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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute 50th Anniversary Reunion & Scientific Meeting

1967 Residents at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.

1967 Residents at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.

Myron Tanenbaum, M.D., R 85

Resident, 1985

How I wrote the classic article on Familial Temporal Arteritis

In late December 1985, the 23rd to be exact, of my senior year of residency @ BPEI, my 1st Year Resident (the late) Dr. Jack Tenzel called me into triage to evaluate an elderly woman with headaches and acute loss of vision in each eye. I carefully explained to this patient that she would be admitted, treated with intravenous steroids, and that plans would be made for a “biopsy” because she likely had a condition called “temporal arteritis”.

This distressed but alert 80 year old woman then said “temporal arteritis? 13 years ago my sister went blind from temporal arteritis!” A family history of temporal arteritis? Could it be?

Two days later, I performed a left temporal artery biopsy — florid “positive” for giant-cell arteritis. Despite “stat” I.V. treatment with steroids, the patient made modest improvement only in her vision. I did, however, track-down her sister’s full medical records, including the pathology slides from Jackson Memorial Hospital demonstrating “positive” temporal arteritis.

Wow, I could hardly believe it! This indeed was familial temporal arteritis! I quickly went to the office of Dr. J. Lawton Smith … the founding editor of the Journal of Clinical Neuro-ophthalmology — I said: “Dr. Smith, I have this incredible (future Case Report for your Journal) case of 2 sisters who each had temporal arteritis.”

Dr. Smith: “Well, I don’t know ….”

I said: “But Dr. Smith, after confirming the diagnosis in our patient, I went to Jackson Memorial Hospital Pathology Labs and got the original pathology slides of her sister”

Dr. Smith: “Well, there’s been a few reports of this kind of thing ….”

I said: “But I have biopsy-positive proof of temporal arteritis in these 2 sisters”

Dr. Smith: “Well, sometimes these things can just be coincidence you know ….”

Me, pleading: “But Dr. Smith, I came in special on Saturday December 25th just to do this temporal artery biopsy, and ….”

Dr. Smith (eyes widening!): “You did this temporal artery biopsy on Christmas Day??”

Me: “Yes.”

Dr. Smith: “Dockie, … you gotta write that up!!”

And that’s the absolutely true story of how I wrote the classic article on Familial Temporal Arteritis.

M. Tanenbaum, and J. Tenzel: Familial Temporal Arteritis. J. Clinical Neuro-ophtahlmol. 5: 244-248, 1985.