Lives of the fellows

Hyman Grusin

b.30 September 1913 d.18 September 1987
MB BCh Wits(1937) MRCP(1948) FRCP(1977)

Hyman (Hymie) Grusin died suddenly and unexpectedly in Johannesburg. He had previously sustained an acute myocardial infarction in 1966.

Educated in Johannesburg at Jeppe High School, he qualified at Witwatersrand University. He joined the South African Medical Corps shortly after the outbreak of the second world war and with the fall of Tobruk in mid-1942 became a prisoner of war in Italy. When Italy capitulated in September 1943, Grusin elected to remain with his patients in a military hospital rather than escape, as was possible for many South African and other prisoners of war at that time since the German Army had not yet occupied the whole of Italy. He served the remainder of the war in prisoner of war camps in Germany.

After the war Hymie completed his postgraduate studies in London and obtained his membership of the College. He worked at the Royal Free Hospital and also spent several months at the Hammersmith Hospital and Postgraduate Medical School with the renowned cardiologist, Paul Wood [Munk's Roll, Vol.V, p.456]. When he returned to South Africa he was appointed a full time physician at the Coronation Hospital but soon transferred to Baragwanath Hospital where he remained until he took up private practice in 1955. He was elected a Fellow of the College in 1977.

Hymie married Rhona Berman, daughter of an attorney, in 1955. They had no children, but his wife had a son by a previous marriage and they were a close knit family.

Grusin did not enjoy didactic teaching and preferred discussion at the bedside, and the examination of the patient with students or junior staff. He challenged dogma and made noteworthy original observations during his several years at Baragwanath Hospital. These included the recognition, with Priscilla Kincaid-Smith, of the prevalence of scurvy, its clinical manifestations and its association with haemosiderosis and osteoporosis. His paper relating to electrocardiographic alterations in the black population of South Africa, remains a classic and is still quoted in the pertinent literature [Circulation, June 1954,9,860-67]. He was interested in the congestive cardiomyopathy of black patients, and wrote meaningfully of beri-beri heart disease. His enthusiasm and enquiring mind were an inspiration to junior staff at Baragwanath.

Hymie was intolerant of insincere or superficial behaviour and seldom failed to express criticism of those who were guilty of it, in somewhat vehement terms. Despite his outspoken disposition he was humble about his own professional ability and achievements. Because of this humility, his astute clinical acumen and discerning assessments were sometimes underestimated by colleagues. His patients were his principal interest and he left no stone unturned in order to clarify a diagnosis and formulate optimal management. Many of his patients were also his friends.

At one time he was an enthusiastic and accomplished golfer, but he turned to bowls after his myocardial infarction. His joviality, amusing comments, and overall enthusiasm on the bowling green were sorely missed by his fellow players.

JB Barlow

[South, 1988,73,198-99]

(Volume VIII, page 200)

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