I had the pleasure last week of working with Stanford oncologist and writer Charlotte Jacobs, MD, who recently penned a biography of Henry Kaplan, MD. Kaplan was chair of Stanford's radiology department from 1948 to 1972, but he's most well known for his battle against Hodgkin's disease. Jacobs describes how she choose Kaplan as a subject, what she found most interesting about him and his career, and how others viewed him (hint: you don't always have to be well-liked to be effective):
He was a multifaceted, enigmatic man, called a “saint’ by some, a “malignant son-of-a-bitch” by others. Several of his closest associates, his brother and his son couldn’t reconcile the man who touched patients with tenderness with the man who devastated them with sharp words.
But no one could question his drive:
At the core of Henry Kaplan’s being lay a passion - a passion to cure cancer. It pushed him to persist despite failures. It helped him weather the storm of criticisms that followed in the wake of almost every one of his innovations. He called cancer his “Moby Dick,” and he set out to annihilate it. Obsessed with curing cancer, he was driven by every new patient, distressed by every death.
If you're a person who likes to read about the history, politics and personalities that swirl behind the scenes of many major medical and research findings (a la The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks), you may want to read Jacobs' book. I know I do. Or you could just wait for her next effort: a biography of Jonas Salk.