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Hench, Philip Showalter
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Dr. Philip Showalter Hench was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania February 28, 1896. He died on vacation in Jamaica, March 30, 1965.
He graduated from Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, at the age of 20 and entered the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He completed his medical studies in 1920 and in 1921 became a fellow at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine of the University of Minnesota. He was appointed faculty member at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, in 1925. In 1926 he was appointed head of the new section on rheumatic diseases. In 1928 he studied in Frieburg, Germany under the pathologist Professor Aschoff and in Munich under Professor von Muller. In 1953 he became a senior consultant of the Mayo Clinic. He retired from the Mayo Clinic and Mayo Graduate School of Medicine in 1957.
In the 1930s he was instrumental in strengthening the diagnosis standards of rheumatic diseases. He wrote several important papers on various aspects of rheumatology which gained his the respect of his profession. He encouraged others to join him in compliling the Annual Rheumatism Reviews, for which he served as the chief editor from 1932 to 1948. Dr. Hench was a founder of and active in the Arthritis and Rheumatism Association during his whole career and served as its president in 1939. Dr. Hench was chairman of the Ligue Internationale contre le Rheumatisme and of the Arthritis and Rheumatism Study Section of the National Institutes of Health. In 1962 he was appointed a member of the Commission on Drug Safety for advancement of the predictability of the action of new pharmaceuticals in humans.
During World War II he served in the United States Army Medical Corps at Hot Springs, Arkansas and at Camp Carson, Colorado when he directed the United States Army Rheumatism Center. He was promoted to rank of colonel in 1945.
When he returned to the Mayo Clinic after the war, he began to mention in his speeches the possible existence of an anti-rheumatic substance based on observations that some conditions, such as pregancy, jaundice or fever, seemed to afford patients remission of the pain and other symptoms of rheumatic diseases. During the 1940s, Dr. Edward C. Kendall, Hench's colleague at Mayo Clinic, succeeded in extracting a compound from the adrenal cortex. With some of the Clinic patients' willingness, in 1948, Hench and his research colleagues decided to try the compound on the patients to determine its effect on their rheumatoid arthritis.
The dramatic results of freedom from pain, lessened swelling and increased movement obtained by the patients were instantaneous news. In 1949 Dr. Hench reported to the American College of Physicians and to the seventh meeting of the International League against Rheumatism the results of the trials of cortisone and Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH)in cases of rheumatoid arthritis and rheumatic fever. Although the results were hailed by the general public as a complete cure for rheumatoid arthritis, Dr. Hench insisted that the Mayo team had at that time conducted only preliminary trials. However this was a major breakthrough in the treatment and research of rheumatic diseases.
In 1950, Dr. Hench was awarded the Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine jointly with biochemists Dr. Edward C. Kendall and Professor Tadeus Reichstein of Basle. He won many other awards for his research work, including the Lasker Award of the American Public Health Association, the Heberden Award from the Heberden Society in Great Britain, the Criss Award from the American Rheumatology Association,an award from the Argentine Society of Rheumatology, an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the National University of Ireland, and the Modern Medicine Award.
Dr. Hench was a member or honorary member of many national and international institutions and organizations. Among the many were the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the RoyalSociety of Medicine, London; the Royal Academy of Medicine of Belgium; the Association of American Physicians; Association of Military Surgeons of the United States.
Dr. Hench married Mary Genevieve Kahler in 1927. They had four children: Mary Showalter Henty, Dr. Philip Kahler Hench, Susan Kahler Bowis, John Bixler Hench. Mrs. Hench's father had worked with the Mayo Clinic to provide the use of the Kahler Corporations group of hospitals, hotels and supporting institutions for Mayo staff and patients. Dr. Hench served on the Board of Directors of the Kahler Corporation.
His hobbies were tennis, music, photography and the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He published several articles on medicial history, most notably on the conquest of yellow fever.
Biographical information from: "Philip Showalter Hench, M.D." by James Eckman. The Journal-Lancet, Vol. 85, No.5, May 1965, p. 218-220; "Obituary Notices: P. S. Hench, M.D.", British Medical Journal, April 10, 1965, p. 1003; "Dr. Philip Hench, Nobel Laureate, Dies" Mayovox, Vol. 16, No. 12, April 9, 1965, p.1.