The Mount Sinai School of Cardiologists

February is American Heart Health Month and is the perfect
opportunity to look at Mount Sinai's pioneering history in cardiology.  This post looks at only the first 25 years of
this remarkable work, which dates back to 1909 with the installation of Mount
Sinai's first electrocardiograph (EKG) machine by Alfred E. Cohn.  He left a few years later,  taking his machine with him, but in 1914 Bernard S. Oppenheimer
(left) acquired another one and the
Oppenheimer BS from HS 1905Electrocardiographic Laboratory officially opened
in 1915. Oppenheimer had graduated from the Mount Sinai House Staff in 1904.  In 1910, while in London working with Lewis
Thomas, Oppenheimer and his sister, Adele, co-authored a study with Thomas describing
the site of the origin of the mammalian heartbeat.  Later, Oppenheimer was one of the first to use
the EKG to study abnormalities of the wave form and in 1917 won an AMA Gold
Medal for his exhibit on EKG changes associated with myocardial
infarction. 

 

Another
important name in early American cardiology was Mount Sinai’s Emanuel
Libman.  He was a leading authority on
subacute bacterial endocarditis and, in fact, he gave it its name. In 1924
Libman and Benjamin Sacks published a paper describing atypical verrucous
endocarditis, now known as Libman-Sacks endocarditis.  It was noted that “so numerous, original, comprehensive
and important have been the studies of the heart emanating from the wards and
laboratories of the Mount Sinai Hospital, that one may correctly speak of the
Mount Sinai School of Cardiologists.”

 

Marcus A. Rothschild succeeded Oppenheimer as Chief of the
Cardiology Laboratory in 1928. 
(Cardiology was not a formal Division within Medicine until 1956.)  Research was done on the cardiac effects of anoxemia, clinical
studies of rheumatic fever and electrographic studies of bundle branch
block.  In 1929, Arthur Master and Enid
Oppenheimer, B.S. Oppenheimer’s wife, published an article on the Master 2-Step
test, the first accurate and practical cardiac stress test devised.  Master made seminal contributions to the
field throughout his long career, and in 1933 – 80 years ago – became Chief of
the Cardiology Lab.  The next year,
William Hitzig devised the first clinically applicable method for measuring the
circulation time to the right heart. 
This technique was described in 1934 and was used for many years to
evaluate heart failure.

 

For
more information on these contributions and the history of cardiology at Mount
Sinai, see Arthur H. Aufses, Jr. and Barbara Niss, This House of Noble Deeds. (New York: NYU Press, 2002)

Archives of Influenza

As this flu season comes to an end, we've been thinking about influenza outbreaks from our nation's history. A wealth of information exists in the archival records of the National Archives and Records Administration, the Health and Human Services Department, and the Library of Congress. Excerpted below are details of lab procedures from the Influenza epidemic of 1918.

On this account it is that bacteriologists must use a great many other tests to convince themselves and their skeptical confreres and enemies that they have a new and a different germ.

It is done in this way. When they find and isolate a bacterium and under the microscope it resembles even when stained blue or otherwise, dyed the diplo-cocci of pneumonia or meningitis both of which also look alike they "put iodine on its "tail," as it were. If it "takes" it is thus differentiated into one of two groups which take or do not take iodine.

Then it is planted in gelatine. It either grows and melts the gelatine or it does not. Thus another group is found.

Then potato, moss, agar, banana, blood serum and other soils are used until a whole series of facts are found about a germ which show it to be different from all hitherto discovered ones.

Thus it is with the new germ. The medical gentlemen determined that it has none of the earmarks of any bacillus that has ever been "brought into captivity." This bacillus we have found grows with extreme reluctance upon the various "media" or gelds on which most other micro-organisms thrive. It hankers after blood. It thrives and grows best on blood serum media, although it does not grow in the human blood

- "Medical Science's Newest Discoveries about the "Spanish Influenza","
The Washington Times (Washington, DC),
October 6, 1918, National Edition, The American Weekly Section, Page 22, Image 22, col. 1-6 (from the Library of Congress).