Surrounded by the works of past physicians Hippocrates, Galen, and Vesalius, Dr. Martin Gordon MED ’46 was recognized for his own impressive contributions to medicine.
In a ceremony that took place Monday, Gordon received the annual Dean’s Peter Parker Medal in the John Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Historical Library. Gordon emphasized that the award was not an individual achievement.
“I keep saying ‘privileged’ because I really have been privileged,” Gordon said. “I’m blessed with my whole family’s warmth and support. You look over your family’s achievements, and you know your life has been blessed.”
Gordon recounted a female patient of his who looked after her son who had muscular dystrophy while her husband recuperated from a fire. His respirator failed during a power outage, and the firemen were unable to resuscitate him because they had the wrong adaptor for the respirator plug.
“You look at that type of agony, and you are changed,” Gordon said. “It teaches you what’s important, how people cope.”
But Gordon was quick to emphasize the fun aspects of his job.
As a consulting gastroenterologist at Yale’s Department of Public Health, Gordon met a Yale freshman who had trouble adjusting academically. The student’s previous diagnosis had been maternal dependency.
After meeting with the freshman, Gordon learned he had been living in Africa with the Pygmy tribe and had acquired tapeworm from walking barefoot on the sand. Gordon said the student recovered fully and spared his mother from a lifetime of guilt.
“I have the privilege of learning from so many patients, sharing their pain and their joys,” Gordon said. “It is truly the privilege of physicians that all aspects of a patient’s life are shared, because illness affects us in a total way.”
As chair of the board of trustees for the Associates of the John Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library, part of Gordon’s responsibility is to make educational resources available to students, faculty, and staff. He has brought distinguished speakers to campus ranging from NASA director Dan Golden to Dean Kamen, father of the Segway Scooter.
“Marty Gordon has had a distinguished record of service to the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library,” said Robert Alpern, dean of the School of Medicine. “He’s been a very loyal member of the alumni association.”
Gordon said he is interested in audio visual tools as a means of conveying information. He initiated an exhibit, “The Evolution of Gastroscopy — from Magenkratzer to the Laser,” that traveled to medical schools around the country. Items on display included original medical instruments from the 19th century and a model of a patient’s head created by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. Viewers at the exhibit looked through an instrument to diagnose diseases.
Biology major Susan Chan ’05 said she has found such tools valuable.
“In science generally, but especially medicine, it’s invaluable to touch or see actual evidence,” Chan said. “The videos we use in class convey information in a way a different medium wouldn’t necessarily be able to.”
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