Eugene Braunwald: Maestro Of American Cardiology  pg. 5

After a residency at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, Braunwald spent a research fellowship year at Columbia University and Bellevue Hospital, studying under André Cournand, M.D., soon also to win a Nobel Prize for advances in cardiac catheterization.

He completed his medical residency in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he attended lectures given by cardiovascular giants including Alfred Blalock, M.D., and Helen Taussig, M.D., who had just developed the “blue baby” operation. Then he went on to the intramural program of the NIH.

In 1967, Braunwald became an editor of Principles of Internal Medicine, now considered to be the defining medical text for physicians and medical students around the world.

Launched in 1950 by former Vanderbilt professor Tinsley Harrison, M.D., Principles offered medical students a new way of approaching patients. Instead of describing various diseases as earlier textbooks had done, Harrison’s book invited students to understand the biologic basis of signs and symptoms which would lead to correct diagnosis and rational treatment. This textbook was the first to break down the wall between basic science and clinical medicine.

The same year, Braunwald got the chance to apply this new approach to medical education when he was asked to become the founding Chairman of Medicine of the new medical school at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). He seized the opportunity and moved his family, which now included three daughters, to the West Coast.

Braunwald and his colleagues immediately set about bridging the educational divide that existed universally at the time. Surgeons taught anatomy; internal medicine faculty taught physiology and pharmacology. The head of the infectious disease division taught microbiology, as well as clinical infectious diseases. Their approach, which was quite controversial at the time, is now the cornerstone of medical education throughout the country.

Meanwhile, the research in the Braunwald laboratory was going well. His team published key studies on AMI in dogs showing that giving a beta blocker to lower myocardial oxygen demand and reperfusion to increase oxygen supply reduced the size of the MI. This laid the groundwork for a standard of care that was revolutionary at the time, but which still holds today—namely, that aggressive medical intervention before, during and after a heart attack can reduce myocardial damage and therefore be life saving.

Four years later, after overseeing the graduation of UCSD’s charter medical school class, Braunwald was called back to the East Coast, this time to Boston, to chair Harvard University’s Department of Medicine at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (now Brigham and Women's Hospital). Over time, he held increasingly complex positions, including eight years as Harvard Medical School’s Faculty Dean for Academic Programs at Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General Hospitals.

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