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Biographical entry Shulman, Alexander (1915 - 1996)

Hon FRCS 1996; MB BS Toronto 1939.

22 June 1915
Toronto, Canada
7 July 1996
General surgeon


Alexander Shulman was awarded the honorary FRCS at the age of 81, three days before his death in what might seem a belated recognition of his contributions to surgical practice. He was born in Toronto, Canada, on 22 June 1915, the brother of Milton Shulman who was to make a name for himself as a columnist in the London Evening Standard. His medical education was undertaken in Toronto, where he qualified in 1939. Soon after this he moved to the Cedars Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles as a resident, first in pathology and then in surgery. He was to remain on the staff of Cedars throughout his career but when the USA entered the war he enlisted in the Army Medical Corps and served as a captain in France and Germany. At this stage his interest was in neurosurgery but when he returned to Los Angeles in 1945 he set up in private general surgical practice. In 1950, having spilt burning grease on his hand, he discovered that by plunging his arm into cold water the pain was immediately relieved. This event sparked his interest in burns and their emergency treatment by ice-cold packs which he found not only relieved pain but hastened recovery. The method was published in JAMA in 1960 and attracted considerable interest, so that his method soon became standard practice. He went on to espouse such popular causes as high fibre diet and anti-coagulants for coronary heart disease, but then concentrated on the repair of hernia by a minimally invasive technique using a tension-free mesh. He became Director of the Lichtenstein Hernia Institute in 1991 when he retired from private practice and continued to publish until his death on 7 July 1996.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England