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Professor Albert Kuntz and American anatomy.

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This volurnc! of four royul(tr wwsbers
is published in honor of
PROFESSOR ALBEELT KUNTZ
ALBERT KUNTX
PROFESSOR ALBERT KUNTZ AND
AMERICAN ANATOMY
The late Professor Albert Kuntz, a member of the faculty of
St. Louis University for 44 years and director of its department of anatomy holds the distinction of being a pioneer in
the field of morphology of the autonomic nervous system.
Some believe that pioneers have opportunities trust upon
them but more likely, opportunities ever present are open to
those who have the vision and the will to accept them. Let it be
said that Professor Kuntz after his initiation into this field
knew that it would be his life’s work and by his persistent
efforts through the years he became to anatomists the world
over, an authority on the autonomic nervous system.
For Professor Kuntz, as it should be for any scientist who
had closed a long and active career, it is not too early to ask
what contributions has he made in his chosen profession.
The answer can be given readily because without being so
designated, it can be said that he conducted throughout his
years as a departmental director a n “anatomical institute”
which emphasized the autonomic nervous system. This
‘institute” was not glamorous ; it did not advertise itself. I t s
support for years was wholly from the University and even
in recent years received only meager outside support, largely
because that support was not requested. It sought little for
itself and therefore anyone who became associated with it
was there at his own request or because he was essential to
the conduct of the department of anatomy. I t can be said
that the “institute” thrived particularly with reference to
the studies on the autonomic nervous system because of the
vigorous personal efforts of Professor Kuntz.
The department of anatomy which he directed, was well
ordered and he attempted to conduct it with a minimum of
3
THE ANATOMICAL RECORD v m . 130, NO.
J A N U A R Y 1958
1
4
KERMIT CHRISTENSEN
tension. He respected the teaching demands for students in
the Schools of Medicine, Dentistry or Nursing and in the
Graduate School, and times spent in the lecture room or
laboratory were obligations. Professor Kuntz himself never
slighted a student in the classroom. The teaching materials
were adequate but simple, and emphasis was always given to
fundamentals. I n that regard the students profited because a
firm but fundamental background is most essential. The
departmental staff which he was permitted to assemble was
no more than necessary for conducting the teaching load and
for participating in some research. Professor Kuntz conducted his department and its activities with a strong regard
for anatomy as a discipline important in itself. I n many
respects this viewpoint was healthful because a firm grounding
in morphology, even when taught for itself, left every student
of medical science with a foundation upon which he could
base all of his future study and learning. Sttitudes toward
the field of anatomy are changing at the present time. There
is a constant effort on the part of some to shorten and concentrate the subject material of anatomy. There are repeated
efforts to correlate and to associate with other disciplines.
This revolution, however, leaves many with thoughtful
questions as t o the final results. Professor Kuntz was of
the old school, maybe “old fashioned” in his ideas but he was
willing to have the newer ideas tested. Only time will tell
whether the ideas of those who might have been considered
staid in their concepts may be reinstated. It is a compliment
to the methods of Professor Kuntz to observe his former
students as the product of his teaching. Several thousand
students in health sciences have passed under his supervision.
From Professor Kuntz they received basic training in
anatomy, and most likely much of their orientation needed for
further study in the School of Medicine. It is most satisfying
that Professor Kuntz and his staff have been singled out on
many occasions for a personal appreciation of what they did
and what they taught.
BIOGRAPHY
5
Professor Kuntz’s conduct of investigations on the autonomic nervous system has been exemplary. Again they were
fundamental and were done without the use of elaborate
equipment, but they were to examine every facet of the
autonomic nervous system. Mainly they were morphological
because that is what he thought that they should be. Fellow
staff members and graduate students whom he selected
through the years were made aware of the problems of autonomic structure which needed further study, and it was such
early acquaintance, that produced interest among those who
became members of the departmental staff. Very often when
staff members or graduate students would come to him with
what they thought would be an “ a s t o ~ n d i n gnew
~ ~ discovery
Professor Kuntz would sit back in his chair and exclaim,
“ well, what did you expect?” The autonomic nervous system
is known t o every morphologist and to every clinician but its
intricacies to many are often vague. I n the department of
Professor Kuntz, vagueness as t o the characteristics of this
system was absent. Frequent dissections, operative procedures, microscopic studies, the attention given to literature and
the timely discussions, all led to intimate acquaintance and
familiarity. Each year one o r more published papers on the
autonomic system discussed the thinking in regard to the current subjects of interest and question. His reviews published
for a number of years gave a written survey of the current
literature. His textbook on the autonomic nervous system
encompassed the subject as broadly as it ever has been done
in the English language. Textbooks of a medical type grow7
old and the material after a few years becomes antiquated
but Professor Kuntz’s four editions will ever be consulted for
the status of the subject during his time.
What stimulus will American teaching and American investigation in anatomy derive from Professor Kuntz’s work?
The passing of a leader in the field is often the signal f o r the
death knell of a subject. Let us hope that this is not true for
the autonomic nervous system. Rather let us hope that
Professor Kuntz’s efforts are only a beginning and from them
6
KERMIT CHRISTENSEN
there will rise a broad and more collective effort of autonomic
investigation. Even though he may not have set up an “institute” where collective research efforts were possible, his
example should be followed. Perhaps in the future, the
dream of the autonomic nervous system being studied by a
‘ ‘team” of neuroanatomists, neurophysiologists, neuropharmacologists, neuropathologists, neurochemists and neuromicrobiologists as well as neuroclinicians may become a
reality.
KERMITCHRISTENSEN
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