History of cardiology : Robert F Rushmer, a cardiac scientist par excellence .
Few individual’s works mattered more than others in the field of cardiology. Here was a man born in Utah, studied at Rush university trained in Mayo, settled in Seattle as a pediatrician. But his passion drove him to become a specialist cardiac physiologist with an urge to find the answers to all those lingering queries that arise as a practicing clinical cardiologist. He built an exclusive animal lab to study the mechanics and physics of circulation and cardiac pumps.
He can be called new age, Harvey. He seemed to always bother, how is it that the 6 liters of blood traverse from heart to the periphery and comes back going through vast lengthy circulation with variable pressure and little energy loss.? He also made the very pertinent discovery in neural control, the effect of gravity on circulation. His interest in how venous return would have to match cardiac output was phenomenal.
His grasp of cardiovascular physiologic concepts was so powerful and his book on cardiovascular dynamics was so popular. probably the first scientific textbook on circulation. I am sure he had shaped the thought process of so many physicians (I will vouch for myself) and helped create hundreds of cardiologists all over the globe. Dr.Rushmer also did pioneering work on diagnostic ultrasound and doppler. I can recall a video on cardiac embryology edited by him in the 1960s in pre-computer era that probably can not be beaten even today in terms of clarity of content and production value.
Through his thoughts like an engineer and mathematician still, he was able to blend the knowledge together and pass it on to the generation next clinician. No wonder, he was the founder and headed the department of biomedical engineering in the UW. The University of Washington holds an annual Rushmer lecture.
If one person deserves an award for excellence in cardiovascular science for the 20th century, Dr.Rushmer’s name should definitely, come on top. Though he won several accolades, I feel scientific societies have missed an opportunity to felicitate him with the more worthy award. If the Noble prize in medicine is given for a lifetime contribution to cardiovascular physiology wonder why he can’t be considered for it posthumously.
It is heartening to note, at the fag end of his career he moved from core science to philosophical and ethical truths of science and technology. He once said, “We’re confronted with the ethical, political, and technological consequences of our medical triumphs. We have to learn quickly how to deal with these profound problems by looking ahead to recognize and avoid complications of our technical breakthroughs’ How true his observation has turned out to be!