Jan 07

LloydNyhusLloyd M. Nyhus, MD, FACS, Surgeon, Mentor, Visionary for 20th Century Surgery, by Michelle Rapaport with Donald Wood, MD, FACS ★★★★★
This was a delightful book to read because it was a part of my own personal history, as I had trained under Dr. Nyhus. Dr. Don Wood, of whom I had also gotten to know well, does a wonderful job of outlining Dr. Nyhus’s life from childhood to his death. Certainly, as one of the best known and great surgeons of the 20th century, this book was well due to Dr. Nyhus. My office still contains signed versions of the textbooks that he had published, and it was an honor to have trained under the man.
A book of this sort certainly could not contain many of the little things that made Dr. Nyhus a delight to work under. Every summer, we had a Department of Surgery picnic, for which I was in charge about 4 of the 8 years I was in Chicago. These were delightful events, for which I always made sure we ordered some Weisswurst for Dr. Nyhus. He would also have all of the surgery residents over to his house for a backyard picnic once a year, which was special. I always appreciated when he would randomly pick me to attend dinner at the University Club for a distinguished visiting professor. Nyhus had a delightful knack for making the residents feel like his boys.
This book is not a history so much as a tribute to Dr. Nyhus. It is written like an Egyptian pharaoh would write a history, in that it was not inclusive of the struggles and challenges of life at the U of Illinois. Nyhus, as the Delta/TWA professor of surgery was gone so much, that even though I was on his service a number of times, only operated with him 3-4 times in the total five years of my residency. Bombeck had several heart replacements, and in spite of that, was a chain smoker of such a serious degree that he rarely could tolerate more than 5 minutes scrubbed with me in the OR before he needed to step out for another smoke. Donahue was an attending than one never turned their back on.  Levitsky was blind as a bat, and very pompous. I shan’t be too negative. Olga Jonasson was technically the best surgeon of the group, and a delight to train under, even though she was as tough as nails. Dr. Abcarian was just an all-round wonderful surgeon to work with. Dr. Das Gupta was ultimately the best of the best of the whole bunch in my estimation, being a role model for me of excellence both in the operating room and in the laboratory. I usually end up calling myself a Das Gupta trained surgeon. Dr. Wood was in Das Gupta’s division of surgical oncology, and was one of most special attendings for me, in that he was not only a competent teacher and surgeon, but an example of the Christian faith in the world of academic medicine. There are many other surgeons under Nyhus that were not mentioned in this book that were true pillars in the residency, such as Drs. Nelson, Barrett, Sharifi, Briele, and Walter Barker, to name a few. Das Gupta, Wood, Abcarian and Jonasson deserve the highest honors in the grand scheme of things, though they would be too modest to admit that.
Regardless of any shortcomings, and they were minor, I consider it an honor to have trained under Dr. Nyhus. This book is a well written tribute to a man who could assemble a diverse bunch of surgeons to make without a doubt the best surgery residency in the world during the 1970’s and 1980’s. I feel blessed to have been a part of that experience.

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2 Responses to “Lloyd M Nyhus”

  1. Don Wood says:

    Ken, You wonderfully caught the dynamic of the Nyhus era. It was the genius of Michelle Rapaport in writing and rewriting the MSS that brought it all to life. She learned to love LMN just like we all did (most of us) throughout those years. The same could be said of Olga and Dr. DasGupta and Condon and to the end of it all, Paul Thomas. The idea started with a meeting in LMN’s “retirement” office with June in the background and my broaching the subject of a bio with him. He said that was fine and I should do it. He wrote the early chapters and saw most of the manuscript but could not contribute much in the later years of its production. Now that I look back on it, I am so grateful to God for bringing across my path in life these men and women who literally gave of themselves to making us Surgeons…with a capital “S”. We are blessed by that and so are everyone of our patients through out the years. So much is left for the next generation to dig out and expand on, but no one will probably do that. But it will all be in the archives at the U of I Medical Library. Thanks for your “personal” review. We have had comments from around the world. I hung it up in September, 2013, but am busier than ever and learning every day.
    with HOPE and JOY, Don

  2. Onkel Dennis says:

    Competency in a field such as surgery, electronics, or any other that requires years of dedicated effort to attain mastery, requires a tradition of people who share an outlook and values that have a deeper, spiritual (and in a social sense, religious) foundation. These traditions of competency are fragile and can be destroyed by the various strong social forces at work today to undermine civilization generally. It is a blessing to know that these traditions, while weakening, have not be obliterated. We might very well end up like the monks of the Middle Ages, preserving these traditions in cloistered subcultures until they can again break out and thrive in a larger, more receptive, social milieu.

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