An actual flip of a coin was responsible for bringing John Mannick, MD, into the field of vascular surgery. But it was more than a matter of chance that he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at yesterday’s awards presentation.
“Dr. Mannick has been described as one of the giants in vascular surgery during the formative years of our specialty as we differentiated ourselves from general and cardiac surgery,” said SVS President Julie Freischlag, MD. “His accomplishments as a surgeon, scientist, and educator have inspired many and his legacy continues to be a source of inspiration in the specialty today.”
When Dr. Mannick was a student at Harvard Medical School, he was mistakenly assigned to a second three-month rotation with one of vascular surgery’s pioneers, Robert Linton, MD. During his first post-resident position, a coin was tossed regarding specialties, and Dr. Mannick was assigned to vascular surgery.
“I would see that Dr. Linton’s absolute attention to detail led him to be successful in difficult surgeries where many others were not,” Dr. Mannick said. “After serving as a flight surgeon in the Air Force, I went on to the Medical College of Virginia. The area had a huge population of patients in danger of limb loss and it was very gratifying to me to use Dr. Linton’s technique to help people keep their legs.”
He also considers himself fortunate to have worked with E. Donnall Thomas, MD, who received the Nobel Prize in 1990.
“He was a great teacher and an inspiration,” Dr. Mannick said. “He taught me how to plan experiments and evaluate data. I originally did not want an academic career, but eventually found it more interesting to contribute new information to the specialty.”
In the areas of vascular basic science and clinical research, Dr. Mannick is considered one of the pre-eminent American surgeon-scientists of the last 50 years, making numerous important contributions to advance the basic and clinical science of surgery. His key basic science investigations have focused on the arena of surgical immunology and inflammation, ranging from transplantation science and fundamental observations on immune tolerance to a molecular understanding of the host response to injury, infection, and shock.
He was one of the early leaders in promoting the use of autogenous vein bypass grafting for the treatment of advanced limb ischemia, beginning in the early 1960s. He helped to develop and perfect the techniques of distal bypass surgery in the leg, and made numerous contributions to this arena by his careful analysis of long-term results and modes of failure. Throughout his career, his commitment to critical analysis and continuous improvement permeated his own work and that of his many trainees.
Dr. Mannick also played a key role in the development and maturation of the Lifeline Foundation, serving as its president from 1996-2002. He was instrumental in developing the joint NIH/Lifeline Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Award by securing funding from the William J. von Liebig Foundation. The program was the first of its kind to support the early career development of surgeon scientists, and has been emulated by several other leading supported programs.
Dr. Mannick also made great contributions to professional organizations and has served as president of the SVS, the International Society for Vascular Surgery, the New England Society for Vascular Surgery, and the American Surgical Association. He has been a prolific contributor to biomedical literature, authoring nearly 400 total publications.
Dr. Mannick spent most of his career in Boston, originally at the Boston University School of Medicine and later at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He retired from clinical work in 1994, but continued to run his research lab until 2010. Even now he attends the weekly luncheons and continues to serve as a grant consultant.
“I think I’ve proven that if you stay alive long enough, you keep getting awards,” he said. “I’m pleased and honored to receive the SVS Lifetime Achievement Award.”