Subscribe to Dr. Mirkin's free FITNESS & HEALTH NEWSLETTER      

Dr. Michael DeBakey’s Famous Surgery

If you were a heart surgeon, would you operate on this patient? • He is 97 years old • He will certainly die in the next few days if you do not operate • He invented the surgical procedure that he now needs, more than 40 years ago • He did research that has saved millions of lives •...

Al Oerter: Weak Heart in a Strong Body

Al Oerter won the gold medal in the discus throw in four consecutive Olympics over a span of 16 years. Each time he: • was not the favorite to win, • was beaten by another American in the Olympic trials, • beat the world-record holder and broke the Olympic record for the discus. His winning throws were 184'11"...

John Kerry: Hip Replacements and Fractures

On May 31, Secretary of State John Kerry fell while cycling in France and broke his right femur (upper leg bone). He was riding slowly on level ground and struck a curb with the front wheel of his bicycle. His long history of competing in sports means that he probably has strong...

John Nash: A Beautiful Mind Dies

On May 23, 2015, John Nash and his wife were killed while riding in a taxi on the New Jersey Turnpike. The driver hit a guardrail and another car, and the Nashes, who were not wearing seatbelts, were thrown from the taxi. John Nash was 86 and Alicia Nash was 83. Nash...

Fausto Coppi’s Mysterious Death

Fausto Coppi was the best international cyclist in the years before and after World War II because he was the best climber, time trialer and sprinter. He won the Giro d'Italia five times (1940, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953), the Tour de France twice (1949 and 1952), and the World Championship in 1953. ...

Gerhard Hansen and Leprosy

Diana and I just returned from a riverboat/cycling trip with almost 400 other bicyclists from Memphis to New Orleans. We visited the National Hansen's Disease (leprosy) Museum in Carville, Louisiana and learned about Dr. Gerhard Hansen, a Norwegian physician who discovered the bacteria that cause leprosy in 1873. This was the first bacterium to...

Toulouse-Lautrec: Inbreeding, Alcohol and Syphilis – a Bad Mix

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec ranks with Cezanne, van Gogh, Monet and Gauguin as one of the best painters of the late 19th century. Throughout his career, which spanned fewer than 20 years, Toulouse-Lautrec created 737 surviving canvases, 275 watercolors, 363 prints and posters, and thousands of drawings. Ten years ago one of his paintings...

Famous Athletes with Asthma

Paula Radcliffe holds the world’s record in the women's marathon, has won the world championships in the marathon, half marathon and cross country, has won the European championship of 10,000 meters and cross country and the Commonwealth Games in the 5000 meters, has represented Great Britain in four Olympic games, and has won both...

Dmitri Mendeleev, Father of the Periodic Table

Dmitri Mendeleev developed the Periodic Table that organized all of the chemical elements known at that time and many that were not yet known. He placed them in their correct order by their number of atoms (not their weight) and predicted elements that would be discovered in the future. It is...

Van Cliburn, Cold War Hero

In 1958, at the height of the "Cold War", the Soviet Union gained an incredible coup by successfully launching Sputnik 1, the first orbiting satellite. At that time, almost all of the world’s premier pianists came from the Soviet Union, so they sponsored the first quadrennial International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow to...

Franz Kafka and Tuberculosis

Franz Kafka was one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century, even though little of his work was published before his death at the young age of 40. He had tuberculosis in his esophagus, which prevented food from reaching his stomach, so he starved to death. He finished none of his...

Leonard Nimoy, COPD and Smoking

Leonard Nimoy gave up smoking two packs of cigarettes a day more than 30 years ago, but he still smothered to death this week from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). He won three Emmy awards for starring in "Star Trek" ((1966-1969) as Spock, a 23rd-century space voyager from the planet Vulcan. He was...

Julian Schwinger and Pancreatic Cancer

Julian Seymour Schwinger (February 12, 1918 – July 16, 1994) was one of the greatest physicists of the twentieth century. He shared a Nobel Prize in theoretical physics with another genius, Richard Feynman, for his re-normalization theory of quantum electrodynamics. Today, he is far less famous than Feynman, even though he had...

John Enders, Vaccine Pioneer

John Enders, M.D., was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for developing virus-culturing techniques that opened the door to vaccines for polio, measles, mumps and many other life-threatening viral diseases. Many of his techniques are still used by viral laboratories today. He tutored several other Nobel Prize winners, and...

Gerty Cori’s Nobel Prize

Gerty Cori was the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, in 1947, for the discovery of how muscles covert sugar to lactic acid for energy during exercise and how the lactic acid then travels in the bloodstream to the liver where it is converted back to sugar for...

Andre the Giant and Acromegaly

Andre the Giant was a professional wrestler who at 7' 4" and 520 pounds, won the World Wrestling Federation individual championship and World Tag Team Championship. He was also an actor in several Hollywood films. His huge size was caused by a pituitary gland brain tumor that produced huge amounts of human growth hormone.

Houdini’s Appendix

Harry Houdini was probably the most famous escape artist, magician, and stunt performer of all time. He was short at five feet, five inches, stocky and bow-legged, with a sharp chin, bright blue eyes and curly black hair. He usually appeared in a long coat and tie, and was one of the...

Ignaz Semmelweis, Antiseptic Pioneer

One of the saddest stories of a prophet who was treated as a quack by his contemporaries is that of Ignaz Semmelweis. In 1847, at age 29, he was the chief obstetrician in charge of two maternity clinics in a hospital in Vienna. The first clinic was at a medical school...

Itzhak Perlman and Polio

Itzhak Perlman is arguably the most brilliant and beloved violinist of the 20th century and so far in the 21st. He is also so knowledgeable and coordinated that he has conducted many major orchestras. This is incredible because both of his legs are paralyzed from an attack of polio contracted at age...

Isaac Asimov, Science Fiction Giant

Isaac Asimov probably had more of his writings published than any other person in history with more than 500 books, mostly science fiction and popular science. As a child, he was short, fat and uncoordinated and never learned to swim or ride a bike. As an adult, he spent an incredible...

Marion Barry, Washington’s ‘Mayor for Life’, Dead at 78

As four-time mayor of Washington, D.C., Marion Barry helped to create a city that helped the poor and disadvantaged. His programs created jobs for people out of work (many got their first jobs through his programs); allocated city contracts specifically for minorities (in 1980, 35 percent of city contracts were awarded to minority-owned firms);...

Tom Magliozzi, Host of “Car Talk”

Tom Magliozzi died at age 77 on November 3, 2014 from complications of Alzheimer's disease. This horrible dementia prevents you from remembering almost anything. For 35 years he was the star of the nationally-syndicated radio show "Car Talk" with his brother Ray, hosting calls from would-be mechanics, puzzled car owners and entertained...

Alan Turing, Code Breaker and Marathon Runner

Two of the most important people responsible for an allied victory during World War II were Winston Churchill and Alan Turing. They saved the free world from domination by Nazi Germany, yet after the war, the British rewarded these brave, patriotic, and gifted men by voting Churchill out of office and by convicting...

Raoul Dufy’s Rheumatoid Arthritis

Raoul Dufy, one of the most popular painters of the early 20th century, produced more than 6000 paintings that featured themes of happiness, luxury and pleasure. He was one of the first people with rheumatoid arthritis to be treated with cortisone and died from its side effects less than three years after he started...

Tom Hanks, Diabetes and YoYo Dieting

Tom Hanks' films have grossed more than $4.2 billion in the United States and Canada, and more than $8.4 billion worldwide. He is the highest grossing actor of all-time with an average of $107 million per film. Seventeen of his films have grossed more than $100 million. Hanks has...

Grace Kelly, Death of a Princess

Grace Kelly was a famous Hollywood actress who became Princess Grace of Monaco and died at age 54 after driving a car off a hilly Monaco road. Her father was Jack Kelly, a wealthy Philadelphia construction contractor who was also a three-time Olympic gold medal winner in rowing. Her brother was also...

Joan Rivers: No Procedure is Risk-Free

UPDATE - 11/13/14 The New York Department of Health and Human Services has now determined that Joan Rivers died from brain damage caused by lack of oxygen. The report states that her medical records contain discrepancies regarding the dose of propofol she was given before surgery, and that the clinic failed "to ensure that patient...

Why Did Ultimate Warrior Die at 54?

The Ultimate Warrior, one of the most famous professional wrestlers of all time, died of a heart attack at the very young age of 54 on April 8, 2014, just days after he was inducted into the World Wrestling Hall of Fame. He was walking to his car with his wife outside a...

Sinead O’Connor’s Fibromyalgia

Sinead O'Connor is an Irish singer and songwriter who became famous in the late 1980s and has been a strong moralist, speaking out against war and against the abuse of women and children. Her career has been interrupted by bipolar disorder and fibromyalgia. In the spring of 2012, she appeared on...

Brian Piccolo and Testicular Cancer

In 1969, Brian Piccolo was a 26-year-old fullback for the Chicago Bears in the National Football League when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He died from that disease in 1970. He was immortalized in "Brian's Song", the movie of his life that was first released in 1971 and remade in...