Dr. Charles Benjamin Ripstein, a world renowned surgeon, died on Dec. 13 after a long illness. He was 90.
Ripstein returned to Canada to complete his surgical rotation at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal before moving to the United States. Within three years, he became a full professor at the State University of New York Downstate, and the director of surgery at Maimonides Hospital.
An early pioneer of open heart and mitral valve surgery, Ripstein was one of the first doctors to perform open heart surgery under cryogenic conditions. He also discovered that Thorazine cured the hiccups. After learning of his research, the Vatican persuaded Pope Pius XII to treat his intractable hiccups with the drug. Ripstein’s treatment was a success. Board-certified in general, thoracic, and colon and rectal surgery, Ripstein was best known for developing a method to repair rectal prolapse. The procedure was even named after him.
The pope wasn’t his only famous patient. As the first director of surgery at the newly established Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, Ripstein was one of the last doctors called in on consultation to perform an operation on the genius. Einstein, who was dying of a ruptured aneurysm, eventually refused the procedure.
Ripstein later served as director of surgery at Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y., on the clinical staff at Cornell University Medical College, as a clinical professor of surgery at the University of Miami and on the medical staff of The Miami Heart Institute.