides, but it was a tipping point into despair for another UM alumnus who lost faith in his own future, and indeed the future of our species. This individual dropped out of the conventional world and stepped off the so-called grid to a hermit-like existence in a cabin he built in rural Lincoln, Montana, much in the manner of Henry David Thoreau, or so it seemed at first. The modern-day recluse, however, had far darker thoughts, believing that industrial society could not control its own future and would destroy not only our species, but all others and the planet around us. These ideas took over his brain like a virus and led him to believe that the only recourse was to mail bombs to people targeted as symbolic in industrial society. He anonymously delivered at least 16 bombs that maimed and killed a number of people between 1978 and 1995, becoming known and feared as The Unabomber. In 1995 he sent the New York Times a letter promising to suspend his campaign of terrorism if it printed a rambling essay he included, “Industrial Society and its Future.” Meanwhile, a large FBI team at work since 1978 had failed to identify this “Mad Bomber,” until his brother became suspicious enough to supply the critical tip that led to arrest in 1996 and current imprisonment.

That incoherent essay of Ted Kaczynski (UM Mathematics Ph.D. 1967) has been reformulated to a book, Technological Slavery, available on Amazon where it is described blandly.

“Logical, lucid and direct, Technological Slavery is more than an expansion on the ideas set forth by Theodore Kaczynski in Industrial Society and its Future (aka ‘The Manifesto’). It radically reinvigorates and reforms the intellectual foundations of an age-old and resurgent world view: ‘Progress is a myth. Wild nature and humanity (including human freedom, dignity, and autonomy) are fundamentally incompatible with technological growth.”

Kaczynski is now incarcerated at Federal Prison ADX in Florence, Colorado, serving a life sentence for his murderous campaign, and receives no remuneration for the book. 

Considering our ineptitude as a species and society in dealing with many existential crises  – pandemics, terrorism, extreme weather, earthquakes, environmental deterioration, poverty, food insecurity, economic and social inequality, ongoing regional warfare and destructive geopolitical conflict – it is no huge surprise that a small subset of our 7 billion people become unhinged by reality. To be so certain of belief and driven to terrorize others by mayhem and murder as Kaczynski, however, is clearly far beyond the pale. And others follow, notably Anthony Warner, last week in Nashville. [Below: Pales of settlement; Ireland 1488 and 1901 Poland and Russia. Wikipedia.]


Surely there are myriad constructive ways to build better futures for ourselves and the planet, although we’d better find them more quickly as the opportunities are slipping away.

No one can fully know what 2021 will bring, but we can predict some things will be lost this year: for a start – certainly much glacial ice and rain forest, and likely some essential species. Whatever other critical events we ignore at our peril – time will tell.

 

Postscripts.

Letters to self. We sent What’s New by email for 20 years and continue to publish the web version, Matula Thoughts, on the internet (maulathoughts.org) on the first Friday of each month.

What’s New, the communication, began in Allen Lichter’s Dean’s Office of UM Medical School in 2001. Some in the office then believed that “we can’t communicate too much” whereas others felt burned-out from the daily barrage of “Too Much Information” on physical and electronic desktops. The idea of producing something predictable but not too frequent, while interesting (one hoped) and reasonably concise, seemed preferable to random uncurated attachments and messages. We began What’s New then at predictable monthly intervals (first Fridays) to provide a finite “weekend read,” of around 15 minutes. The essay transitioned to the Urology Department in 2007 with the web version (easier to access and manage if “followed” on the website) in 2013 as matulathoughts.org making this number 95. 

The Dean’s Office of Faculty Affairs, now in the capable hands of Brian Zink, and the Department of Urology, under the excellent stewardship of Ganesh Palapattu, are creating their own modes of communication to fit their new times. Matula Thoughts continues a monthly cadence of essays relating loosely to medicine, Michigan, urology, biology, or other matters in the cabinet of curiosities, from a professor making the final round of bases in the game of academic medicine. This year seems a good time to free up people’s email and liberate many from an unwanted monthly weekend assignment, so we will discontinue the email distribution of What’s New. We will, however, continue the web format Matula Thoughts, that can be accessed by the click of a button on the web site, providing a monthly email and link to matulathoughts.org.

Trees fall in forests. 

Why write these essays? The essayist Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) was an initial inspiration and exemplary modern expressions of the urge to communicate in writing are flourishing. Even if few people in the forest witness the falling tree of an essay, it serves a primal purpose. [Above: Hartwick Pines State Park, Grayling, Michigan, September 2020.]

Comparing the essay form to the nearly-obsolete hand-written letter, the author Claire Messud commented:

“The review and the essay remain a more public, yet ideally still intimate, version of the epistolary. Not a place to share one’s private details, to be sure, but certainly to try to communicate, as precisely and with as much complexity as possible, one’s experience of a work of art, or the evolution of one’s thought….” [C. Messud, Kant’s Little Prussian Head & Other Reasons Why I Write. W.W. Norton, NY, 2020, p. xx.]

A letter assumes an audience, usually of one, although not necessarily of anyone. The act of writing provides a measure of satisfaction and deliverance (of an observation) even if it is simply a “note to self.” Messud’s book is both “an autobiography in essays,” as it’s self-described, followed by a collection of 16 literary and visual art contemplations, but most importantly, one suspects, it is an extraordinary series of personal notes-to-self that bring clarity to the writer. 

Metrics
Nothing is beyond the pale on the internet and much of it is measurable. Matula Thoughts took a small dip when the author ceased to be departmental chair of urology at UM in 2019 but readership is back with a rise this year with views at 3458, 3357, and 3929 (31 Dec.) for 2018, 2019, and 2020. This past year 16 countries produced 10 or more “views’ and another 55 countries had “single digit visitors” – enough observers in the cyber forest to justify continuing Matula Thoughts for 2021. Of course, “a view” or “a visitor” is not necessarily a thoughtful reader, but merely a measure of notice within the forest and, happily in terms of forest sustainability, Matula Thoughts doesn’t require many falling trees. Nonetheless, after nearly 20 years of this essay, it remains primarily a “letter-to-self,” if only an affirmation of self that sometimes resonates with someone else. [Below: Word Press readership for Matula Thoughts 2020.]

Thanks for reading Matula Thoughts this January 2021.
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

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