VIDEO: What’s in a name? How a disease, procedure both bear the name Whipple
In this Endo-Sketch, a Healio video series on clinical conditions named after famous colleagues, Klaus Mergener, MD, of the University of Washington School of Medicine, discusses the origin of the Whipple procedure and Whipple disease.
According to Mergener, the Whipple procedure, also known as pancreatico-duodenectomy, is named after distinguished surgeon Allen Oldfather Whipple, who was born in Iran in 1881. Oldfather Whipple earned his medical degree at Columbia University, where he remained after graduation and within 10 years was appointed professor and surgeon-in-chief of Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York.
“While many surgeons had already described a variety of ways of removing tumors of the pancreas and duodenum, Whipple is said to have been the first one to describe the removal of the entire duodenum as part of this procedure,” Mergener said. “He published the operation as a two-stage procedure in 1935 and subsequently switched to a one-stage operation which he reported in 1940.”
On the other hand, Whipple disease is named after pathologist and Nobel Prize winner George Hoyt Whipple, born in New Hampshire in 1878. He went to medical school at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and later become professor and chair of pathology at the University of Rochester in New York.
Long before winning the Nobel Prize for his “discoveries concerning liver therapy in cases of anemia,” Hoyt Whipple in 1907 described a patient with malabsorption, mesenteric lymphadenopathy, arthralgias and skin pigmentation and named the condition “intestinal lipodystrophy.” Decades later, in 1990, Ken Wilson of Duke and colleagues identified the causal organism, Tropheryma whipplei, and now the disease is known as Whipple's disease.
“Some have suggested that these two physician leaders with the last name of Whipple were somehow distant relatives,” Mergener said. “While this has been difficult to confirm, we know that they were not only contemporaries, but they actually knew each other, were friends and got together not infrequently at medical meetings.”