Obituary : Dr. Alex G. Shulman; Burn Therapy Pioneer


Dr. Alex G. Shulman, who pioneered the use of ice water instead of butter or grease as first aid for burn victims, has died at age 81.

Shulman, former chief surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, died Sunday in Los Angeles of cancer.

An indefatigable writer of articles for medical journals and The Times' Op-Ed page, Shulman in recent years had championed recognition of the blood-thinning drug heparin to help prevent heart attacks and international adoption of the Lichtenstein method of hernia repair. He had served as director of the Lichtenstein Hernia Institute since 1991 and had written a book, scheduled for publication this month, on the minimally invasive technique.

As early as 1960, Shulman advocated a high-fiber diet to prevent diverticulosis and other diseases.

He discovered the beneficial effects of ice water when he began using it to alleviate burn victims' pain. After seeing the results of treating 150 people, Shulman concluded that submerging burns in ice water resulted in less permanent damage.

"My experience indicates that whatever the subsequent management may be," he wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. in 1960, "those patients who receive initial ice water treatment fare better than those who do not."

Applying butter or grease, once a common first aid treatment for burns, only means another painful experience when the doctor removes it, he said.

Born in Canada, Shulman was educated at the University of Toronto and came to Los Angeles to do his residency at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, forerunner to Cedars-Sinai.

He served as a captain in the Army Medical Corps during World War II in charge of a neurosurgical unit.

After the war, he established his surgical practice in Los Angeles. In addition to his work at Cedars, Shulman was chief of staff at Midway Hospital. He recently was named an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.

He is survived by his wife, Constance Stone Shulman; two children, Stefanie Le Plastrier and Lawrence Shulman; a brother, Milton Shulman, and five grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club. Shulman was former president of the club.

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