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Books, Journals, New Media
January 28, 2004


Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.

JAMA. 2004;291(4):499-500. doi:10.1001/jama.291.4.499

Mavericks, Miracles, and Medicine is a multimedia effort to bring glimpses of medical history to the general public. The miniseries was broadcast in four one-hour segments on The History Channel in September 2003.

Only one episode was provided to this reviewer for evaluation. It follows a retired doctor who needs to have his mitral valve replaced, intertwined with 5- to 10-minute historical vignettes about the origins of modern heart surgery. The first vignette portrays the life of the anatomist Andreas Vesalius, who, in an era when human dissection was prohibited and severely punished, created the first accurate and extensive map of the human body. The second depicts how Werner Forssmann, MD, in 1929 showed that it was possible to safely introduce a catheter through a vein and into the heart of a human being—his own. The Forssmann interlude closes with a brief look at the retired doctor's cardiac catheterization in a modern, high-tech lab setting. The third vignette tells the story of Ignaz Semmelweis and puerperal fever. Semmelweis was misunderstood and shunned, but owing to his insights, problems with surgical infections have been overcome. The last two segments relate to the need to have a stable operating field, namely, the demonstration of ether's sedating properties in the mid-19th century by Wells, Morton, and Jackson, and Gibbons' invention of the heart-lung machine.

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