Essay: Finding inspiration in a doctor's legacy

The New York Times, November 2, 2011

Two years ago, a photograph on the obituary page stopped me cold. It showed what looked like a display of talismans, objects that resembled "milagros," the tiny tin replicas of legs, arms and other body parts that supplicants in Mexico and Central America pin to religious statues in the hope of curing a loved one. These were medical tools, though, miniature plaster casts used to treat infants born with clubfoot, a crippling birth defect. The obituary, beautifully written by my colleague Douglas Martin, recounted the life of Dr. Ignacio Ponseti, a Spanish-born orthopedic expert who had created a nonsurgical cure for clubfoot. The cure developed by Ponseti in the 1950s relies on physical manipulation. Ponseti's story was even more compelling because the medical establishment had ignored him, not just for a few years but for five decades.


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