Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tom Fogarty in Oregon

Not many people realize that Dr. Thomas J. Fogarty, of Fogarty catheter fame, actually has a strong connection to the Medical School here at OHSU. The fact is simply presented on this version of his curriculum vitae, but there is a pivotal event hidden under the brief rubric.

Our catalogs show that Fogarty was actually a general surgical resident here from 1962-64, and again in 1967-68 (interesting contradiction that bears future research at a later date). In any case, it's clear that he was here during the period of time when Dr. Albert Starr and Lowell Edwards were doing some of their most important work on the heart valves. Fogarty had shown an engineering bent even in his early years; he actually developed the Fogarty embolectomy catheter when he was in medical school in Cincinnati. He had tried to interest some of the medical device manufacturers in his invention, but no one took the fresh-faced med student seriously. It wasn't until Al Starr personally used one of Fogarty's catheters that things took off. Starr was so impressed with the device that he encouraged Edwards to manufacture it at Edwards Labs. The rest, as they say, is history: Fogarty now holds over 60 patents, and is regularly profiled by the likes of In Vivo and MIT.

One thing I have learned about Fogarty this past week: he even owns his own vineyard now. I find this especially compelling, since I have just recently finished reading John Pickstone's Ways of Knowing: a New History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, in which Pickstone likens some clinicians to wine enthusiasts: they are connoisseurs of disease in much the same way as oenophiles are connoisseurs of grapes, understanding that terroir is as important in therapeutics as in viticulture. I have overheard physicians commenting that their fascination with the disease surpasses their interest in the patient--and I doubt wine growers care much about consumers' tastes either. Certainly an interesting--and dare I say, fruitful--comparison!

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