The occasion I describe took place in the academic year 195657, after Cournand had won the Nobel Prize. I was a medical intern on the III (NYU) Medical Division at Bellevue Hospital, on assignment to the I (Columbia) Division Chest Service, having previously served on the Chest Service as a medical student. (I had actually been on the Chest Service the day of the announcement of the Prize and had been part of the excited crew of students, house officers, and faculty who had cheered Drs. Cournand and Richards.)
The occasion was a case discussion in the Chest Service auditorium, under Cournands direction. A chest resident was describing a patient. Cournand interrupted, saying (to the total surprise of the resident and of the audience): Do you know who Tuffier was? The resident said that there was a chest surgical instrument called a Tuffier retractor. Cournand said, Yes, yes, but do you know who Tuffier was? The resident didnt. Cournand went on: Tuffier was the surgeon general of the French army during World War I. I was a medical student in the medical corps. He had a terrible temper. I remember one day at inspection. . . . He had a terrible temper! At this point, Cournand inclined his head forward, covered his face with his hands, and sat, silent. The stunned audience waited. After a few moments he dropped his hands, lifted his head, and looked attentively at the resident; the resident then picked up where hed left off, and the conference proceeded.
I can only conclude that Tuffier must have dressed down the young student in the presence of his comrades in such a painful manner that forty years, countless honors, and a Nobel Prize later, Cournand, reminded by something the resident had said, found himself forced to allude to the incidentbut still could not bring himself to give the agonizing details. I have always cherished this very touching, very human insight into this wonderful physician, teacher, scientist, and gentleman.
Saran Jonas, MD 56P&S
I READ WITH FOND MEMORIES and mild amusement the warm tribute to Gilbert Highet offered by Michael C. Browning 70C 73GSAS [Living Legacies: A Coda, Spring 2002]. For over twenty years now I have often been called upon to locate and verify quotations of every description. At last, one that I have heard in person, and one which has been misquoted in print at least once before. Perhaps I can set the record straight on this one.
Spring 1969, 4 p.m. I was sitting with my classmates in Howard Porters Tuesday afternoon graduate class on the Iliad. Soon after we began, students rushed through the building, told us that they were occupying it, and said we were to leave immediately. We did not (Porter had standards, and we had Greek to translate). A rather anxious two hours of translation followed. The class ended at 6 p.m., and we descended en masse to the ground floor of the building in whose spacious lounge the peaceful demonstrators were sprawled, listening to various speakers.
I was standing three feet or so away from Professor Highet, who had already engaged one of their leaders of the sit-in, trying to get the doors unblocked for us to leave. When asked why he had not left when given the chance, he explained in his beautifully modulated and immediately recognizable voice that he was sitting in a doctoral defense, and as a students career depended on its successful conclusion, he could not very well have left. That argument fell on deaf ears. Highet continued reasoning but soon the classics departments kindly secretary drew the student leader aside, noted that Highet was becoming red in the face, and explained that she feared for his health. At that point, after a hasty discussion among a few of the demonstrators, we were offered the option of leaving through the rather large windows of the lounge.
Highet drew himself up to his full size, looked icily at the student and declared carefully and loudly with controlled fury: I have been a professor here for X years, and Ill be damned if Ill leave by any window. (I do not remember the exact number of years, although 37 sticks in my mind.)
The barricades to the stairway that led down to the cellar of Philosophy Hall and on to the freedom of Kent were immediately opened for us all and we marched out with Highet in a rather dignified manner. Such was the power of the man. I doubt that we have many alive today who could have accomplished so much with one short statement.
Levon Avdoyan 72 85GSAS 75PHM
Frances Brocker Rolband 52GS 54TC
Photos: Cournand: Courtesy of Marie-Claire-Cournand. Highet, Smith and Lawrence: University ArchivesColumbiana Library, Columbia University.