Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Book Review: Genius On The Edge

I received a free copy of the book, Genius on the Edge: The Bizarre Double Life of Dr. William Stewart Halsted by Gerald Imber, MD, a week ago.  I have enjoyed reading it.  The book is the biography of Dr Halsted, but also gives you a glimpse into the life of many other great medical figures:  William Osler, William Henry Welch, Harvey Cushing, etc.  (photo credit)

In many ways it is a history of medicine/surgery in America.  Halsted was very influential in bringing aseptic techniques to surgery and introduced the residency training system.  He used his knowledge of anatomy to improve surgical technique.  He performed the first successful hernia repair and radical mastectomy for breast cancer.

Early in his career Halsted became addicted to cocaine while experimenting with the drug for use as a local anesthetic.  Treatment at the time, involved substituting morphine for cocaine.  Halsted spent 40 years of his life struggling with his addiction to both cocaine and morphine.

His career was almost ruined by his addiction, but with help from his friends who still believed in his brilliance he was able to resurrected his career at the new Johns Hopkins, where he became the first chief of surgery.  Here he changed surgery to a lifesaving art rather than a horrific, dangerous practice.

You don’t need to be a surgeon to appreciate this book.  You only need to have a love of history.  Dr. Imber, a plastic surgeon in private practice in Manhattan, has written a fine book.

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

You may also like these posts

    None Found

Read comments »

Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »