Letter to the Editor. Dr. Dwight Parkinson's legacy

Tomasz Szmuda MD, PhD, Shan Ali, and Paweł Słoniewski MD, PhD
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  • Medical University of Gdańsk, Poland
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TO THE EDITOR: We read with great interest the article by Ajisebutu et al.1 on Dr. Dwight Parkinson’s profound contributions to neurological surgery (Ajisebutu A, Del Bigio MR, Kazina CJ, et al. Dr. Dwight Parkinson: a Canadian neurosurgical pioneer [published online September 27, 2019]. J Neurosurg.doi:10.3171/2019.6.JNS19262). The paper brilliantly covered the Canadian surgeon’s legacy from his early years to his appointment as the department head and his work even after his retirement. In our opinion, the intimate details of Parkinson’s biography (that only his close colleagues would be able to contribute) made the paper truly exceptional. To conclude, the paper related Parkinson’s lifetime achievements to Dr. Harvey Cushing, considered the father of neurological surgery. As in our previous letter on Dr. Cushing’s legacy, we would like to highlight some of the pearls and patterns of ingenuity that physicians can strive to incorporate into their own medical practice today so that his history remains relevant.2 In this letter, we explore our perspective of how Parkinson’s life exemplified the role of the physician that extends beyond the technical trade and why he might have placed a stringent importance on linguistic integrity in academia.

Parkinson retired from neurological surgery in 1981 yet remained an active researcher at the University of Manitoba until his death in 2005.3 It is worth mentioning that he made regular contributions to the prestigious Journal of Neurosurgery, even during his retirement, by writing letters on topics ranging from neuroanatomy, to oxygen metabolism, to portable angiography.4–6 This exemplifies not only his continuous fascination with neuroscience but also his lifelong devotion to expanding the wealth of neurological knowledge. His legacy stands as a reminder that any physician is first and foremost a scientist; this philosophy harnesses intellectual curiosity and advances medicine for the betterment of patients. Today, as private practices hold a much greater financial incentive than academia, we encourage physicians to treat neurological surgery as Parkinson did, i.e., as a rich heritage a surgeon has the humble privilege of contributing to, and less as a business venture. The field of neurological surgery has experienced rapid advancement during Parkinson’s era and we hope that today’s physicians will carry the torch even further.7

Parkinson’s insistence on referring to the “lateral sellar compartment” and not the “cavernous sinus” illustrates his devotion to linguistic integrity. While this may seem of minor importance, we affirm that upholding the precise academic terminology is critical to preserving the foundations of medicine. For example, many hospitals prefer to use the longer term “neurological surgery” instead of “neurosurgery” when officially naming their departments and programs. Perhaps this is because “neurological surgery” reminds physicians of the origins of the surgical profession as envisioned by Harvey Cushing and encourages them to view themselves not only as surgeons but also as extended scholars of neurology.8

We feel that critical patterns of ingenuity underlie the specifics of a great physician’s achievements and drive success for the individual and for future patients. In the case of Dr. Dwight Parkinson, we feel that today’s neurological surgeons should learn from his example by fulfilling lifelong roles as physician-scientists and upholding the importance of precise linguistics in scientific discourse.

Disclosures

The authors report no conflict of interest.

References

  • 1

    Ajisebutu A, Del Bigio MR, Kazina CJ, Dr. Dwight Parkinson: a Canadian neurosurgical pioneer [published online September 27, 2019]. J Neurosurg. doi:10.3171/2019.6.JNS19262

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  • 2

    Szmuda T, Ali S, Słoniewski P. Harvey Cushing’s legacy [letter] [published online September 27, 2019]. J Neurosurg. doi:10.3171/2019.6.JNS191711

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  • 3

    Shields CB, West M. Dwight Parkinson, M.D., 1916–2005. J Neurosurg. 2009;103(6):1105–1106.

  • 4

    Parkinson D. Oxygen metabolism during circulatory arrest [letter]. J Neurosurg. 1994;81(2):333.

  • 5

    Parkinson D. Well-described anatomy [letter]. J Neurosurg. 1998;89(5):894.

  • 6

    Parkinson D. Portable digital subtraction angiography units [letter]. J Neurosurg. 1986;65(4):571.

  • 7

    Tindall GT. Trends in neurosurgery. The 1989 AANS Presidential Address. J Neurosurg. 1989;71(4):471480.

  • 8

    Al-Mefty O, Laws ER, Popp AJ. Surgical neurology: Harvey Cushing’s endangered legacy [published online May 3, 2019]. J Neurosurg. doi:10.3171/2019.1.JNS182290

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  • Health Sciences Centre, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada

Response

We greatly appreciate the insightful comments by Szmuda et al., which have helped to further highlight several important features about Dr. Parkinson’s life and legacy. We are in agreement that the pursuit of neuroscientific and other medical knowledge should remain at the forefront of the neurological surgeon-scientist’s mission. Moreover, one cannot advance without also acknowledging and incorporating the many important lessons and experiences drawn from our predecessors, including stylistic features (such as linguistics) that permeated the surgical culture of Parkinson’s era. We believe our paper has humbly captured the spirit of these elements that Szmuda et al. have nicely summarized in their letter.

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Contributor Notes

Correspondence Shan Ali: shanali@gumed.edu.pl.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online January 10, 2020; DOI: 10.3171/2019.11.JNS193002.

Disclosures The authors report no conflict of interest.

  • 1

    Ajisebutu A, Del Bigio MR, Kazina CJ, Dr. Dwight Parkinson: a Canadian neurosurgical pioneer [published online September 27, 2019]. J Neurosurg. doi:10.3171/2019.6.JNS19262

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 2

    Szmuda T, Ali S, Słoniewski P. Harvey Cushing’s legacy [letter] [published online September 27, 2019]. J Neurosurg. doi:10.3171/2019.6.JNS191711

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 3

    Shields CB, West M. Dwight Parkinson, M.D., 1916–2005. J Neurosurg. 2009;103(6):1105–1106.

  • 4

    Parkinson D. Oxygen metabolism during circulatory arrest [letter]. J Neurosurg. 1994;81(2):333.

  • 5

    Parkinson D. Well-described anatomy [letter]. J Neurosurg. 1998;89(5):894.

  • 6

    Parkinson D. Portable digital subtraction angiography units [letter]. J Neurosurg. 1986;65(4):571.

  • 7

    Tindall GT. Trends in neurosurgery. The 1989 AANS Presidential Address. J Neurosurg. 1989;71(4):471480.

  • 8

    Al-Mefty O, Laws ER, Popp AJ. Surgical neurology: Harvey Cushing’s endangered legacy [published online May 3, 2019]. J Neurosurg. doi:10.3171/2019.1.JNS182290

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

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