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Poliomyelitis

Benyesh-Melnick, Matilda

  • http://id.loc.gov/authorities/names/n2014191262
  • Personne
  • 1926-2020

Matilda Benyesh-Melnick, MD, was born on February 7, 1926 in Russe, Bulgaria. She earned her medical degree from Hebrew University, Hadassah Medical School in 1952. She moved to Houston with her husband, Dr. Joseph L. Melnick, in 1958. In 1976 she began her residency in psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine. At Baylor College of Medicine she held professorships in both the Department of Virology and Epidemiology as well as the Department of Psychiatry. She worked closely with her husband on his research on poliomyelitis as well as conducting her own research in myoplasma and it's relationship with cancer development in certain animals. Dr. Benyesh-Melnick died July 19, 2020, in Houston.

Melnick, Joseph

  • http://id.loc.gov/authorities/names/n50030102
  • Personne
  • 1914-2001

Joseph Louis Melnick was born October 9, 1914, in Brooklyn, New York but his family moved to New Haven, Connecticut, when he was seven years old. He earned a B.S. from Wesleyan University in 1936, followed by a Ph.D. in physiological chemistry from Yale University in 1939. He served on the faculty at Yale from 1942 to 1957.
After a year as chief of the Virus Laboratories at the National Institute of Health Division of Biologics Standards, Melnick joined the faculty of Baylor College of Medicine Department of Virology and Epidemiology in 1958. He was dean of Baylor’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences from 1968 to 1991.
Dr. Melnick’s specialty was medical virology, with a focus on polioviruses. He was among the first to demonstrate that the polio virus invades the intestine of a host rather than the central nervous system. He was part of a team that developed thermostabilized live polio vaccine for areas that lacked deep-freeze storage. His research also determined that the Albert Sabin vaccine was safer for the nervous system than other vaccines. He showed that the polio virus could survive long-term in sewage and was mainly transmitted by fecal contamination, often through poorly-washed hands. He and Dr. Dorothy Horstmann determined that the virus could also be transmitted by flies, although this wasn’t the primary method.
Melnick’s team was also among the first to recover human pathenogenic viruses from surface waters and his laboratory was instrumental in developing methods to detect and monitor viruses in the environment. He also had a longstanding interested in virus taxonomy and was the first to name and classify several virus groups. Melnick’s team at Baylor performed research in the late 1960s that would later implicate herpes simplex and other viruses as the root cause of some forms of cervical cancer.
Dr. Melnick was elected the first chair of the Virology Section of the International Association of Microbiologcal Societies, was president of the US Commission on Polio Eradication, and chair of the Advisory Committee on Viral Hepatitis for the Center for Disease Control. He was awarded honorary posts in Israel, for his contributions to controlling a polio outbreak in the Gaza Strip and West Bank in the 1980s, Bulgaria, China, Argentina, and Russia. He also served 30 years on the World Health Organization Expert Panel on Viral Diseases. He was the first American virologist elected to lifetime membership of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, and in 1958 was inducted into the Polio Hall of Fame. He authored over 1,000 items on virology and received numerous awards.
Dr. Melnick retired from Baylor in 1998 and died January 7, 2001

Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (Houston, Tex.)

  • http://id.loc.gov/authorities/names/n85028550
  • Collectivité
  • 1951-

The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research was opened by William Spencer, MD, as the Southwestern Poliomyelitis Respiratory Center in 1951 at the peak of the US polio epidemic. It officially became The Texas Institute for Rehabilitation and Research in 1959, then just The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research in 1978. After the development of a vaccine in the early 1960s, Dr. Spencer shifted the practice to the rehabilitation of the catastrophically injured. As it expanded, the Institute recruited doctors who would become major contributors in specific areas of concern, such as Gunyon Harrison (pediatric cystic fibrosis), Carlos Vallbona (physiology and cardiology), Paul Harrington (orthopedic surgeon and developer of Harrington rods); and Bobby Alford (ENT). TIRR is affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine and the McGovern Medical School, and joined Memorial Hermann in 2006.

Spencer, William A. (William Albert), 1922-2009

  • http://id.loc.gov/authorities/names/n95803665
  • Personne
  • 1922-2009

William Albert Spencer born on February 16, 1922 in Oklahoma City. He went to Georgetown University for his Bachelor’s degree and was first in his class in medical school at John Hopkins University. Beginning in 1951 Dr. Spencer would lead staff at Baylor College of Medicine to address the polio epidemic. This research paved the way for Baylor to become one of the most prominent rehabilitation facilities in the country. He would become founder of The Institute of Rehabilitation and Research, or TIRR, which opened its doors on May 30, 1959. Today the hospital is officially part of the Memorial Hermann Hospital system. Throughout his life Dr. Spencer would treat patients, often children and young adults, and conduct research regarding traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injuries. Dr. Spencer served twenty-eight years as TIRR’s president and became known as the “Father of Modern Rehabilitation”; hospitals around the globe modeled their rehabilitation programs after it (Wendler, 2009, p.16). The TIRR was a facility ahead of its time under Dr.Spencer’s leadership. After the development of personal computers, Dr.Spencer petitioned IBM to link the computers (now known as networking) at TIRR and Baylor College of Medicine.
In his nonmedical life, Dr. Spencer would tinker with a number of inventions or other projects. These engineering projects would lead him to develop the physiography, which ended up being an early version of its predecessor the EKG. Dr. Spencer was married twice, first to Helen Hart in 1945 and then to Jean Amspoker in 1984. Jean predeceased him in 2005. Dr. Spencer died on February 18, 2009.

Hild, Jack R.

  • http://id.loc.gov/authorities/names/no91023037
  • Personne
  • 1904-1992

Jack Romulus Hild was born February 27, 1904 in Waco, Texas. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of South California at Los Angeles, and his MD from Tulane University in New Orleans, in 1929, after which he served an internship in pediatrics in Cincinnati, Ohio. He and his wife Dorothy moved to Douglas, Arizona, in 1933 and stayed there until 1939, when he completed his residency. During World War II, Hild achieved the rank of major in the Army Air Force Medical Corps. Two of his three children were injured by polio in the late 1940s and Hild and Dr. O.A. Fly were co-directors of the mass polio vaccinations in Harris County in 1962. He died on August 24, 1992, and is buried at Glenwood Cemetery in Houston.

Blattner, Russell J.

  • Personne
  • 1908-2002

Russell John Blattner was born July 3, 1908, in St. Louis, Missouri and attended Washington University there. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1929, and his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1933. He took his hospital training with an internship at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, and his residency at St. Louis Children's Hospital, and then at Princess Elizabeth of York Hospital for Children in London, England. He returned to St. Louis and in 1937, began his teaching career as an Instructor in the Department of Pediatrics in the Washington University School of Medicine. In 1940 he was promoted to the rank of Assistant Professor in his department. Three years later, in 1945, he advanced to the rank of Associate Professor.

His career in Houston began in 1947 when he was given the position of Professor of Pediatrics and Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. He was actively involved with the creation of the Texas Children's Hospital, beginning in 1948 when with architects he toured hospitals in Canada, Mexico and the United States in search of ideas for the soon-to-be-built Houston institution. His efforts came to fruition in 1954, when the new pediatric hospital opened its doors. Dr. Blattner worked continually to insure the success and development of Texas Children's Hospital as a sub-specialty hospital care hospital for children and as a teaching and research institution, and to promote excellent pediatric care throughout the Texas Medical Center, as well as in Harris County by developing an affiliation between Baylor and the city and county health departments. He helped to establish the Blue Bird Clinic at The Methodist Hospital, and was instrumental in securing the initial funding for the South Western Poliomyelitis Center which would later become the Texas Institute for Rehabilitation and Research.

Dr. Blattner had a long and distinguished career for which he often received recognition from his colleagues within the medical profession. In 1956 the Washington University School of Medicine Alumni awarded him their Alumni Citation for Outstanding Achievements and Service He was also designated Distinguished Service Professor at Baylor in 1968. In 1971 he was given the newly established J.S. Abercrombie Chair in the department of Pediatrics at Baylor. He was honored again in 1972 and in 1974, when he received the Outstanding Faculty Award from the Baylor College of Medicine Alumni Association and the American Medical Association's Abraham Jacobi Award. He became Emeritus Chief of Pediatrics at Hermann Hospital. He retired in 1977, but continued his affiliation with the Texas Medical Center by acting as a consultant to hospital and college, and as Distinguished Service Professor of Pediatrics at Baylor. In his retirement years he became affiliated with the Well Baby Clinics for the City of Houston Health Department, where he continued his care for the pediatric subject and his academic interests by training Baylor students assigned to the clinics.

Dr. Blattner served his profession not only as an administrator and teacher but as a research scientist as well. He made major contributions in the field of infectious disease, most notably in the study of encephalitis. He was, moreover, noted for his concern and compassion because he ''combined specialization with old-time empathy and concern with each patient (WATCH, Spring 1977). He died December 6, 2002, in Gaithersburg, Maryland.