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Colleagues in Discovery: One Hundred Years of Improving Respiratory Health FREE TO VIEW

Lee K. Brown, MD, FCCP
Chest. 2005;128(5):3777-3778. doi:10.1378/chest.128.5.3777-a
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By Joseph Wallace. San Diego, CA: Tehabi Books, 2005; 152 pp; $29.95 (e-mail: JDELGADO@thoracid.org for availability)

Dr. Brown recently completed a 3-year term on the board of directors of the ATS and currently serves on several ATS standing committees.

If one were to draw a Venn diagram of the membership of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) and the American Thoracic Society (ATS), there would surely appear a large area of overlap given that both professional organizations are largely concerned with respiratory health. The pessimist might hold that this indicates an inherently competitive relationship between the two, while the optimist would certainly take the view that since “they” largely are “us,” the most productive relationship would consist of cooperation, mutual respect, and support for the activities of one society by the other. The latter has been my experience as a member of both organizations. I can cite numerous instances of close collaboration between the ATS and the ACCP on issues of national and international importance to pulmonary medicine. Since this year marks the centennial of the founding of the ATS, it is altogether right and fitting that the ACCP and its journal CHEST acknowledge this milestone. Also, as part of its centennial celebration, the ATS has published the book, Colleagues in Discovery: One Hundred Years of Improving Respiratory Health. Conceived as something of a Festschrift for the organization as a whole and widely referred to by leadership as the “coffee table book,” the final product is essentially a layman’s illustrated history of pulmonary medicine. Consequently, it deserves to be reviewed both as a serious work of medical history and as a vehicle for expressing kudos from a sister society for “a job well done.”

Colleagues in Discovery: One Hundred Years of Improving Respiratory Health is organized into five chapters that cover the history of respiratory disease from ancient times to the present. In addition, separate half-page or two-page insets sprinkled liberally throughout the text give historical overviews of special topics such as drugs used in respiratory diseases or biographies of important figures in the field such as Edward Livingston Trudeau. As might be expected considering that the ATS (and pulmonary medicine itself) largely originated with the study of tuberculosis, that topic is given substantial coverage. This is certainly not a bad thing, considering the importance of tuberculosis as a disease dating back to ancient times and that continues to be a significant public health issue even today. However, there is no dearth of material covering disciplines incorporated within our subspecialty over the years such as critical care, asthma, COPD, and sleep-disordered breathing.

The text is erudite and appears aimed at the educated layman. As befits a coffee table book, pictures abound and are beautifully reproduced, usually in full color. They range from photomicrographs and cartoons that help explain points of physiology to photographs of historical places, important individuals in the history of pulmonology, and scenes of patient care over the ages. Particularly poignant are shots of tuberculosis sanitaria and other aspects of tuberculosis care in the preantibiotic era. One such photograph shows patients reclining in hospital beds situated on the roof of St. Thomas’ Hospital in London in order to benefit from the fresh air, with a magnificent view of the Houses of Parliament in the background.

I caught a few typographical errors and one misidentified individual in a photograph (if memory serves, the person to the left on page 35 is Dr. Selikoff), but by and large this book is readable and well edited. I would quibble with the explanation of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) on page 51, which confuses its use for alveolar recruitment in ARDS with its application for airway stenting in obstructive sleep apnea, and confuses both of these CPAP techniques with bilevel positive airway pressure for ventilatory support in obstructive airways disease. Later on, the author seems to equate Pickwickian syndrome with obstructive sleep apnea, a tautology that is only sometimes true, and attributes to C. S. Burwell the first recognition of obstructive sleep apnea rather than his actual achievement, the description of Pickwickian syndrome.

In summary, Colleagues in Discovery: One Hundred Years of Improving Respiratory Health is an exhilarating account of the scientific and clinical advancements that have taken place in pulmonology from the dawn of history until our modern age. It is a fitting tribute to the ATS on its 100th birthday, and well worth perusing by all practitioners in our field. Unfortunately, it was published in a limited edition and distributed only to ATS members, individuals in the respiratory health field and academic medicine, and medical school libraries throughout the country. Those readers not included in the ATS portion of the Venn diagram may wish to beg or borrow a copy from one of these sources and spend an enjoyable few hours on a trip through time.




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