It is with great sadness, but fond memories, that we note the passing of Max Harry Weil, known as the "father of critical care medicine". I wrote about him many years ago, but I'll repeat the story.
I was exhibiting the Thinklabs Digital Stethoscope for the very first time at the American Heart Association (AHA) in late 2003. The show had been exhausting, with lots of interest in our new company and product. About an hour before the end of the exhibit hours, an older man with a stick walked up and listened to the demo electronic stethoscopes we had on display.
"I'll take one now" he said.
"We don't yet have FDA approval so I can't sell you one yet" I explained.
"Oh, I know the rules. I've done lots of research. You can sell me one as a 'research device' and that'll be kosher."
I respectfully refused and promised to contact him as soon as we had them to sell. He gave me his card and walked off. I looked down and saw a string of degrees and acronyms under his name and a title of an organization called the Institute of Critical Care Medicine. Chatting to my wife on the phone, I commented, "A guy was here who seems like he might have been important once. I just get that sense." After the show closed, he returned to our booth, sat down, and we talked for about an hour as he tried to convince he again to let him buy a stethoscope.
A couple of months later, I called to let him know we had stethoscopes to offer him. To be honest, I didn't follow up any of the other leads, but this man stood out and I wanted to help him hear his patients better. He had that caring attitude of my GP back in South Africa who used to make house calls when I was a kid. The kind of warmth that existed in medicine before doctors had to worry about insurance and malpractice.
"I tell you what" he said over the phone, "Why don't you come to my critical care conference in Las Vegas next month and show your stethoscope." He gave me the details and I did some research. I was suspicious of a conference in Vegas, run by a guy with his own "institute" in Palm Springs. Was this some quack with his own delusions of grandeur who had some cult following?
A quick Google search showed articles referring to him as "The Father of Critical Care Medicine." He had created the first critical care unit in the world, among other achievements. My first instincts had been correct.
I attended Max Harry Weil's conference over the years when I could fit it into my schedule, and he was always warm and friendly. When I'd see him at AHA meetings, now moving around on his scooter-wheelchair, he'd always stop and give advice about stethoscope design and even marketing ideas. He was in his eighties, but his mind was as sharp as ever.
Besides founding the Society of Critical Care Medicine, Weil also created on of, if not the first, cardiac catheterization labs in the world. A true giant of medicine.
Designing and marketing digital stethoscopes has brought me into contact with some wonderful people. I count myself fortunate to have known Max Harry Weil.