|Presentation of an Honorary Degree to Blalock, A., May 14, 1963 (Photograph Collection, A-4335)|
Convocation date: May 14, 1963
Discipline / contribution: medical research ; medical education
Citation / biographical information:
It is my honour to present to you a famous surgeon -- he is famous not only amongst his colleagues the surgeons, but also amongst his colleagues the physicians and pediatricians. He is revered and renowned not only in medical circles but also in lay circles because of the gratitude which thousands of parents give to him for having made possible the conversion of their “blue babies” to “pink babies”. He, along with Doctor Helen Taussig, devised the operation which now bears their combined names -- the Blalock-Taussig operation -- for the relief of a type of congenital cyanotic heart known as Tetralogy of Fallot.Degree received: Doctor of Laws
But Eminent Vice-Chancellor, I have jumped ahead in time by some 45 years. Doctor Alfred Blalock was born in the small town of Culloden, Georgia, U.S.A., in 1899. He graduated Bachelor of Arts from his native University of Georgia, and then went to The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine from which he graduated M.D. in 1922. He was intern and assistant resident in The Johns Hopkins Hospital 1922-25 and from there he went to Vanderbilt University Hospital as Resident surgeon. Doctor Blalock was at Vanderbilt from 1925 to 1941, being Professor of Surgery there from 1938 - 1941. It was here that he made one of his great contributions to medical science. He unravelled the enigma of shock, and in contradiction with all the beliefs of its causation at that time, he showed it was due to a loss of fluid from the circulating blood volume. This discovery alone has had a profound effect on the subsequent development of surgery and should make his name live in history. At this time also Doctor Blalock showed the relationship of the thymus gland to that peculiar disease, myasthenia gravis.
In 1941 he returned to his Alma Mater at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he has been Professor of Surgery for the last 22 years, a worthy successor of William Stuart Halstead. It was here in 1944, he performed the first subclavian artery to pulmonary artery anastomosis for the relief of cyanotic heart disease, known as Tetralogy of Fallot. This work was of great importance not only because of the relief of “blue babies,” but chiefly because it opened up the whole field of surgery of congenital heart disease and provided the stimulus and impetus to the study of congenital heart disease which has been the feature of surgery over the last 20 years and has resulted in open-heart surgery as we know it today.
As you know, The Johns Hopkins Hospital has had a profound effect on the development of surgery on the North American Continent, as a result of the residency system developed by Halstead, and which has become the standard system for the training of surgeons on this Continent. Doctor Blalock has been no less successful as a teacher and trainer of surgeons. Eight of his residents have become Professors of Surgery and five of these are now Chairmen of Departments of Surgery. Two others have become Chairmen of Departments as Associate Professors. Four others who have worked under Doctor Blalock on his service but not as his chief resident, have also become Professors of Surgery and Heads of Departments. This means that 11 of his trainees are now running departments of surgery and responsible for training others within the U.S.A. and Canada. So that his influence as a teacher of surgery indeed spreads over the North American Continent.
Doctor Blalock has received honours too numerous to recount, but amongst these I would like to bring to your notice are:
- Chevalier de la Legion de Honneur of France;
- The Lasker Award in 1954
- The Gairdner Award 1959
- Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England; - of Edinburgh; - of Glasgow
- Many foreign countries have honoured him in their surgical societies. In his own country he has been President of the American College of Surgeons and the American Surgical Association.
It might be thought that such a man had little time for activities outside his profession but this is not so. Doctor Blalock is an ardent golfer, who has the usual handicap of a professor - not too low. He is a keen fisherman, so that it is particularly appropriate he should come to Saskatchewan for this purpose alone, if not to be honoured by the University. He is an ardent baseball fan as I know to my cost.
Eminent Vice-Chancellor, I ask you to confer the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, on a master surgeon, a great teacher of surgeons, an outstanding research worker, a humble man of infinite compassion, my revered former chief, Doctor Alfred Blalock of the Johns Hopkins University.
Degree presented by: E.M. Nanson, Head of Surgery
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