alexa William Stewart Halsted: a lecture by Dr. Peter D. Olch


Cancer Surgery

Author(s): Rankin JS

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In the fall of 1979, Dr. David C. Sabiston Jr., as Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Duke University, called a chief residents' meeting to ask for suggestions regarding the upcoming Clarence E. Gardner History of Medicine Lecture (Dr. Gardner was the second Chairman of Surgery at Duke). Having just read MacCallum's biography of Halsted, I mentioned the topic of William Stewart Halsted, and Dr. Sabiston seemed interested. I subsequently learned that Dr. Peter D. Olch, Deputy Chief of the History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine, had been invited to give the lecture. Enthusiastic about the prospect, I obtained permission from Dr. Olch to tape his presentation and to copy his slides. It was a cold January day under clear Carolina skies when we accompanied Dr. Olch on the requisite tour of the Duke campus. We then escorted him to the packed lecture hall, and Dr. Sabiston gave his characteristically thorough introduction. Dr. Olch was physically and intellectually vigorous () and delivered his address in a uniquely informative, even inspiring, manner. That evening, a dinner was given in Dr. Olch's honor, and the entire visit was quite remarkable. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Olch developed lymphoma, eventually lost a hard fight against the cancer, and never published this paper. Given Dr. Olch's extraordinary insight into Dr. Halsted's character, which was based on many years of assiduous study, it seemed appropriate to publish this work posthumously after a quarter century.

This article was published in Annals of Surgery and referenced in Cancer Surgery

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