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2nd Annual Michael E. DeBakey Lecture in the History of Medicine
At the height of the Cold War, Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, one of the most prolific American surgeons of the 20th century, made several trips to China and the USSR to survey the medical landscape on the other side of the Iron Curtain. DeBakey became a broker of valuable medical information, teaching new techniques and introducing new machines in the USSR and China, while reporting on the conditions of Chinese and Soviet medical institutions back home to the American public. His diplomatic success was possible in part because of his willingness to take less high-tech medical systems seriously—he praised the barefoot doctors and was “impressed” with Russian medical inventions that were showcased during his visits. With rich diary entries describing his visits, DeBakey understood medical technology as being appropriate only in context. He situated both the Western technology he helped transplant to the East as well as that which he encountered there within the topography of the Soviet and Chinese medical systems. In reflecting upon DeBakey’s Cold War travels, this talk will interrogate how his influence and mobility shaped perceptions of both American and communist-sphere medical technology
Heidi Morefield, MSc, 2017 NLM Michael E. DeBakey Fellow in the History of Medicine, Doctoral student, Department of the History of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University