Gerald A. Gronert
Gerald A. Gronert March, 2008

I started 'moving on' even as a toddler, leaving my home in Chicago whenever I wasn't closely watched, and I even crossed a boulevard. After college and medical school in Chicago, I went to St. Louis, Missouri for my internship. Then on to Denver, Colorado for my two year anesthesia residency, which included four superb months at Los Angeles Children's Hospital. After five years' private practice in Denver, Colorado, during a visit to the Mayo Clinic at Rochester, Minnesota, I was enticed to begin a 20 year career in neuroanesthesia.

Within a year of moving there, I was drafted during the Viet Nam conflict and spent two years at the US Army Burn Unit in San Antonio, Texas. This fortuitously began my research career, with examination of the effect upon liver function of closely spaced multiple halothane anesthetics, and expansion into an entire series of patients of Tolmie, Joyce, and Mitchell's report of hyperkalemia after succinylcholine in a single burn patient.

Gerald A. Gronert
Third year Medical Student, autumn, 1956

With my return to Mayo and neuroanesthesia clinical care and research, our research lab further investigated succinylcholine-induced hyperkalemia, first a study in swine with scald burns, and then a comprehensive canine study. One of our burned pigs developed malignant hyperthermia, great for future MH study, except that the successful resuscitation ended fatally when we mis-connected an oxygen source.

It took a while to determine how to finagle a source for MH susceptible swine from distrustful breeders, but we in time established barnyard testing, again with a beginning fatal mistake. Our very first barnyard tested pig was positive, with marked rigidity, tachypnea, and tachycardia, and we were eager to bring him to the laboratory. In our excitement, we didn't properly watch what was occurring until our swine breeder told us that he'd be dead within another minute or so. He was correct, and we thus learned to limit halothane exposure and to be ready to treat out-of-control responses.

With time, MH and other research systematically developed. After 20 years at Mayo, I moved to the University of California at Davis for further research, in part with veterinary anesthesiologists. In addition, I set up another MH contracture testing laboratory. Disuse muscle atrophy was appealing because it occurred so extensively in burn patients. Advances in computer modeling and in detection of minute quantities of muscle relaxants in serum aided analysis. Furthermore, we compared relaxant responses in animals ranging in size from rat to horse, and had queries concerning species with rare and different muscle endplate receptors. These were exciting times. After 13 years at Davis, I retired as an emeritus professor to the high dry desert and forested mountains of New Mexico, living in Albuquerque. I am an adjunct professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, University of New Mexico.

Gerald A. Gronert
Library, March 2008, with Teddie Blue
Gerald A. Gronert
Library, March 2008, with Gracie