Dr. Donlin Long, Wide-ranging Medical Innovator, Passes Away at 89 | ET REALITY


Donlin M. Long, a pioneering neurosurgeon whose brain research helped millions of patients manage pain and who helped invent an implantable pump to deliver insulin to people with diabetes, died Sept. 19 near Gettysburg , Pennsylvania. He was 89 years old.

The cause was complications from a fall he suffered while fly fishing for trout in a stream near his weekend home, said his daughter, Dr. Kimberly Page Riley. Dr. Long resided in North Baltimore and was chairman of the department of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University for 17 years.

In addition to the insulin pump, Dr. Long, as an expert in chronic pain relief, helped introduce, in 1981, the first battery-powered, rechargeable, implantable electronic device to stimulate peripheral nerves and relieve pain. pain. according to Johns Hopkins. The device, known as tensfor transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator, it became a standard medical tool.

As an accomplished practitioner of skull base surgery, Dr. Long was also instrumental in the first successful separation of twin babies born joined at the head. The operation, carried out in 1987, involved 70 surgeons, nurses and assistants and lasted 22 hours.

The twins’ brains were separated and the skull of one of the babies was closed by Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, whom Dr. Long, founding chairman of the department of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, had recruited to University. The operation, at Johns Hopkins Hospital, brought instant fame to Dr. Carson. He was later a Republican presidential candidate and secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

Dr. Long, Dr. Carson’s mentor, closed the other boy’s skull during the operation.

Drs. Long and Carson had just one hour to achieve the final separation, reconstruct the divided brain cavities and veins, and restart the hearts of the babies, both boys.

Dr. Patrick J. Connolly, chief of neurosurgery at Virtua Mount Holly Hospital in New Jersey and professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, praised Dr. Long’s contributions to neurosurgery, as well as two other specialties. , the Treatment of vascular and spinal diseases.

“We use steroids to treat brain edema every day in neurosurgery thanks to Dr. Long’s research in the early 1970s,” he said, “and their contribution to spinal cord stimulation has alleviated the suffering of millions of people.” people for the last 50 years or more. so many years”.

When Dr. Long arrived at Johns Hopkins in 1973, the neurosurgery department had only five full-time surgeons, performing about 125 surgeries a year. When he retired in 2000, the full-time staff had more than doubled and the number of operations had skyrocketed to more than 3,500 a year, performed at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

He was instrumental in Johns Hopkins’ decision to erect the Adolf Meyer Center in 1981, uniting the departments of neurosurgery, neurology and psychiatry in a single building and facilitating collaboration between them.

Dr. Long’s research on chronic pain prepared him to help design the transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator at Johns Hopkins. Later, in the 1980s, he collaborated with colleagues at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory to invent the implantable medication pump to treat diabetic patients.

Many of the surgeons trained during Dr. Long’s tenure at Johns Hopkins were hired as tenured professors, leaders of neurosurgery departments at hospitals and universities, and directors of professional associations.

“Neurosurgeons around the world rely on it,” Dr. Connolly said.

Donlin Martin Long Jr. was born on April 14, 1934 in Rolla, Missouri, in the southwestern Ozarks. He was a descendant of New England Quakers, one of whom, according to a Johns Hopkins biography, had blazed a trail through the Cumberland Gap in the Appalachians alongside Daniel Boone. His father, Donlin Sr., was a chemist for the state health department. His mother, Davine (Johnson) Long, was a teacher.

Raised in Jefferson City, Missouri, Dr. Long earned undergraduate and medical degrees, in 1955 and 1959, from the University of Missouri. He received a doctorate in neuroanatomy in 1964 from the University of Minnesota, where he had planned to become a cardiac surgeon before changing course and focusing on neurosurgery, inspired by the work of Dr. Lyle A. French in that field.

As residents of Minnesota, he and Joseph Galicich conducted research that led to the use of steroids to reduce postoperative brain swelling.

Dr. Long told the New York Times in 1987 that “chronic pain is the weakest area of ​​modern medicine and the worst managed of any ailment or disease.”

He is survived by his wife, Harriett (Kallenbach) Long; another daughter, Elisabeth Merchant Long; a son, David; and four grandchildren. All three of his children taught or worked as administrators at Johns Hopkins.

Remembered for his equanimity, his role as a mentor and his passion to achieve, Dr. Long often told his children and grandchildren: “You can’t try, you just did it and didn’t do it.”

Bernardo Mokam contributed with reports.

Leave a Comment