Burrill Bernard Crohn

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Burrill B. Crohn
Burrill Bernard Crohn.jpg
Born (1884-06-13)June 13, 1884
New York
Died July 29, 1983(1983-07-29) (aged 99)
Nationality USA
Fields Gastroenterology
Institutions Mount Sinai Hospital, New York
Alma mater College of Physicians & Surgeons – Columbia University – Class of 1908
Known for Crohn's disease

Burrill B. Crohn (June 13, 1884 – July 29, 1983) was an American gastroenterologist and one of the first to describe the disease that now bears his name. Although the description of Crohn's disease is by far his most famous accomplishment, Crohn had a long career both as a clinician, and as a researcher who contributed to modern understanding of many gastrointestinal conditions.

Life and work[edit]

Working with colleagues at The Mount Sinai Hospital, Crohn identified fourteen patients whose symptoms and intestinal abnormalities discovered at surgery, while consistent with each other, did not fit any previously identified disease. Crohn, along with Leon Ginzburg and Gordon Oppenheimer, prepared the classic paper describing this new condition. This paper was read at a professional meeting in May, 1932 and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in October, 1932. The title of the published paper was "Regional Ileitis: A Pathologic and Clinical Entity". Crohn always preferred the medically descriptive terms "regional ileitis" and "regional enteritis" to "Crohn's disease", but he was not able to prevent the appropriation of his name for the disease.

Some of Crohn's initial research into the causes of the Crohn's disease was centered around his personal conviction[citation needed] that it was caused by the same pathogen, a bacterium called Mycobacterium paratuberculosis (MAP), responsible for the similar condition that afflicts cattle called Johne's disease. However, he was unable to isolate the pathogen—most likely because M. paratuberculosis sheds its cellular wall in humans and takes the form of a spheroplast, making it virtually undetectable under an optical microscope. This theory has resurfaced in recent years, and has been lent more credence with the arrival of more sophisticated methods of identifying MAP bacteria.

For most of his long career, Crohn had a private practice in New York City and was associated chiefly with The Mount Sinai Hospital, where he became the first head of gastroenterology in 1920. At Mount Sinai he worked with the neurologist Bernard Sachs (1858–1944). He also spent time working with Jesse Shapiro, M.D., another doctor very involved with Crohn's research. As Dr. Shapiro had been diagnosed with Crohn's himself, he had a born devotion to curing the disease. Crohn soon built a very large and successful practice in gastroenterology, specializing in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn's disease. He received numerous awards and professional honors, wrote extensively for doctors and the general public, and was asked to consult on high profile patients from all over the US and abroad, including President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956.

Crohn practiced medicine until he was 90, splitting time in his later years between the Upper East Side of Manhattan and a country home in New Milford, Connecticut, where he met his second wife, Rose Elbogen Crohn, whom he married in 1947 [1]. The Burrill B. Crohn Research Foundation was established at Mount Sinai in 1983 with initial funding from Rose Crohn and later his daughter, Ruth Crohn Dickler.