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Dr. Edwin William Salzman

Surgery Pioneer Edwin William Salzman, MD, 82, Passes Away
Edwin William Salzman, MD, Emeritus Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, former Associate Director of the Surgical Service at Beth Israel Hospital, and former Chief of Vascular Surgery at Beth Israel Hospital, passed away on October 3 at the age of 82. He resided in Cambridge and on Martha's Vineyard, Mass.

Dr. Salzman earned his undergraduate degree in 1950 from Washington University in St. Louis, and his MD in 1953 from Washington University School of Medicine, graduating cum laude. Following an internship year in surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), he took a leave of absence to serve in the U.S. Air Force, and spent the next two years at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on the team that developed the anti-gravity "G-suit."

In 1956, he returned to Boston and MGH to continue his surgical training under Edward D. Churchill, MD. Dr. Salzman served as a postdoctoral fellow at Oxford University's Radcliffe Infirmary in 1959 under Dr. R.G. MacFarlane, Professor of Clinical Pathology, who had made enormous contributions to deciphering the process of blood coagulation. In 1972, Dr. Salzman was named a Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Salzman's research was diverse and had a far-reaching impact. He investigated the prevention and control of bleeding, as well as thrombotic disorders. His lab established that von Willebrand's disease is caused by malfunctioning platelets and showed that cyclic AMP and calcium triggered platelet activation and, thereby, played a key role in the clotting cascade.

In collaboration with MGH orthopedic surgeon William Harris, MD, Dr. Salzman produced a number of seminal papers that defined the optimal regimens of prophylactic anticoagulants to prevent thromboembolism following both the treatment of hip fractures and total hip replacement.

Beginning in the early 1960s, with chemical engineer Edward W. Merrill, ScD, at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dr. Salzman investigated strategies to impart surfaces with anti-thrombotic properties, which contributed to the design of current stents and other blood-contacting devices.

"Our collaboration, which resulted in 34 jointly published papers between 1965 and 1987, illustrates the great benefit of bringing together people who each have a deep understanding of their respective fields and a willingness to learn from one another to work on a complex subject," said Merrill, C.P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering Emeritus at MIT. Dr. Salzman was also a frequent guest lecturer for an MIT course on chemical engineering in medicine introduced by Professor Merrill, a pioneer in the then-fledgling field of biomedical engineering. "The clarity with which Ed presented the exquisitely complex relations implicit in hemostasis and thrombosis to engineering students was widely recognized," said Professor Merrill.

Dr. Salzman co-edited editions of the standard textbooks Haemostasis and Thrombosis and Surgery of the Chest, and published several hundred scientific papers deciphering the fundamental processes involved in the physiology of blood platelets, the interaction of blood with artificial surfaces, and the prevention of thrombotic complications of trauma and surgery. His work changed the standard management of surgical patients, such as the design of pump oxygenators for cardiac surgery. He also demonstrated that "an aspirin a day keeps the doctor away" through the clinical trials he led on venous thrombosis and strokes.

Dr. Salzman was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at age 48. He consequently shifted his focus from performing surgery to his laboratory at Beth Israel Hospital, spent a year learning new techniques as a Visiting Fellow at Corpus Christi College at the University of Cambridge in England, and assumed the deputy editorship of the New England Journal of Medicine for the next 13 years.

Dr. Salzman served as chairman of the American Heart Association Council on Thrombosis and, in 1986, received the association's Distinguished Achievement Award. In addition, he served as president of the New England Society of Vascular Surgery and the Aesculapian Club. He received the Distinguished Career Award from the International Committee on Thrombosis and Haemostasis, and served for many years on the society's executive committee.

A Markle Scholar, Dr. Salzman was also a member of American Society for Clinical Investigation, the American Surgical Association, the Boston Surgical Society, the New England Surgical Society, the American Society of Hematology, and the American Physiological Society. The Washington University School of Medicine presented him with its Alumni Achievement Award, stating "...students and colleagues describe him foremost as a gracious and generous friend."

"I found Dr. Salzman to be a wonderful colleague and confidante," said William Silen, MD, former Chief of Surgery of Beth Israel Hospital. "He contributed enormously to the department by facilitating the recruitment of excellent young surgeons and by raising the quality of teaching to residents and students."

A worldwide traveler and enthusiastic sailor, Dr. Salzman spent his summers with his boats and family at his home on Martha's Vineyard. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Nancy (Lurie) Salzman, and three sons: Andrew Salzman, MD, David Salzman, PhD, and James Salzman, JD. A memorial observance was held on October 5 and 6.