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Heart to Heart: The Twentieth Century Battle against Cardiac Disease: An Oral History

Heart to Heart: The Twentieth Century Battle against Cardiac Disease: An Oral History by Allen Weisse

ISBN10: 0813531578
ISBN13: 978-0813531571
Author: Allen Weisse
Book title: Heart to Heart: The Twentieth Century Battle against Cardiac Disease: An Oral History
Publisher: Rutgers University Press (November 2, 2002)
Language: English
Category: Medicine
Size PDF: 1137 kb
Size ePub: 1397 kb
Size Fb2: 1859 kb
Rating: 4.1/5
Votes: 377

Heart to Heart: The Twentieth Century Battle against Cardiac Disease: An Oral History by Allen Weisse

The twentieth century was a truly incredible time of medical research productivity and progress in the treatment of heart disease. Methods of diagnosis, treatment, and prevention that were unknown or scarcely imagined at the start of the century have now been incorporated into daily medical practice.

In Heart to Heart, Dr. Allen B. Weisse presents the first collection of in-depth conversations with some of the world's most renowned cardiologists and surgeons. Weisse's interviews bring a special vitality to the doctors' recollections of the people and events that influenced them, their motivations, their problems, their interactions with their contemporaries, and their hopes and beliefs for the future. Since not every doctor who has made important contributions to the treatment and prevention of heart disease could be interviewed for this volume, Weisse includes a biographical section listing other prominent cardiologists and surgeons as well as a list of recommended reading. This comprehensive history will be a resource for any student of cardiology or general medicine.


1. William Dock
2. Andre Cournand
3. Mary Allen Engle
4. Richard J. Bing
5. Charles P. Bailey
6. John W. Kirklin
7. Arthur C. Guyton
8. Albert Starr
9. Pall M. Zoll
10. Michael E. DeBakey
11. Rene G. Favaloro
12. Adrian Kantrowitz
13. Willem J. Kolff
14. Jeremiah Stamler
15. Eugene Braunwald
16. J. Willis Hurst
17. The Twenty-First Century
Biographical Notes
Selected Bibliography
Name Index
Subject Index

Recently read it. Loved candid interviews and especially how everyone had so many chance events in their life which ultimately shaped their careers.

I'm a Russian Occupant
As the sudden appearance of cardiovascular disease as a major health threat, so was the response of medical scientists, who began to address every aspect of diagnosis, treatment and prevention of heart diseases which is considered later to be epidemic. In this book Weisse -an academic physician- is presenting the story of the twentieth century battle against cardiac disease through intimate conversations with some of the leading physicians and surgeons who figured so prominently in this effort. As we can see from his biography as a historian and member in history associations, his purpose is to provide a rare type of historical information collected by himself through interviewing 16 pioneers in diagnosis, prevention and treatment of cardiac diseases in a big project. The project started in 1979 when the earliest of these interviews were conducted, and concluded in 2000 the beginning of the new millennium. This period was a golden period in medical research, productivity and progress.

The reason why the author used oral history is mentioned for 2 reasons. First, there are already some excellent cardiology history books, some of them are mentioned in "Selected Bibliography" section of the book where the first book is also mentioned. Second, the conversational approach allows questioning these cardiologists in a give and take manner to bring special type of freshness to the history about events, people, motivations, problems, interactions and their hopes and beliefs for the future. These aspects of medical history are rarely available in conventional historical books. He also mentioned the drawback of this approach that there are many other pioneers were excluded who might merit inclusion. To compensate this, he added a list of short biographies to the end of the book.

In his 16 interviews, he starts by mentioning some biography and background of achievements of his guest then he asks his guests a variety of questions ranging from personal life and career, experiences, technical history, medical events, achievements in medicine, influences, attitudes and personal interests. Interviews took place in different years and a variety of locations and situations. Some of these interviews took place in the guest office, others on the route between two states. Most of the interviews took place in the United States and few took place in Europe. Therefore the book consists of corresponding 16 chapters and a final chapter is a word from the author about developments to come in the 21st century. In addition, the book ends with biographical notes in which the author writes some words about each character to compensate the uncovered pioneers in cardiology, chapter notes and references, selected bibliography, name index, subject index and about the author.

To understand the author writing style and purpose of the book, we need to have a quick overview on his biography. Allen B. Weisse has been on the New Jersey Medical School since 1963. He remained there for over thirty years, actively engaged in teaching, patient care, medical research and community service. He is a recent past-president of the medical history society of New Jersey and a member of the American association for the history of medicine and the American Osler society. He lectures frequently throughout the United States on a variety of subjects related to medical history and ethics (The about the author section of the book). This is why the author is a practiced historian and not just a physician and through his recording of these oral interviews without change or analysis, we can see his proficiency as a historian. He didn't write too much but he arranged questions and wrote the answers as it is. He wrote an introduction and the last chapter. His introduction is characterized by clear mentioning of the book purpose and legitimization of the methodology used and the writing style. In the last chapter his language is simple, direct and scientific. The author questions to his quests are characterized by being intimate and personal and some of them are "what if" and "what do you regret" types of questions.

The book is not intended to give knowledge about encyclopedic history of cardiovascular surgery. Instead it is a cardiologists' centered narration of history with a lot of "behind the scenes" stories about their professional lives and experiences. Therefore it is interesting for readers who are searching for personal biographies of cardiologists and their contributions in cardiac surgery and are interested to see the behind the scenes stories of these cardiologists. This type of information is especially meaningful to readers who work in the same field and are having similar experiences and will enjoy sharing these pioneers their close professional and personal lives and may think of them as ideals and leaders. The book stimulates the enthusiasm of a physician to work and follow these ideals. It motivates the pride of working in this field and touching its impact on society by examining the impact of these pioneers at their time. It is more probably interesting for readers who lived at that time and are closer to the events and landmarks of cardiology. I don't think that this book is interesting to non specialists of cardiology because they cannot see the meaning of this intimate history without working in the field.

Regarding a closer view of the type of questions prepared by the author, they concern: personal lives, professional lives and the places and positions they worked in as cardiologists, interesting stories and events that happened to them in their jobs and their relations with their colleagues who may be also pioneers in cardiology, their inventions and discoveries in cardiology and the stories and accidents behind the first discoveries of certain treatments, stories of their patients, their lives and deaths.

Regarding weaknesses in the book, some questions are not significant or important to the reader like asking Willem Kolff about the reasons he left Holland, which is a very personal question and the answer is not related to the history of cardiovascular surgery but the history of the cardiologist's life. The author may have rephrased some questions like these, concentrating on topics that are more interesting to the reader and to broaden the range of readers who may find more interest in other types of questions. In this point also I think there is a need to add a more detailed biography of the cardiologists and their achievements and events in their lives because a normal reader needs to understand who he is reading about. The author knows about these cardiologists and that's why he understands his questions and their answers but there is a lot of vagueness for a normal reader. There is a need to make a group of questions that are repeated with every cardiologist to show a comparison beside the specific questions for each one. May be this was not easy because the interviews took place through 21 years. The author is restricted mainly to cardiologists of the United States and didn't give enough attention to other international cardiologists, may be because he lives in the United States.

How does the book contribute to the history of cardiovascular surgery?
This book is different from any other scientific history book in this field because it doesn't narrate the history but rather lets the witnesses and creators of history to narrate in their own words and their own experience. The author himself didn't write a lot but he arranged the questions and meetings with the pioneers of cardiac surgery which is a much more difficult task specially that it took 21 years to collect. It is an addition to the written history and not just an arrangement of historical data collected from other written sources. This type of oral history is rare among medical history books -as the author also states in his introduction- which usually collect data from journals and articles. The time period over which the author collected his data is big, covering a sensitive era in cardiology. The questions the author asks to his guests are uncommon and adds to history unusual type of information from behind the scenes and personal opinions, experiences, events and relations between colleagues in the field rather than the usual formal and technical information about the progress in the field. As the author mentioned in his introduction, there are many books covering the history of cardiology but this book is a distinctive perspective of history.