Weisse, Allen B. 1929–

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Weisse, Allen B. 1929–

(Allen Barry Weisse)

PERSONAL:

Born December 6, 1929, in New York, NY; son of Charles and Frieda Weisse; married Laura Van Raalte, August 5, 1967; children: Danielle, Charles. Education: New York University, B.A., 1950; State University of New York, Brooklyn, M.D., 1958.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Springfield, NJ. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Physician, cardiologist, and professor. Seton Hall College (now New Jersey Medical School), Jersey City, NJ, instructor, 1963-65; University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, and New Jersey Medical School, 1965—, began as instructor, became professor of medicine and chairman of the admissions committee. Attending physician at various New Jersey hospitals and medical centers.

MEMBER:

American College of Cardiology, American College of Physicians, American Heart Association, American Federation for Clinical Research, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Physiological Society, New Jersey Medical Society (secretary, cardiovascular section, 1968-69, chairman, 1969-70), American Society of Echocardiography, Historical Society of New Jersey (president, 2000), American Association for the History of Medicine, American Osler Society.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Charles L. Brown Award, University of Maryland, 1977.

WRITINGS:

(With Charles Mangel) Medicine: The State of the Art, Dial Press (New York, NY), 1984.

Conversations in Medicine: The Story of Twentieth-Century American Medicine in the Words of Those Who Created It, New York University Press (New York, NY), 1984.

(With the editors of Consumer Reports Books) The Man's Guide to Good Health, Consumer Reports Books (Yonkers, NY), 1991.

Medical Odysseys: The Different and Sometimes Unexpected Pathways to Twentieth-Century Medical Discoveries, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 1991.

The Staff and the Serpent: Pertinent and Impertinent Observations on the World of Medicine (memoir), Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale, IL), 1998.

Heart to Heart: The Twentieth-Century Battle against Cardiac Disease: An Oral History, Rutgers University Press (New Brunswick, NJ), 2002.

Lessons in Mortality: Doctors and Patients Struggling Together, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

Allen B. Weisse has written several books during his long career as a doctor and professor of medicine. His first, Medicine: The State of the Art, written with medical writer Charles Mangel, grew out of a 1980 symposium held at Memorial Hospital Medical Center in Long Beach, California. The authors visited those hospitals and medical centers that were providing the advanced treatments they discuss in the book, treatments being performed in the areas of organ transplants, cancer, orthopedics, cardiology, and burns.

Among the case histories, they include one of a baby born three months premature and weighing only slightly more than one pound. The baby survived, but only after experiencing severe problems with her heart, lungs, head, and intestines and undergoing heart surgery. In a Los Angeles Times Book Review, article, Paul Jacobs noted that "from such triumphs comes the authors' rapture," but Jacobs added that they "tend to ignore implications of the new technology…. In such cases, victory may be more terrible than defeat. But the aim of the book is to chronicle medicine's newest achievements, not discuss its moral consequences. And in this, Mangel and Weisse succeed, with a delightful feel for their subject."

Weisse interviewed sixteen physicians, one of whom was British and the rest American, about their medical careers for Conversations in Medicine: The Story ofTwentieth-Century American Medicine in the Words of Those Who Created It. The focus is on the major advances of the century, including those in molecular biology and DNA science, open heart surgery, artificial and transplanted organs, and the growth of pharmacology. Thomas F.A. Plaut noted in Science Books and Films that "the text is well-written, but some knowledge of medicine/physiology is required." Writing for Library Journal Ellis Mount and Barbara List felt that the anecdotes contained in the interviews "put medicine into a social context."

Weisse collaborated with the editors of Consumer Reports Books in writing The Man's Guide to Good Health. The volume addresses the causes and treatments of degenerative and infectious diseases and provides practical advice on finding a physician and alternative treatments to conventional Western medicine. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "chapters that tell the reader how to get the most out of our health care system are immediately useful and practical."

Robert A. Schwartz reviewed Medical Odysseys: The Different and Sometimes Unexpected Pathways to Twentieth-Century Medical Discoveries in American Family Physician, calling it "a fascinating history of the incidents and opportunities that created an environment conducive to generating the works of persistent physicians and scientists."

In some cases, Weisse interviewed the key figures at the center of the discoveries and advances he profiles. His subjects include the development of chemotherapy from the chemical warfare of World; the discovery of penicillin; advances in the treatment of polio, heart and kidney disease; the invention of the heart-lung machine; and the understanding of Hepatitis B. While some of these stories are familiar, many are fresh and new. William Beatty noted in Booklist, that "the emphasis is on the individual scientist and the unplanned way in which so many breakthroughs occur." Beatty called the thirteen stories an "informative, thought-provoking collection." Choice reviewer I. Richman felt Medical Odysseys "should be in the collections of all medical history libraries."

Many of the essays in The Staff and the Serpent: Pertinent and Impertinent Observations on the World of Medicine were published in shorter form in medical journals. Here Weisse offers up his observations on medicine and his own place in it, beginning with his failed attempts to gain admission to medical school in the 1950s, which he credits to the anti-Semitism of the time. He also addresses the subject of more modern racism that has excluded minorities.

In a review for the Journal of the American Medical Association, Mark A. La Porta wrote that "the book jacket forewarns of the author's self-righteousness and strong personal sentiment, particularly when considering that his generation simultaneously led the forefront of the last ‘golden age’ of American medicine but also laid the groundwork for the uncontrolled excesses and expenses of over medicalization and ‘scientific’ health care for its own sake, followed by the pendulum swinging to cost containment, managed care, and the disdain of the public at large. Through anecdote and memoir it seems likely that the enormous historical, scientific, and societal forces that have shaped modern health care delivery were both inevitable and inexorable." Choice reviewer A.R. Davis called Weisse' essays "wise and witty writings based on innate regard and empathy for the human condition." Shwartz noted that "each chapter is filled with wonderful anecdotes…. Witty and fascinating, each of its twenty-two chapters is a pleasure to read. This little gem deserves to be a best seller."

Heart to Heart: The Twentieth-Century Battle against Cardiac Disease: An Oral History is devoted to Weisse's specialty. The volume consists of sixteen interviews with pioneers in cardiac surgery, nearly all of whom are from the United States. Berndt Luderitz noted in the New England Journal of Medicine that "interviews that took place between 1979 and 2000 with Charles Bailey, Andre Cournant, William Dock, and Willem Kolff form the core of this work." Other interviewees include Michael DeBakey, Eugene Braunwauld, Richard Bing, John Kirklin, Arthur Guyton, and Willis Hurst. The book is arranged chronologically, and Weisse uses a question-and-answer format, rendering the subject matter easier to follow and understand. Beatty wrote that Weisse's interviewees offer "an admirable variety of personal experiences, thinking and work processes, outlooks, and educational and research activities."

Lessons in Mortality: Doctors and Patients Struggling Together offers assistance to patients regarding some of the issues that arise with doctors when undergoing care, many of which are based on the journal he kept of his experiences when he himself was in treatment for testicular cancer, and many of which he gathered through his experiences as a physician. Beth Hill, writing for Library Journal, commented that the work lacked a "satisfying sense upon finishing the book that one has gathered what the author hoped to impart." However, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, opined: "Weisse presents both sides of this heartrending piece in a nonjudgmental, empathetic manner." Booklist contributor Donna Chavez noted that "Weisse enlivens all of these dilemmas with graphic examples from everyday health care," often including what she refers to as "a piercing note of truth."

Weisse told CA: "I have always felt better about communicating with others by writing than by other means. There is something of permanence about the written word—although I wonder about the future of e-mail communications!

"In regard to the process, I simply get an idea about a subject I wish to write about and about which I may be competent. Since this is usually an item of historical interest I begin by reading reviews, monographs, etc. I begin to collect reprints of articles, go to monographs and other books to fill in my knowledge. I try to go to primary sources always. There is an unpredictable point at which I feel that I have gathered all the material I need for an article or particular chapter. I sort all this out and then begin to write.

"The most interesting thing I have learned about being a writer is how underappreciated most of us are—even the good ones. In my own chosen field, that of medical history, I am amazed at how few physicians have even the slightest interest in it! Still, I enjoy doing it and will continue to do so to merit the good will and appreciation of those few ‘those precious few’ who appreciate what I am about.

"I hope that my oeuvre will, in some small way, enlighten others, especially physicians, who will come to understand in a more fullsome way where they have come from, where they are, and where they are likely to go as a profession in the future."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Weisse, Allen B., The Staff and the Serpent: Pertinent and Impertinent Observations on the World of Medicine, Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale, IL), 1998.

PERIODICALS

American Family Physician, March, 1992, Robert A. Schwartz, review of Medical Odysseys: The Different and Sometimes Unexpected Pathways to Twentieth-Century Medical Discoveries, p. 1480; February 1, 1999, Robert A. Schwartz, review of The Staff and the Serpent, p. 707.

Booklist, February 15, 1991, William Beatty, review of Medical Odysseys, p. 1169; October 15, 1991, Ray Olson, review of The Man's Guide to Good Health, p. 392; January 1, 1998, William Beatty, review of The Staff and the Serpent, p. 758; September 15, 2002, William Beatty, review of Heart to Heart: The Twentieth-Century Battle against Cardiac Disease: An Oral History, p. 188; August 1, 2006, Donna Chavez, review of Lessons in Mortality: Doctors and Patients Struggling Together, p. 23.

Choice, July, 1991, I. Richman, review of Medical Odysseys, p. 1809; June, 1998, A.R. Davis, review of The Staff and the Serpent, p. 1743.

Journal of the American Medical Association, September 9, 1998, Mark A. LaPorta, review of The Staff and the Serpent, p. 937.

Library Journal, March 15, 1984, Frances Groen, review of Medicine: The State of the Art, p. 592; March 1, 1985, Ellis Mount and Barbara List, review of Conversations in Medicine: The Story of Twentieth-Century American Medicine in the Words of Those Who Created It, p. 40; February 1, 1991, James Swanton, review of Medical Odysseys, p. 95; September 15, 2002, A.J. Wright, review of Heart to Heart, p. 85; July 1, 2006, Beth Hill, review of Lessons in Mortality, p. 100.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, Paul Jacobs, review of Medicine, pp. 3, 10.

New England Journal of Medicine, December 26, 2002, Berndt Luderitz, review of Heart to Heart.

Publishers Weekly, November 22, 1991, review of The Man's Guide to Good Health, p. 54; December 22, 1997, review of The Staff and the Serpent, p. 51; May 29, 2006, review of Lessons in Mortality, p. 49.

Science Books and Films, September-October, 1985, Thomas F.A. Plaut, review of Conversations in Medicine, p. 28.

SciTech Book News, December 1, 2006, review of Lessons in Mortality.

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Weisse, Allen B. 1929–

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