Daily Archives: December 27, 2012

Schatz a good choice for U.S. Senate

National media are running to catch up with the question, “Who is Brian Schatz?”

The Washington Post, New York Times, The Atlantic, and other news outlets were also running down Schatz’ background.

It should not have come as a surprise that Governor Abercrombie would make his own choice despite unusual public pressure from the late senator’s office. As I previously commented, Abercrombie was not among Dan’s acolytes in Congress, instead making his own way even while working out some form of detente with the senior senator.

I expect Schatz to do just fine in the senate. He’s smart, and he’s good on issues, and he’ll keep growing into the role. Some good staffers and he’s good to go.

Two little known facts.

#1: When we lived in Kaimuki back in the early 1970s, the closest Chinese restaurant was just across Waialae Ave past the Hawaii National Bank on the corner of 9th Avenue. It was a little bigger than a “hole in the wall” kind of place, but not by much. Given its convenient location, though, Kwok’s Chop Suey became one of our regular spots for dinner. I learned decades later that the restaurant had been opened by the Schatz’ wife’s grandfather, and later operated by her parents.

#2: You may have heard about the infamous Tuskegee experiments. Here’s a capsule from an NPR report in 2002.

Thirty years ago today, the Washington Evening Star newspaper ran this headline on its front page: “Syphilis Patients Died Untreated.” With those words, one of America’s most notorious medical studies, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, became public.

“For 40 years, the U.S. Public Health Service has conducted a study in which human guinea pigs, not given proper treatment, have died of syphilis and its side effects,” Associated Press reporter Jean Heller wrote on July 25, 1972. “The study was conducted to determine from autopsies what the disease does to the human body.”

The next morning, every major U.S. newspaper was running Heller’s story. For Morning Edition, NPR’s Alex Chadwick reports on how the Tuskegee experiment was discovered after 40 years of silence.

What you may not know is that Irving Schatz, Brian’s father, was later named as the only physician to challenge the ethics of the medical experiment in a written protest years before the controversy became public.

Here’s an extended excerpt from the August 2009 newsletter of the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine:

“I’ve known Irv Schatz for 16 years,” said Dr. James Ireland, “And I never knew about this.”

That comment was one repeated by dozens of people at the John A. Burns School of Medicine in August, when longtime professor Dr. Irwin Schatz was recognized for standing up against the notorious Tuskegee Study in 1965.

Dr. Schatz, then a 34-year-old cardiologist in Detroit, read a research paper about the study and sent a protest letter to the author at the Centers for Disease Control. In the early 1970’s, a Wall Street Journal reporter discovered the letter and reported that Dr. Schatz was the only physician to have strongly complained about the unethical research.

“Everyone (in medical school) learns about Tuskegee,” said Dr. Ireland, associate clinical professor at JABSOM. “I guess Irv is just so modest, he would never mention it.”
The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male was conducted between 1932 and 1972 in Tuskegee, Alabama. Subjects of the infamous research project were left untreated, even though by the 1940’s, penicillin had been validated as an effective treatment.

Dr. Schatz, former chair of medicine at JABSOM, received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Mayo Clinic Board of Trustees on August 14, for a long career that included helping to expose the Tuskegee injustice.

Ultimately, Dr. Schatz’ concern led to improved research methods, including the necessity for informed consent of research subjects and the protection of patients in clinical trials.

Dr. Schatz’ criticism took bravery, according to Dr. David Robertson, Program Director for Clinical Research at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. In a letter nominating Dr. Schatz for the Mayo honor, he wrote, “(Dr. Schatz) was a young physician at the time, and criticizing an investigation which was overseen by some of the leading figures in the American Public Health Service was an action that was, to say the very least, potentially harmful to his career.”