Author: Philip A. Mackowiak, M.D.
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There are twelve cases described in Post Mortem. However, how the book came about is just as interesting. Dr. Mackowiak is professor and vice chairman of the Department of Medicine of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Chief of the Medical Care Clinical Center of the VA Maryland Health Care System. For the past fourteen years, Dr. Mackowiak has presented a series of internationally-acclaimed Historical Clinicopathological Conferences in Baltimore. He takes unexplained historical cases and presents as case studies. This has become so popular that the free presentations are always packed. Post Mortem offers a wide variety of patients, complications, and possible outcomes. In my opinion, it’s a work of art.
Humanoid Praying Mantis is a most unusual case that starts the book off with intrigue. The next chapter deals with Alexander the Great – his case was written up 100-years after the fact, but Dr. Mackowiak believes this may have been the first case of Typhoid Fever.
The rest of the cases presented range from worms and congestive heart failure to smallpox and strange voices from God. The characters are famous – King Herod, Claudius, Joan of Arc, and even Christopher Columbus -- the diagnostic possibilities are endless.
The book traces 3500 years of the history of medicine from the perspective of what contemporary physicians thought about the diseases of these twelve patients and how they might have treated them. How would Abraham Lincoln have been treated differently? Would he have survived had the treatment been different? Could Mozart have been saved from his premature death? Why did Florence Nightengale spend 30-years in bed?
In these cases, there’s no way to be sure of the diagnosis since each of these are historical patients – lack of ways to gather more information. At the Baltimore presentations, the identity of the historical patient is not revealed until the end of the case history. The presentations are open to the public – better yet, they are offered to physicians in training. This is one interesting way to get them to get them to think on their feet.
Post Mortem is for the layperson as well as the medical professional; for historians as well as someone who just wants a good read. Dr. Mackowiak is a master at teaching the art of clinical diagnosis and has found the most innovative way to hold the attention of his students – and this reader.
Dr. Mackowiak was a guest on In Short Order at www.highway2health.net on July 18, 2007. The show has been archived for your convenience.
The above review was contributed by: Sue Vogan: Sue is a Writer & Author of NCO-No Compassion Observed: To read more of Sue's reviews Click Here