In Memoriam: Henry Irving Russek, MD, FACC, 1911–1990

Dr. Henry Russek died on May 30, 1990, at the age of 78. He had a long and fruitful association with the American College of Cardiology. I served with Henry on the Board of Trustees in the early formative years of the College. He later served as chairman of the Budget Committee; in this position he contributed greatly to the conservation and growth of College finances.

Henry will be best remembered for his service to the College as director of the Annual Cardiovascular Symposium given each December in New York City for the past 22 years. This program was attended annually by 800 or more registrants. These symposia highlighted the current advances in cardiology and the presentations were made by o highly distinguished faculty of ACC Fellows. Before his death, Henry had completed the 23rd Annual Symposium Program, “Changes, Choices, Challenges in the Management of Cardiovascular Disease.” It will be presented at the New York Hilton Hotel from December 14 to 16, 1990. Dr. Valentin Fuster, Chief of Cardiology, Mount Sinai Medical Center. New York City, has graciously consented to serve as Acting Program Director. Mrs. Elayne Russek and her daughter Dr. Linda Russek will continue to help the College administrative staff in handling the administrative and social logistics of this symposium.

Simon Dack, MD, FACC

Henry Irving Russek was born, raised and educated through college in New York City. He received his medical degree from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Edinburgh.

Dr. Russek’s professional life addressed a wide spectrum of investigation, therapy and education. He was early to recognize the cardiovascular evils of tobacco and obesity. He defined the role of alcohol and anticoagulant agents in coronary artery disease when misunderstanding was widespread. He pointed out the synergism between beta-blockers and nitrates in the treatment of angina pectoris. He documented these studies and views in more than 300 articles and books. However, his great emphasis in many of these publications was on the role of the “brain-heart relationship,” as he phrased it. His work with his daughter Dr. Linda Russek in-the long-term Harvard studies on stress, occupations and behavioral responses are well and widely known.

Henry’s personal life revolved around his family—wife Elayne and daughters Linda, Shelly and Karen, whom he proudly described as “my girls” and regarded as the most beautiful group in the world (there is a strong body of support for his views). Such affection also characterized his relations with patients His gentle, firm reassurance with eye contact and an affectionate pat on the shoulder enhanced the tender loving care that we have long recognized as life-giving for infants and are gradually accepting as equally important for adults.

How surprising that a man whose professional and family life was so richly warmed by affection and studies of emotion and the heart should not have studied the healing effect, the positive metabolic effect of motivation. In some tortured way we miss this great healing force when it is not given. We lament that white-coated scientists turn to their machines, having lost the warmth of the frock-coated practitioners of the “art” of medicine. Here is another opportunity for future investigation to quantify powerful metabolic effects in the synergism between science and art. Quantification would demonstrate another Russek synergism that the public wants. that we as professionals should enhance. Such quantification could embrace another Russek legacy, one that would involve the placebo effect with and without the enhancement.

Good physicians consistently deliver state-of-the-art care to their patients. Very good physicians extend state-of-the-art care through the creation of new healing techniques. Great physicians embrace all of the good and very good and by teaching expand that good, with the teaching of those they teach creating a ripple effect, all pro bono publico. Henry almost uniquely enhanced the ripple effect of the teachings of those taught by the American College of Cardiology annual Russek New York Symposium. For more than 20 years some 20,000 eager physicians were drawn as if by a giant magnet to revel in learning from world authorities on timely subjects brought together by Henry Russek’s selective genius—this to the substantial educational advantage of the physicians who attended and their students and alI to the financial benefit of other less well-funded extramural programs of the College.

Affectionate reflection on the life of this creative, aggressive, gentle giant should make us appreciate that Henry left us B world the better for his having been — and some directions that challenge us to lengthen the Russek legacy.

This article was originally published in the November, 1990 edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Harken D. In Memoriam: Henry Irving Russek, MD, FACC, 1911–1990. J Am Coll Cardiol. 1990;16(5):1326. doi:10.1016/0735-1097(90)90574-9.

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