Allen Hyman

Your outsized professional achievements in the fields of anesthesiology and critical neonatal care are matched in equal—which is to say quite extraordinary—measure by your devoted service to Columbia University; it therefore is with special pride and affection that we bestow upon you this honorary degree. Though meaningful advances in patient outcomes are often measured incrementally, your stewardship of Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit, as its founding director, was transformative, reversing a devastating inherited mortality rate among premature newborns suffering from respiratory distress syndrome. In ten years’ time, a 90 percent mortality rate became a 90 percent survival rate, thanks to your introduction of innovative ventilation treatment that revolutionized care for these infants. Later, there was a role for you in Columbia-Presbyterian’s senior administration. In typical fashion, your imprint was extensive; you were as comfortable helping to secure the hospital’s financial future as you were expanding health care in the local neighborhood. Like so many students and future scholars who made the mid-20th-century journey from Brooklyn to Morningside Heights, you flourished upon encountering the broad horizons of Columbia College in 1951. Though the signs of a future career in medicine were already evident, you spent your undergraduate years as a liberal arts student in the classic tradition, majoring in philosophy as well as chemistry. What better preparation for managing the existential questions raised by a career devoted to critical neonatal care than by confronting the mysteries of our humanity in history classes taught by James Shenton and Jacques Barzun, or learning poetry from Mark Van Doren, or theater from Archibald MacLeish? Always, your responsibilities as a professor of anesthesiology at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons provided a source of special satisfaction. Your dedication to P&S was reflected not only in your generous decision to endow a professorship in your field and bearing your name, but also in your embrace of the decidedly unglamorous but essential policymaking that occurs in the University Senate. Pain is an unwelcome presence in every patient’s battle against sickness and disease. And while concerns about pain are never far from the consciousness of any physician, it is the anesthesiologist who is uniquely responsible for navigating with the patient the most harrowing passages of an often uncertain journey toward recovery, cure, and restored health. In this we think of you, Professor Hyman, as our Virgil, guiding Dante from darkness into light, for “you did as he who goes by night and carries the lamp behind him.” For not only illuminating a path for countless patients but also elevating the field of neonatal anesthesiology and vastly enriching this University and its Medical Center, we present to you with great pride and our utmost admiration the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.