Book Review: “Jews in Medicine”

Oliver PollakSan Diego Jewish World

This 464-page encyclopedic reference book starts with the Talmud and comes into the present including still living practitioners. The author identifies Jewish physicians in Islamic and Christian lands before the 1492 expulsion from Spain. About 70 percent of the book is devoted to the Modern Era marked by the Age of Specialization. The basic sciences include bacteriology, microbiology, infectious diseases, biochemistry, cell biology, DNA-RNA research, genetics, immunology, pharmacology, and physiology.

The Clinical Medicine section covers cardiology, cardiac surgery, dermatology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, hematology, internal medicine, medical imaging, radiation oncology, neurology, neurosurgery, neuropsychology, obstetrics/gynecology, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, pathology, pediatrics, psychiatry, psychology, surgery, virology as well as public health, prizes, medical education, medical administration, closing with physicians and medicine in the State of Israel…

Familiar names include Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides), Baruch Spinoza, August Paul von Wasserman, Victor Emil Frankl, Anna Freud, Sigmund Freud, Cesare Lombroso, Abraham Flexner, Albert Bruce Sabin, Jonas Edward Salk, and Henrietta Szold. These are heroic names. Flexner, who introduced modern American medical education, was the subject of a brilliant biography by Thomas Neville Bonner, IconoclastAbraham Flexner and a Life in Learning (2002).

Professional achievement is rewarded with honors and money prizes.  The Lasker Award, (The American Nobel Prize), named for Albert Davis Lasker, wealthy publicist and philanthropist, instituted in 1945, distributes prizes of $250,000. The Nobel prize comes with about $1.1 million.

Much is known of Maimonides, the Rambam. He is mentioned on at least nine pages besides one Index reference. There is one mention of Nachmanides of Girona, Ramban, on page 32 which is not in the Index. Ramban however appears to be an enigma. He does not receive a paragraph. Eisenberg confesses it “is impossible to include every Jewish physician who has made meaningful contributions to the development of medicine.” Dr. Eisenberg has presented so many remarkable and compelling stories; the reader wants more.

Reference books sparkle when the readers have easy access to information.

Read the entire review here.

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