Maurice S. Albin, M.D., M.Sc. / photo by Mike Strawn
Whether he’s researching 19th-century anesthesia practices, conducting
groundbreaking research on mammalian brain transplantation, exploring the
physiopathology of venous air embolism or acute traumatic spinal cord injury, or
writing poetry inspired by his life’s work, Professor Maurice Albin brings a generous scholarship and unflagging enthusiasm to his specialty.
Dr. Albin has covered quite a bit of territory in his nearly 60 years of
specializing in neurosurgical anesthesia and neuroscience research. Before moving
to Birmingham and joining the UAB Department of Anesthesiology, he served as
Vice Chairman for Academic Affairs in the Department of Anesthesiology at the
University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and Director of the
Spinal Cord Injury Research Center at the University Health Center of
In the 1960s, he and his research colleagues at the
Metropolitan General Hospital of Cleveland and Case Western Reserve University
School of Medicine isolated the brain of a canine and then transplanted it to
the neck of another canine, attracting the attention of the Nobel Prize
committee, as well as novelist Peter Niesewand, whose 1982 espionage thriller Fall Back referenced their pioneering research.
We asked Dr. Albin to share a few thoughts about issues that have impacted his career. Below are his responses.
always been fascinated by the organic basis of our thought processes, which
inevitably led me to search for the basic mechanisms possibly embedded in
the brain. And, of course, pain and cognition—to name but a few characteristics—are
deeply affected by anesthetics. By the early 1960s, there was an explosion
of knowledge concerning the effects of anesthetic agents on
cerebrovascular dynamics, which impacted upon the anesthetic management of the
patient with neurological dysfunction.
“Atthat time I was at the Mayo Clinic doing my
residency in anesthesia and enrolled in a two-year anesthesiology fellowship program
that granted a Masters of Science degree in anesthesiology, with my thesis
being a study on the physiological and pathological effects of localized spinal
cord hypothermia. This was a
life-changing decision, as it brought me in contact with world-class scientists
and gave me whole new perspective on my career in anesthesia.
financially strapped with three children, I was fortunate to have a wonderful
helpmate and decided to enter the academic life and to continue the pursuit of
information relating to anesthesia and its central nervous system effects.
From there on out it was logical to join with a few others to organize a society that would help to disseminate knowledge
relating to neurosurgical anesthesia. The society, known as SNACC (Society for
Neuroscience in Anesthesiology and Critical Care), celebrated its 40th
anniversary last year and has honored me by lending my name to the keynote lecture at its annual meeting.”
On being a good
“I don't think that I
know the secret to being a 'good academician.' We in academic anesthesia
are fortunate in that we have a duty to either teach others, inform others
through our research or a combination of both —and I can't think of a
higher calling, as in the long run it is all dedicated to the alleviation
of suffering through the dissemination of knowledge.
“For those pursuing an anesthesiology residency or fellowship, the only
message I can proclaim is to READ, READ
and READ the medical and anesthesia literature.
With a reasonable knowledge of statistics in your background, you now have
a chance to be very critical of so much of the medical literature that pounds
on our sensorium every day.
“I developed an outreach program in the 1970s, '80s and '90s
dedicated to upgrading the knowledge base concerning neurosurgical
anesthesia among Latin American anesthesiologists. This also meshed with
my love of and
appreciation for Hispanic culture. One of the primary conditions of acceptance was that the applicant
had to agree to return to his or her native country after training and not
remain in the USA. I probably trained more than 30 fellows
from foreign countries, the bulk coming from Latin America, but also
representing countries such as Spain, Singapore, Switzerland, Germany, China
On his military
Dr. Albin in World War II / photo by Mike Strawn
“I was both fortunate and unfortunate in my time spent in the service
during World War II—fortunate in being able to help my fellow comrades; in having the
privilege of seeing unbelievable acts of courage and sacrifice; in
realizing that we must have a feeling of goodness towards all people; and in underscoring
that a sense of humility is important in dealing with the suffering. It was unfortunate that I also had to see
man as a beast, inflicting degrading inhumanity on fellow humans that often
On the future of anesthesia:
"Although the Affordable Care Act is still being challenged, my sense is
that this paradigm of care willeventually be a
permanent part of our medical landscape. This will unleash (as
is already happening) significant increases in the patient population,
requiring all aspects of anesthesia care. I feel confident that our UAB
Department of Anesthesiologywith
its attuned leadership is well positioned to entertain these challenges as they
arise and accomplish our goals of supplyingand betteringpatient care, education
Many thanks, Dr. Albin, for sharing your insights with us!
Dr. Maurice S. Albin, M.D., M.Sc., has been a professor in the UAB Department of Anesthesiology since 2001. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.