A Celebration of 75 Years Honoring Ralph Milton Waters, M.D.: Mentor to a Profession. Proceedings, The Ralph M. Waters Symposium on Professionalism in Anesthesiology, Madison, Wisconsin, 2002. Edited by Lucien E. Morris, M.D., Mark E. Schroeder, M.D., and Mary Ellen Warner, M.D. Park Ridge, IL, Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology, 2004. Pages: 260. Price: $60 (hardcover), $45 (softbound).
This book is a compilation of the Proceedings of The Ralph M. Waters Symposium on Professionalism in Anesthesiology held in Madison, Wisconsin on June 6–8, 2002. Members of the conference gathered to celebrate Dr. Waters’ appointment to the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1927. Many attendees could trace their roots to the Aqualumni Tree, having been trained by anesthesiologists who were residents of Dr. Waters. Ann Bardeen-Henschel, M.D. (Associate Professor [retired], Department of Anesthesiology, The Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin), Merel H. Harmel, M.D. (Professor Emeritus, Chairman Emeritus, Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Care, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina), Lucien E. Morris, M.D. (Professor Emeritus and Founding Chairman, Department of Anesthesia, Medical College of Ohio, Toledo, Ohio), Carlos P. Parsloe, M.D. (Hospital Samaritano-Anestesia, São Paulo, Brazil), and Darwin D. Waters, M.D. (Longwood, Florida) were present at the meeting. In addition, Torsten Gordh, Sr., M.D. (Professor Emeritus, Department of Anesthesiology, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden), and Jone J. Wu, M.D. (Shanghai, China), were honored at the meeting. This year, Torsten Gordh Sr., M.D., and Jone J. Wu, M.D., the most senior members of this group, are celebrating their 98th and 93rd birthdays, respectively. These are the last surviving anesthesiologists to claim a direct link to the Waters’ legacy, having trained directly under Waters in Madison, Wisconsin.
The book is well organized by the editors and covers an impressive array of topics. It begins with an introduction to the history of medicine and the state of the world when Waters began his work at the University of Wisconsin. At the time, the state of the art for anesthesia was quite poor, and Waters took the lead with his vision for the future. The beginning of this vision is illuminated for us in A. J. Wright’s article “Appeals for Physician Anesthesia in the United States between 1880 and 1920.” A. J. Wright, M.L.S. (Associate Professor, David Hill Chestnut M.D. Section on the History of Anesthesia, Department of Anesthesiology Library, University of Alabama School of Medicine, Birmingham, Alabama), quotes an article that Waters published in 1919 on this subject: “I wish especially to appeal to the physicians … in every town who occasionally give anesthetics, to wake up, get busy, and make anesthesia a part or all of your business. Do it the best you know how every time you officiate at the head of the table. Learn all there is to find out about it, and help the rest of us to do it better by adding to the developments already made.”
The next hundred or so pages read much like a who’s who of early anesthesia in the United States of America. Lucien Morris, M.D., John E. Steinhaus, M.D., Ph.D. (Professor Emeritus, Department of Anesthesiology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia), John W. Severinghaus, M.D. (Professor Emeritus of Anesthesia, UCSF, San Francisco, California), James F. Arens, M.D. (Professor and Chairman, Department of Anesthesiology, the University of Texas at Houston Medical School, Houston, Texas), Merel H. Harmel, M.D., Carlos P. Parsloe, M.D., William K. Hamilton, M.D. (Professor Emeritus, Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Care, University of California, San Francisco, California), Selma Harrison Calmes, M.D. (Clinical Professor, Department of Anesthesiology, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, Sylmar, California), and many other outstanding anesthesiologists share their personal experiences that connect them to the Waters’ legacy.
The remaining pages of this book illustrate the worldwide influence of Dr. Waters, with articles on the Neuroanesthesia Society of Great Britain and Ireland by Jean Horton, M.B., B.S., F.R.C.A. (Cambridge, England, United Kingdom); the development of anesthesia in Great Britain and Europe by Sir Keith Sykes, F.R.C.A. (Professor Emeritus, University of Oxford, Oxford, England, United Kingdom), and Thomas B. Boulton, M.D., F.R.C.A. (Oxford and Reading, England, United Kingdom); the contributions of the late Edgar Pask, M.D. (1912–1966) of Great Britain by Gary R. Enever, M.B., B.S., F.R.C.A. (Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, United Kingdom); Sweden’s connection to Waters by Torsten Gordh, Sr., M.D., and Torsten Gordh, Jr., M.D., Ph.D. (Department of Anesthesiology, Uppsala University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden); Waters far-reaching influence in Hong Kong by Zoltan Lett, M.D., F.R.C.A. (formerly Reader in-charge Anesthesia [retired], Department of Surgery, the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China); the story of Jone J. Wu, M.D., pioneer anesthesiologist and Aqualumnus, by Guangming Zhang, M.D. (Attending Physician, Zhongshan Hospital, Fundan University, Shanghai, China), Zhanggang Xue, M.D. (Zhongshan Hospital, Fundan University, Shanghai, China), and Hao Jiang, M.D. (Zhongshan Hospital, Fundan University, Shanghai, China); and Waters’ impact on academic anesthesia in Latin America by J. Antonio Aldrete, M.D., M.S. (The Arachnoiditis Foundation, Inc., Aldrete Pain Care Center, Birmingham, Alabama). Other articles are interspersed among the European, Asian, and Latin American topics. Of great interest to me personally was Dr. Merel H. Harmel’s article on the early history of pediatric cardiac anesthesia at Johns Hopkins. The first Blalock-Taussig procedure was performed at Johns Hopkins in 1944, and Dr. Harmel was, in his own words, “both a witness to, and player in, this remarkable drama.”
The book itself stands as a tribute to Waters and to the men and women who came together to honor him. I found myself checking the references, looking for the early history books quoted by Waters and his contemporaries. Several have been added to our departmental library as a result. The book contains more than 50 individual chapters, and it is not too difficult to find a few minutes during the day to read a chapter or two, even for those in a busy clinical practice. At that rate, one can finish the book in a few weeks. I found that my pace increased quickly as I got more involved in the stories of these outstanding anesthesiologists. I recommend it to all anesthesiologists in practice as well as to those who have retired and perhaps have a more personal perspective on our history than I do. Among the many textbooks that we inundate our new residents with, this is one I would make sure they get and read. This book will give them an appreciation of our heritage and the foundation of professionalism that Dr. Waters launched more than 75 yr ago. He provided the intellectual muscle that forms the raison d’être of our specialty. We can and must go forward with this tradition. Douglas R. Bacon, M.D., M.A. (Associate Professor, Department of Anesthesiology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota), hits the nail on the head in the conclusion to his article entitled “Why Celebrate Ralph Milton Waters?” He says: “Waters was, without doubt, a product of his time, yet his career teaches us that being involved and chasing a vision for the specialty can, and ought to be done.”
University of Alabama, Birmingham School of Medicine, Birmingham, Alabama. firstname.lastname@example.org