A Recollection on the Development of Neurosurgery in Puerto Rico

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9780847701445: A Recollection on the Development of Neurosurgery in Puerto Rico

Experiencias y conocimientos sobre la práctica y la enseñanza de la neurocirugía en Puerto Rico. Experiences and knowledge on the practice and instruction of neurosurgery in Puerto Rico.

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About the Author:

NATHAN RIFKINSON was born on May 23, 1912 in Vilnius, Lithuania. After the city of Vilnius, Lithuania was set ablaze by the Germans in 1914, Nathan s mother tied him to her back and escaped with the retreating Russian army into the countryside. Along the way, his mother received a non-fatal shrapnel wound to the head. Their trek across Siberia and China took three years, culminating in a Pacific crossing by ship to America, where he was reunited with his father, who had left two years earlier.

He grew up in New York City. His college education was at the University of Georgia, and he received his medical degree from Emory University in 1936. After a two years internship in a New York Hospital and a year in general practice adjacent to Greenwich Village in New York City, he left for Saint Thomas, in the United States Virgin Islands, through the Department of In Interior, assigned to the Health Department.

In 1940 he received a Federal Grant to conduct a public health survey of the population of the Island of Saint John. Here he married his fiance, Mae Persky. Contacted by Margaret Sanger, he was persuaded to establish birth control clinics in the three of the American Virgin Islands, which he did amidst much opposition and controversy. In 1941, he was asked to transfer 41 insane Virgin Island patients to Saint Elizabeth s Hospital in Washington, D.C. He obtained 50 staterooms on a French war refugee ship, which was passing through Saint Thomas, and set out on an unforgettable adventure.

In 1942, he studied pathology in San Juan at the School of Tropical Medicine, associated with Columbia University and became head of the clinical laboratories at the principal District Hospital. He then obtained a neurosurgical residency at Barnes Hospital in Saint Louis under Drs. Sachs and Schwartz.

On July 1, 1948 he returned to Puerto Rico as the lone neurosurgeon. Since no specialized surgical instruments were available at this time, he was forced to improvise with the general surgical instruments at hand, also using various parts of his son s erector set for brain retractors. In 1971, the neurosurgical residency training program was approved at the University. After one year, the Governor appointed him to the post of Secretary of Health. Nathan later asked to serve as the new director, a position he held until August 1, 2003. In December, 2000, he was honored as Distinguished Professor of the University of Puerto Rico (one of four faculty members to have received such an honor since its inception over 60 years ago). In 2003, the Nathan Rifkinson Society was created by the Section of Neurosurgery.

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Nathan Rifkinson, La Editorial Universidad de Puerto Rico (Editor)
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