Louisville Medicine Volume 69, Issue 9 - Page 28

AUTHOR Mary Barry , MD


AUTHOR Mary Barry , MD
Drs . Polk and Galandiuk at Saratoga races , 2014

Dr . Hiram C . Polk Jr ., Chair Emeritus of the University of Louisville Department of Surgery , and I had a good long talk a while ago , about everything under the sun of his fifty years in medicine . This is part two of our discussion . As always , he taught as he talked .

Dr . Polk pointed out a couple of things not many people realize . Did you know that nearly everything in the ICU came from NASA originally ? All that money spent on going to the moon is the money that equipped our ICUs . Basic research spurred by space travel brought us the fiberoptic bundle , monitoring systems , the oximeter , miniaturization of components , isolation wear - you name it , NASA helped invent it .
And speaking of molecular research - our focus now is on the smallest little components . Dr . Eric Topol , the heart doc who runs the Scripps Research Translational Institute , has a special professorship in molecular medicine - and did you know that it ’ s funded by the owners of Maximum Security ? Gary and Mary West are big supporters . ( Here we paused somberly to reflect on the large sums we had won , tickets in hand - till Maximum ’ s number got taken down at the monsoon Derby 2019 .)
Dr . Polk noted that the Topols of this world are very different from the people who used to bend his ear when he was the State Health Commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Health . The anti-vaccine crowd would call him and deliver lengthy tirades ; he realized then how much he worries about the rise of identity politics in this country . “ I fear for us the way I fear for the people of Northern Ireland .”
He mentioned one mistake early on . He had failed to make a warm , friendly relationship with Dr . Allan Lansing , the pioneering heart surgeon . Then one day he helped Dr . Allan ’ s son Peter with something , and Peter pointed out that after 10 years , it was high time to mend the fences . Dr . Polk immediately called Dr . Lansing and instead of issuing a statement , Dr . Lansing arranged to meet him for breakfast at the Holiday Inn at Zorn , where “ All the East End docs had breakfast on their way downtown .” The room took note , the word spread and soon everyone knew they were friends again .
He ’ s grateful for his good luck , especially early on as Chair of Surgery , when he got angry at some of the residents he ’ d inherited . He had caught them lying and had repeatedly heard complaints from patients that they ’ d failed to explain things in ways the patients could understand . He simply could not trust them . So , he fired a bunch . Barry Bingham Sr . instantly dubbed him “ Hire ’ em Fire ’ em ” for that . But - he could then offer open spots to excellent , experienced residents who ’ d just been booted out of prestigious pyramid programs . “ It was the first time in their lives that they had ever failed at anything .” ( Pyramid structures kick residents out each year so