Andre continues: ‘One Friday I presented a new non-invasive way of measuring anaerobic threshold in athletes by detecting the production of excess expired carbon di-oxide. Mosie then commented that in 1939 he and his fellow athletes (he was apparently a good track athlete) were measuring the production of lactate in venous blood while they trained on the Wits athletic field and used these blood levels to guide their training. He was a truly remarkable man.’
They remember that Mosie was never driven by the clock. He would spend as much time with his patients and interns as necessary to solve all the problems, before leaving for his consulting rooms. It was clear that he enjoyed his work both in medicine and in teaching. They are forever grateful that they had such an inspiring, gentle, warm and caring mentor and teacher to help launch their medical careers.
The Doctor’s Doctor
Mosie Suzman was known as the doctor's doctor – a consultant to many of his colleagues. He was a physician of international repute, whose fine and restless mind constantly challenged medical orthodoxies. He has been attributed with diagnosing Tuberculosis (TB) in Eleanor Roosevelt when she was critically Ill. Unfortunately, the TB was resistant to therapy.
His patients loved him for his compassion and meticulous attention to detail. Not for him the glib diagnosis or the quick fix. He took infinite trouble to reach his own conclusions. His main interests were in nutritional defects, vitamins and cardiology. He developed the use of beta blockers as a means of treating anxiety and hyperventilation long before the medication became generally accepted. Similarly, was his use of anti-coagulants – as we have seen above.
He was an active member of many international medical societies. Even after his official retirement he continued his association with the medical school and other institutions and was active in teaching, meetings and clinical work.
Helen, Patricia, Frances and Mosie. (Allan Gottlieb from our class, does not recall much about his medical firms, but does remember that he took out both of Mosie’s daughters.)
Mosie’s wife, Helen, was South Africa’s most renowned member of Parliament during the Apartheid years. She was world renowned as an indefatigable fighter for civil rights and a staunch opponent of apartheid. Mosie shared her passion for a just society and her work was recognised by many honours from many countries. She won the United Nations Human Rights award in 1978 and the Queen made her an honorary Dame in 1989.
They had two daughters, Mrs. Frances Jowell who lives in London and Dr Patricia Suzman, a Wits medical school graduate and Nephrologist in Boston, and two grandchildren.
Mosie died in July 1994, a few months after celebrating his 90th birthday. Happily, he lived to witness both the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and the first multiracial election in South Africa.
Other tributes: Ben Goldberg
Ben Goldberg who worked closely with him (and who is in the picture above of his firm in 1961- and who wrote an obituary) says: ‘Mosie had many interests outside his profession. He loved books, music, Persian carpets, food, wine and good conversation. He was a keen golfer - but his theory was better than his practice. Yet he was always ready to give a lesson on the perfect swing, both on and off the golf course. As he grew older, he spoke of three ways to handle age: never retire from work, never become old, do not become sick. Good advice but, perhaps like his golf, theory is one thing, practice another’.
David Kanarek ‘my Guru’
David Kanarek who served as Mosie’s fellow for 2 years wrote:
‘When I applied for a pulmonary fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital MGH), I received a simple reply: ‘Dr.Suzman has recommended you and I am happy to welcome you. I do not need any other recommendations.’ After three weeks at MGH an attendant stopped me in the corridor and said, ‘Do you know Dr. Suzman?’ I replied, ‘He is my Guru.’ He responded ‘When I was chief resident in Medicine under Professor Walter Bauer, he called me in and said “There is a visitor coming (Mosie Suzman). I want you to find the five most difficult patients in the hospital, patients we have no clue about what is going on. Show them to him and if he does not know the answer, no one does!”
Profile and tribute to Moses Myer Suzman (1904 – 1994)
I am deeply grateful to him for the career I have had.’
MB BS Durh (1926) MRCS LRCP (1926) MD (1928) MRCP (1929) FRCP (1957) FACP FACC
contributed by Avroy Fanaroff with acknowledgment to obituaries in the British Medical Journal by Ben Goldberg and The Independent, 19 July 1994 by Rex Gibson
Additional comments by Andre van As
Edited by Geraldine Auerbach MBE, London September 2020