Rod TanchancoApr 20, 2022
The Incredible True Stories of Pioneer Patients
First Hawk Publishing 2022
When Dr. Rod Tanchanco, a busy internist and clinical researcher, began digging into old journals looking for a deeper history of renowned medical innovations, he wasn’t planning to write a book; he just liked writing, and the process of digging into “treasure troves” of overlooked or unknown medical lore. Most of all, he liked finding the human stories behind trumpeted technical or pharmaceutical advances.
Out of this pleasurable – if time-and-energy-consuming – pursuit came First Patients: The Incredible True Stories of Pioneer Patients (First Hawk, 2022). The histories-behind-the-histories of ten prominent medical narratives, the book offers new angles from which to understand how we came by such advancements as blood transfusions, the pacemaker, and the identification of mosquitos as the vector for yellow fever. Tanchanco centers his stories on the individuals who were sufficiently curious, persistent, or self-sacrificing (exposing themselves to infected mosquitos or dosing themselves with ulcer-inducing bacteria) to break old barriers.
As Tanchanco explains in our interview, there are parallels to medical breakthroughs today, including the development of the mRNA vaccine against covid-19. While technology moves ever forward, human nature remains both resistant to, and eager for, change – particularly when it comes to vexatious matters of disease and death.
Rachel Pagones is an acupuncturist, educator, and author based in Cambridge, England. Her book, Acupuncture as Revolution: Suffering, Liberation, and Love (Brevis Press) was published in 2021.