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Philip H. Sechzer (September 13, 1914 – September 26, 2004)


A pioneer in anesthesiology and pain management. He was the inventor of patient-controlled analgesia (PCA), now commonly used post-operatively. Sechzer graduated from New York’s Stuyvesant High School in 1930, and received his medical degree from New York University in 1938.

The son of Jewish immigrants, Sechzer grew up in the hardscrabble Lower East Side of the 1920s. He was a Major in the US Army Air Forces Medical Corps during World War II. While his wish was to be a flight surgeon, the Army found his skills too valuable to put him in harm’s way, and kept him stationed in Texas, where he administered to the most acute cases returning stateside from battle.

Trained in general surgery, Sechzer was fascinated by the study of pain itself and worked tirelessly to take anesthesiology into the modern era. After the war, he was director of anesthesiology at Fordham Hospital from 1947 to 1955. From 1955 to 1963 he taught at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine. From 1964-1966 he practiced at Baylor University as part of Michael DeBakey’s intra-oprative team, publishing much and helping to develop the heart and lung bypass machine.

By the 1970s, he had established the pain treatment center at Maimonides Medical Center in New York, furthering anaesthesiology as a standalone specialty. He was one of the first Western physicians to incorporate Eastern medicine, worked to legitimize acupuncture into standard palliative practices, and in 1985 lectured in China. After his formal retirement in 1986, he continued to work as a medical consultant and publish almost to the end of his life. He was survived by his wife of 56 years, author and psychologist Jeri A. Sechzer, as well as his 3 children and 8 grandchildren. He was the grandfather of folksinger Mya Byrne.

Adrian Kantrowitz (October 4, 1918 – November 14, 2008)


An American cardiac surgeon whose team performed the world’s second heart transplant attempt (after Christiaan Barnard) at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York on December 6, 1967. The infant lived for only six hours. At a press conference afterwards, Kantrowitz emphasized that he considered the operation to have been a failure.

Kantrowitz also invented the intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP), a left ventricular assist device (L-VAD), and an early version of the implantable pacemaker.

In 1981, Kantrowitz became a founding member of the World Cultural Council.

Dr. George A. Degenshein


Director of surgery at Maimonides Medical Center of Brooklyn.

In 1945, Dr. Rudolph Nissen became Chief of Surgery. This noted surgical pioneer went on to develop a procedure that prevents gastric acid from refluxing into the esophagus—the Nissen Fundoplication. Dr. Nissen also developed surgical strategies for repairing abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA), and was called upon to consult on that condition in legendary physicist Albert Einstein.

Dr. Charles B. Ripstein


Broke ground on several patented approaches to controlling a patient’s temperature in the 1950s, and was published along with colleagues from virtually every specialty on such diverse topics as pericarditis, gall bladder surgery, postcardiotomy syndrome, peptic ulcers, upper-GI hemorrhage, drug withdrawal and an operation for colon prolapse repair that still bears his name.

Adrian Kantrowitz


A Visionary surgeon, led a team that produced one of the earliest implantable pacemakers (1962), and he was the first US surgeon to implant a partial mechanical heart in 1966. A year later he performed the nation’s first successful human heart transplant, and invented the intra-aortic balloon pump—a device that still saves thousands of lives each year. And in 1972, Dr. Kantrowitz developed the first left-ventricular-assist device technology that he continued to improve and refine until his death in 2009

Dr. Joseph Cunningham


In 1982, developed a surgical technique to detect and reduce spinal cord injury during repair of aortic aneurysm. Under Dr. Cunningham’s leadership, an Ambulatory Surgery Unit was created in response to growing evidence that patient outcomes could improve with shorter hospital stays. He also established a division of Laparoscopic Surgery, encouraging less-invasive approaches. Use of the daVinci Surgical Robot was a natural next-step for the department. Maimonides boasted the very first surgical robot in Brooklyn and our surgeons performed the first robotically-assisted pediatric surgical procedure in this country.

William (Wilhelm) Dressler (1890 – 1969)


A Jewish-American cardiologist. Dr. William Dressler published numerous articles and textbooks on cardiology and electrocardiography. Dressler’s Clinical Cardiology (1942) became a classic book of cardiological diagnosis.

As Director of Cardiology at Maimonides Medical Centre, Dressler identified a post-myocardial infarction syndrome eponymously ascribed with his name – Dressler Syndrome (1956).

He is also eponymous with Dressler beat (1952), which he described as a ‘ventricular fusion beat‘ in the presence of paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia.

Dr. Grob


Worked for 50 years at the Maimonides Medical Center, serving as chairman of the department of medicine from 1958–1989. He was the medical director of the Maimonides Research and Development Foundation from 1982 to his retirement in 2006. David Grob, MD, a pioneer in myasthenia gravis (MG) research.

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