Dr. Eastman Shifts Some Focus From Mom to Baby in Obstetrical Care

After the turn of the century, typing on a ming kwai typewriter, no easy feat when you realize how difficult it is to get the thousands of Chinese characters to a machine, the writer, philosopher and inventor Lin Yutang mulled upon the aim of education in the development of knowledge. It was his writing that Dr. Nicholson J. Eastman, the famous obstetrician chose to quote in the Berkow essay on him in 1959. Dr. Eastman is best remembered by some of us as an early editor of Williams Obstetrics, and one of the foremost obstetricians He taught in (Peking) Bejing in the late 1920s and encountered Lin Yutang's beliefs. He was one of the foremost obstetricians and gynecologists at Johns Hopkins Hospital which also had Dr. Richard Te Linde . He was actually rather a local Midwest boy, he was born in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Dr. Eastman noted that in the 1930s and 1940s the goal of Obstetrical care was to save the mother's life. His goal was to move beyond this to the goal of saving the baby and trying to prevent cerebral palsy. His idea was that very little cerebral palsy is due to heredity and that "something happens in utero" to make this condition occur. The condition cerebral palsy can be manifested in many ways,, but it usually means a problem with the coordination of the brain function over muscular function. The symptoms tend to be present, and perhaps wax and wane, but generally are progressive over time. Today we still struggle to prevent cerebral palsy, but I think that Dr. Eastman would be proud of the vast array of ways we are making obstetrics safer. This week convenes the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Washington, and it will be the rare meeting where his name doesn't come up often, even today.


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