Benson Roe relates his emergence from a mundane, comfortable, middle-class background and education into an exciting and unexpected career in the hallowed halls of medicine and surgery. A career highlighted by the development of open-heart surgery spans the Great Depression, World War II, the earliest phases of modern intensive surgery, and the explosive growth of the new specialty.
In a setting devoid of textbooks, professional mentors and previous experience, Roe forged ahead in his quest to learn new ways of saving lives during the postwar era, when more people in America were dying of heart disease than ever before. Trained as a thoracic surgeon, Benson Roe took on the burgeoning need for cardiac surgery when procedures were in their infancy. Innovative and problem-solving talents provided the basis for the author's many technical contributions and research projects. Academic and professional roles in national surgical politics allowed Dr. Roe the freedom to tackle controversial issues, earning him the reputation of a "boat rocker." His innovative and organizational skills helped shape the character and integrity of the new specialty of cardiothoracic surgery. Dr. Benson Roe was one of an adventurous, risk-taking cadre of surgeons who eschewed safe elitism for dedication.