University of Minnesota

“If It Isn’t Fun.” – Foreword

Henry Blackburn has given us a lively, warm account of his first years as a physician of a special kind, a rare kind — all too rare still — epidemiologist-preventive cardiologist. According to the title, Henry has obviously had a “fun career;” he has also been creative while contributing qualitatively to new knowledge and to improved health for people.

Medical students please take a look; for your own sakes, premeds too — and med school deans as well. Most premeds, in their applications to med school, say they want to become physicians to serve their fellow human beings by improving health. When I applied, I, too, set down that aspiration, as did Henry. I meant it, and so did he. We believe most premeds since have meant it, right down to the present. But all too many lose the inspiration early on. That’s sad. Henry held on to it; a key reason his is an exciting, meaningful, and “fun” life story.

There’s an old saying, “Prevention is better than cure.” But there is no cure for the millions involved worldwide in the contemporary epidemic of heart attack and stroke. All the remarkable interventions together — medical and surgical — of modern high-tech cardiology cannot cure, however much they may help surviviors with these diseases. Damage to heart and brain is irreversible. Grasp of this truism led Henry (and the few like him) to pursue “a different sort of medical life” focused on prevention — a life-fulfilling youthful dream.

Henry’s friends have known for years that he writes well. A note here informs us of the early influences that set him on the right track as an author. The whole volume confirms Henry’s mastery of language, making the rich substance of these memoirs deceptively easy to read — in keeping with previous volumes from his pen (On the Trail of Heart Attacks in Seven Countries; PK. Irreverent Memoirs of a Preacher’s Kid ). Taking a fling at memoir writing myself these days, I hope to come close to doing as well as Henry has here. It’s fun!

Jeremiah Stamler, M.D.

Northwestern University School of Medicine

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