Mauricio B. Rosenbaum, MD
A Revolutionary Electrocardiologist From the Southern Hemisphere, 1921–2003
Ifeel honored and at the same time deeply touched to be asked to write this memorial to Mauricio Bernardo Rosenbaum, who died on May 4, 2003, after a distinguished, life-spanning career of 57 years.
Born in Carlos Casares, province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, 81 years ago, he graduated from the School of Medicine of Córdoba University and completed his training in Cardiology at the Ramos Mejía Hospital. He was appointed Research Associate at the University of Vermont under the direction of Eugene Lepeschkin in 1954 and Visiting Professor of Cardiology at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, in 1969. Until his retirement in 1986, he was Chief of Cardiology of the Salaberry Hospital (1964) and the Ramos Mejía Hospital. He ended his academic career as Honorary Professor of Medicine of the Buenos Aires University. ⇓
In the 1950s, Mauricio devoted many years to clinical and epidemiological investigations of Chagas’ disease. His findings were later reported in 26 publications. His paper on “Chagasic Myocardiopathy” (by invitation of Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, 1964)1 was the star and is still quoted in any related publication today. The alarm set off by Rosenbaum in claiming the importance of Chagas’ disease in Argentina was the turning point in the development of national health campaigns to control the disease.
My first meeting with Mauricio was in 1960. The anatomic and experimental studies carried out in the Pabellón Inchauspe, complemented by clinical and pathological observations, revolutionized the field of electrocardiography by claiming that the intraventricular conducting system actually has 3 and not 2 terminals: 1 in the right ventricle and 2 in the left one. The publication of Los Hemibloqueos2 and The Hemiblocks3 and several publications in American journals widely satisfied the needs of every cardiologist all over the world. They could then recognize in their patients the new signs of disease of the conduction system according to the diagnostic criteria established by Rosenbaum and his coworkers. This book was the best example of the philosophy that has marked Rosenbaum’s work: the complete integration of the topic, from basic data to clinical observations, leading to a final outstanding synthesis. The international scientific community rapidly accepted the relevance of the Argentinean work. That was the beginning of the Rosenbaum’s school of electrocardiography.
During Boris Surawicz’s sabbatical in Switzerland, he invited Mauricio to be a Guest Professor in Cardiology at the University of Kentucky, Lexington. Mauricio came to Lexington after Boris’ departure and met Boris when he returned from Europe. Boris admitted: “The place was not the same… . I kept quiet, studying Rosenbaum’s writing… . I became very much impressed by his anatomical studies and pathological correlations and also by the practical application of his work.”
The symposium on Cardiac Arrhythmias in Elsinore, Denmark, in 1970 framed Mauricio’s formal presentation to the arrhythmology leaders from both sides of the Atlantic. Mauricio greatly impressed and conquered the qualified expert audience with his humility, his intelligence, and the clarity of his expositions. At this symposium, Mauricio met Bramah Singh and Vaughan Williams for the first time, giving rise to the onset of the amiodarone odyssey. The Argentinean group brought amiodarone onto the stage, and 30 years later, this drug still is the “gold standard” for any evaluation or comparison of antiarrhythmic treatments. From then on, Mauricio was invited to many sites in the United States and in different countries on numerous occasions as a master teacher, stimulating the interest of anatomists, electrophysiologists, and clinicians with his puzzling ideas.
The workshop on “Conduction System of the Heart” by Wellens, Lie, and Janse, held in Amsterdam in 1975, was the forum for the formal presentation of phase 3 and phase 4 blocks in clinical electrocardiography, the mechanisms of paroxysmal atrioventricular block, and the electrocardiographic manifestations of the relationship between automatism and conduction. Thereafter, investigations dealing with the possible existence of a “cardiac memory” had a marked impact on the physiologists and clinicians and made this contribution one of the most original additions to the knowledge of cardiac activity in recent years.4 The sum of this outstanding work was reported in the book Frontiers of Cardiac Electrophysiology5 and presented in a memorable workshop held in 1981 in Buenos Aires, with the participation of the most conspicuous world exponents of the cardiac electrophysiology and arrhythmology.
Apart from the originality of Mauricio’s scientific contributions, there is another asset to their value: the extreme simplicity of the technical facilities in which these studies were performed. Mauricio received numerous academic awards and was paid important homage. He was appointed Illustrious Citizen of Buenos Aires, honorary member of many cardiological societies and of the American College of Cardiology, and editorial board member and peer reviewer of the main journals. He also received the Distinguished Scientist Award of the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology. Mauricio’s influence on contemporary cardiology in Argentina has been decisive in shaping the scientific, human, and ethical values of many of his colleagues and disciples. We valued a paper, a lecture, or even a simple clinical record according to what, in our imagination, Mauricio would say about it. Mauricio’s influence on cardiology was achieved more by means of stimulation than criticism—which was difficult to obtain anyway. He was scrupulously honest, piercingly pragmatic, and critical of mediocrity, but sensitive and humble when dealing with the troubles of his peers and patients.
He put around his mother and relatives the strong security of an unbroken love and affection.
He searched for and fostered the growth and development of men of probity, encouraged those who wavered, and cheered those who thought they had failed. When we look at most of the fairly good cardiologists in our country, it does not surprise us to find Mauricio’s fingerprint in many of them. Mauricio’s character was the result of a rare but well-balanced mixture of intelligence, genius, humility, naïveté, and moral integrity. He loved listening to and telling humorous narratives and anecdotes. All of us remember his chuckle when something amused him. He was a very cultivated man, a true expert on all art forms, and a compulsive reader. His hobbies were always shared with friends: soccer (Boca Juniors’ fan), tango music, Mozart, Beethoven, chess, coffee, or a Campari.
Those who knew Mauricio loved him, with his emotionality, vernacularisms, and wit. Mauricio was a nice, humane human being.
Rosenbaum MB, Elizari MV, Lázzari JO. Los Hemibloqueos. Buenos Aires: Editorial Paidós; 1968.
Rosenbaum MB, Elizari MV, Lázzari JO. The Hemiblocks: New Concepts of Intraventricular Conduction Based on Human Anatomical, Physiological and Clinical Studies. Oldsmar, Fla: Tampa Tracings; 1970.
Rosenbaum MB, Elizari MV, eds. Frontiers of Cardiac Electrophysiology. The Hague, the Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers; 1983.