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Surgical Reminiscence
January 1998

Crocodilia Conundrum

Arch Surg. 1998;133(1):104. doi:10.1001/archsurg.133.1.104

IN THE early 1960s, surgical residents who had avoided the Korean War by deferment in college still faced a 2-year Selective Service requirement. The chairman of my department, Dr Alfred Blalock, had a convenient arrangement with A. G. Morrow, the chief of cardiac surgery at the National Heart Institute of the National Institutes of Health (who had been one of his residents), that allowed him to send a resident for both research and clinical experience there in the Public Health Service. Since this satisfied the military obligation, they later came to be known, more or less affectionately, as the "Yellow Berets." That this was not entirely risk-free will be explained. At a cocktail party in the winter of 1960, Dr Morrow was asked by the director of the National Heart Institute, Dr James Watt, whether there was a relationship between primitive reptilian hearts and human congenital defects. He responded that he didn't know, but that he had a way to find out.

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