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Book and Media Reviews
October 19, 2011

Dean Winternitz: Yale Medical School’s Passionate Humanist

JAMA. 2011;306(15):1711-1713. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1512

Medicine in the United States advanced from provincial to world-class thanks to the efforts of a few visionaries of the first half of the last century. This book by Priscilla Waters Norton and Howard Spiro focuses on the life and work of Milton Winternitz (1885-1959), who, as Yale's Dean of Medicine from 1920 to 1935, made an enormous but largely forgotten contribution to this transition.

Brilliant, driven, effective, visionary and—highly unusual at Yale at that time—a Jew, Winternitz transformed Yale's Medical School essentially to what it is today. The son of a Baltimore physician, he entered Johns Hopkins College at 14 and its medical school at 17 and joined the pathology staff at Hopkins at 22. Recognized as brilliant and also as “fire and ice”—descriptions that followed him throughout his life—Winternitz was appointed to head of pathology at Yale in 1917 and to dean of its medical school 3 years later, at 35.