Leroy D. Vandam, M.D.: An Anesthesia Journey (DVD). By Rafael Ortega, M.D. Boston, Anaesthesia Associates of Massachusetts, 2004. Price: Free, available through firstname.lastname@example.org, Anesthesia Department, Boston University Medical Center, 617-638-6950.
Leroy D. Vandam, M.D.: An Anesthesia Journey is an interesting DVD on many levels. The DVD is largely an interview by Rafael Ortega, M.D. (Associate Professor, Department of Anesthesiology, Boston University Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts), with the late Dr. Vandam in his Harvard Office. The topic under discussion was anesthesia equipment, and Vandam related his experiences with the myriad machines, vaporizers, ventilators, pulse oximeters, and other tools of the anesthesiologist during his 50+-yr career. The breadth of equipment used points out the tremendous change in technology over the time period. In some ways, were it not for the skill of the anesthesiologist, one wonders how anyone survived an anesthetic!
The program on the DVD is very well constructed. The producer has resisted the temptation to have Dr. Vandam on the screen the entire time. Rather, while Vandam speaks, images are brought forward that help the audience understand that which is under discussion. Another interesting technological feat is that although the interview is in black and white, the equipment images are, for the most part, in color. The interspacing of these contrasting images is pleasing to the viewer and helps move the production along well. One never tires of watching the DVD, a fault unfortunately common to historical presentations.
In addition to the history of anesthesia equipment, this program is a retrospective on Dr. Vandam's career. Multiple images of him as a young physician are displayed, and elements of his career are discussed. An unusual aspect to this presentation is the images of the various centers in which Vandam either trained or was a faculty member. From Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland) to the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts), a “face” has been placed with the name. Remarkable facts about these places are noted, including the small number of operating rooms at the Brigham when Vandam arrived to establish a residency training program.
However, this DVD program is not without its omissions. There is no discussion of why Vandam left surgery and went into anesthesia, especially after his noting that during his Army career as a surgeon, he gave grief to the anesthesiologist! His classic textbook, written with James Eckenhoff, M.D., and Robert Dripps, M.D., is not discussed. Vandam was also an Editor-in-chief of Anesthesiology, guiding the publication during the 1960s. Finally, Vandam's career as a watercolorist in New England is not documented. The Wood Library-Museum (Park Ridge, Illinois) has for years sold signed reproductions of his series of paintings of William Thomas Greene Morton's houses and barns. The Careers in Anesthesiology series has a reproduction of his watercolor of the American Society of Anesthesiologists' Headquarters Building (Park Ridge, Illinois) in the frontispiece. Although the original interview did not cover these topics, it could have been added into the presentation.
Leroy Vandam died on April 8, 2004, at the age of 90 yr. His passing, in many respects, marks the end of an era. Vandam was a member of that generation of anesthesiologists who took the infrastructure laid down in the 1930s and 1940s and built the current specialty of anesthesiology that we all enjoy. Outside of medicine, Vandam was a noted historian of Morton and the events of “ether day,” the “ether controversy,” and beyond. He was a watercolorist whose paintings were continuously displayed at the American Society of Anesthesiologists Art Exhibit. Over his career in medicine, he revolutionized the practice of anesthesiology, developed an outstanding residency program, edited the leading journal and, some would argue, textbook in the specialty, and was a driving force behind the professionalism of discipline. Watching this DVD is seeing one of the giants of our heritage come to life in the context of our shared history. It is a DVD well worth exploring.
Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. email@example.com