Orthopedics

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Blue Notes 

Francis Xavier Dercum

Charles Sorbie, MB, ChB, FRCS(E), FRCS(C)

Abstract

Francis Xavier Dercum (1856-1931) was an intellectual renaissance man. He did 2 things that guaranteed perpetual fame: he named a disease, and he was physician, for 3 years, to Miss Ima Hogg (1882-1975). Dercum graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in 1877. He became a microbiologist, pathologist, family physician, neurologist, psychiatrist, and philosopher. He held the appointment of President of the American Society of Neurologists and the American Philosophical Society. In 1888, he described “adiposis doloroso,” a strange, painful disease in which deposits of fatty tissue accumulate unevenly throughout the body, but most obviously in the thighs, arms, and abdomen (University Medical Magazine Philadelphia. 1888; [1]:140-150). The cause of it is unknown. It is painful as the deposited tissue harms the nerves passing through it. It mainly affects women 25 to 40 years, male/female ratio 1:20. There is some evidence of an inherited tendency, and there is an increased incidence in Sweden. Juxta-articular, diffuse, and lipomatous (nodular) types are described. The condition causes constant irritation, pain, and dysesthesia in the affected areas of fatty infiltration. Currently, it is treated with infliximab and methotrexate.

Dercum’s other claim to fame was being physician to Miss Ima Hogg, also known as “the First Lady of Texas.” Ima was a remarkable woman—the daughter of Sarah Anne “Sally” Stinson and Texas Governor James Stephen “Big Jim” Hogg. Ima’s grandfather, who had helped write the Texas Constitution, raced to Mineola when he heard his granddaughter’s name, intending to change it but she had already been baptized and it stayed. Rumor gave her a fictitious sister, Ura, but Ima went on to a brilliant career as a talented pianist, and with her great wealth from oil found under the family land, she became a generous benefactor. She organized the Houston Symphony Orchestra, collected Picasso, Klee, Chagall, Matisse, Cezanne, and Modigliani paintings, fine American furniture, and many other valuable artifacts. Ima Hogg was one of America’s greatest philanthropists and most highly respected women. She gave most of her collections to museums in Texas and lived a very full life to the age of 92.

It was said that she handled her given name “with considerable skill and unfailing politeness.”

doi: 10.3928/01477447-20091020-03

Dr. Charles Sorbie is Professor of Surgery at Queen’s University and a member of the Attending Staff at the General and Hotel Dieu Hospitals in Kingston, Ontario.

A former chairman of the Department of Surgery at Queen’s University, Dr. Sorbie has been President of the Canadian Orthopaedic Research Society, the Canadian Orthopaedic Association, and the Societé Internationale de Chirurgie Orthopédique et de Traumatologie (SICOT).…

Francis Xavier Dercum (1856-1931) was an intellectual renaissance man. He did 2 things that guaranteed perpetual fame: he named a disease, and he was physician, for 3 years, to Miss Ima Hogg (1882-1975). Dercum graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in 1877. He became a microbiologist, pathologist, family physician, neurologist, psychiatrist, and philosopher. He held the appointment of President of the American Society of Neurologists and the American Philosophical Society. In 1888, he described “adiposis doloroso,” a strange, painful disease in which deposits of fatty tissue accumulate unevenly throughout the body, but most obviously in the thighs, arms, and abdomen (University Medical Magazine Philadelphia. 1888; [1]:140-150). The cause of it is unknown. It is painful as the deposited tissue harms the nerves passing through it. It mainly affects women 25 to 40 years, male/female ratio 1:20. There is some evidence of an inherited tendency, and there is an increased incidence in Sweden. Juxta-articular, diffuse, and lipomatous (nodular) types are described. The condition causes constant irritation, pain, and dysesthesia in the affected areas of fatty infiltration. Currently, it is treated with infliximab and methotrexate.

Dercum’s other claim to fame was being physician to Miss Ima Hogg, also known as “the First Lady of Texas.” Ima was a remarkable woman—the daughter of Sarah Anne “Sally” Stinson and Texas Governor James Stephen “Big Jim” Hogg. Ima’s grandfather, who had helped write the Texas Constitution, raced to Mineola when he heard his granddaughter’s name, intending to change it but she had already been baptized and it stayed. Rumor gave her a fictitious sister, Ura, but Ima went on to a brilliant career as a talented pianist, and with her great wealth from oil found under the family land, she became a generous benefactor. She organized the Houston Symphony Orchestra, collected Picasso, Klee, Chagall, Matisse, Cezanne, and Modigliani paintings, fine American furniture, and many other valuable artifacts. Ima Hogg was one of America’s greatest philanthropists and most highly respected women. She gave most of her collections to museums in Texas and lived a very full life to the age of 92.

It was said that she handled her given name “with considerable skill and unfailing politeness.”

doi: 10.3928/01477447-20091020-03

Dr. Charles SorbieBlue Notes Editor:
Charles Sorbie, MB, ChB, FRCS(E), FRCS(C)

Dr. Charles Sorbie is Professor of Surgery at Queen’s University and a member of the Attending Staff at the General and Hotel Dieu Hospitals in Kingston, Ontario.

A former chairman of the Department of Surgery at Queen’s University, Dr. Sorbie has been President of the Canadian Orthopaedic Research Society, the Canadian Orthopaedic Association, and the Societé Internationale de Chirurgie Orthopédique et de Traumatologie (SICOT).


10.3928/01477447-20091020-03

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