American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Legacy of Heroes
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Robert M. Barnett, Sr., MD

In World War II, I was in the Navy V12 program. I spent about a year at Great Lakes Naval Hospital and the first quarter of medical school, Northwestern University. I don't really know how orthopaedic surgery was practiced in the field because I was a student. The only exposure I had was at Great Lakes, and I was the lowest on the totem pole. But I saw that patients are tough, they all survive.

I think we learned that early operative treatment for significant launch was terribly important, and antibiotics. A lot of the things came out of WWII, but, you know, as a student, I can't speak to the medical progress first hand. Talk about the Korean War and I can answer from personal experience. I do know that big advances in hand surgery began during the Second War. I worked with Bunnell once a week for three months; he was the kingpin and revised hand surgery into something scientific. He was fantastic.

Another big one in World War II was Loyal Davis, a neurosurgeon in Chicago. He thought he was just a couple of notches above God, but he did establish a number of very good principles, particularly in brain surgery, that were used during the Second War, that were very good for the patients. I hate the guy's guts, but I'll give him all the credit I can. His daughter was Ronald Reagan's wife, Nancy Davis. He was at ((Passavant??)) Hospital in Chicago, which is now re-named. He made rounds in the trucks??, cut away, that's how much he thought of himself. His hands were bronzed and on his desk, but he did wonderful things during the War.

I went into orthopaedics because I'm a sort of a general handyman-carpenter, so I like the mechanics of it. Besides that, the patients get well, they don't have multiple organs system diseases???. There have been advances since the war. We've got a lot more tools to work with, and we've got more devices to use. I've had a 35 year interest in club feet at the Shrine Hospital in Minneapolis. It was post-war, but, that's in my lifetime. So I learned a lot about club feet, and I think I made a very significant contribution.

I think the doctors today, as a general group, are kind of lousy in patient care. They don't listen to patients talk anymore. They rely on laboratories and various kinds of imaging, and they forgot to listen to the patient. The patient knows a hell of a lot about himself, if you'd just listen. Anyway, that's an aside. I was trained ending in 1956, my residency, and I've been in resident teaching thereafter. I don't think there's one operation that I learned as a resident that is still even thought of today, let alone done. Everything is changed, and it'll change again. The speed of change is so fast, it's a new language.

 

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