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  • Kenneth Daniel Blackfan's Contributions to Pediatric Neurosurgery

    Final Number:

    Yasser Jeelani MD; Alan R. Cohen MD

    Study Design:

    Subject Category:

    Meeting: Congress of Neurological Surgeons 2014 Annual Meeting

    Introduction: Kenneth Daniel Blackfan was a luminary pediatrician known for his gifted clinical acumen and research prowess. In a career that spanned more than 4 decades he made countless contributions to pediatric neurosurgery. In this biographical sketch, we describe his professional achievements at Johns Hopkins and Boston Children’s Hospital, alongiwth his personal friendships with neurosurgeons, most notably, Walter Dandy, & Harvey Cushing.

    Methods: Archival records pertaining to Kenneth D. Blackfan were obtained from three sources: (1) Department of Archives, Boston Children’s Hospital (2) Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives, Johns Hopkins Medical Institution, & (3) Archives and Records Management, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Harvard Medical School.

    Results: Kenneth Blackfan graduated from Albany medical college in 1905 at the head of his class. After beginning his career as a pathologist and bacteriologist in Albany, he joined his father in general practice in Cambridge, New York. He subsequently decided on a career in pediatrics and did residency training in Philadelphia and St Louis, Missouri. In 1912, he worked at Johns Hopkins Hospital and began his lifelong collaboration with Walter E. Dandy. In 1920, Blackfan spent 3 years as professor of pediatrics in Cincinnati before moving to Boston where he served as Professor & Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. Throughout his career, Blackfan performed landmark research on hydrocephalus and CSF physiology, and contributed to the understanding and management of multiple neurosurgical disorders. We elucidate his unique friendships with Walter Dandy and Harvey Cushing through their colorful correspondence over the years.

    Conclusions: This review of archival biographical information about Kenneth Blackfan provides unique insights about his contributions to the field of pediatric neurosurgery and his personal relationships with the two leading neurosurgeons of his era, Dandy Walker & Harvey Cushing.

    Patient Care: A close collaboration between the pediatrician and the pediatric neurosurgeon is of invaluable importance in the advancement of pediatric neurosurgery as a specialty.

    Learning Objectives: By the conclusion of this session, participants should be able to: 1) Describe the contributions of Kenneth D Blackfan to pediatric neurosurgery. 2) Discuss his unique relationships with both Walter Dandy and Harvey Cushing.

    References: 1. Wilson, J. L. (1955). Kenneth D. Blackfan; 1883-1941. J Pediatr, 47(2), 261-267. 2. Miscellaneous archival references from the sources acknowledged above.

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