Conrad R. Lam, M.D.
Conrad Ramsey Lam was born in 1905 in Ogelsby, Texas, the oldest of ten children. He graduated from Tahoka High School as valedictorian of his class and entered Simmons College (now Hardin-Simmons University) in Abilene on partial scholarship for playing trumpet in the college's "Cowboy Band." Lam earned his tuition by working as a "music man" and teaching the children of five nearby communities how to play band instruments.Conrad R. Lam, M.D. Photo courtesy of the Conrad R. Lam Archives of Henry Ford Health, Detroit.
Lam entered Yale University in 1927. Upon graduation in 1932 he was awarded an internship at Henry Ford Hospital. Upon completion of the internship, Dr. Lam became a surgical resident under Dr. Roy D. McClure, then Surgeon-in-Chief at the Hospital. Lam eventually became chief resident under Dr. McClure and was appointed a member of the staff in 1938. He was the youngest member of the HFH staff at the time. During his residency, Dr. Lam enjoyed a mentor-protegee relationship with Dr. McClure that lasted until McClure's death in 1951.
Dr. Lam quickly became a gifted surgeon and an avid researcher. Among his first projects was a collaboration with Dr. McClure on research regarding the treatment of burns. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s he participated in research and publication of findings and surgical experiences. Dr. Lam's interests were far-reaching and included: burn treatment, heparin, penicillin, surgical correction of esophageal and thoracic deformities and traumas, thyroid, and surgical correction of cardiac and venous malformations.
By the early 1950s Dr. Lam had become an accomplished cardiac surgeon, a specialty then in its infancy. He trained with Drs Alfred Blalock and Helen Taussig to learn their newly developed surgical techniques for the correction of Tetralogy of Fallot in "blue babies." He pioneered the use of this procedure, as well as the use of heart-lung machines, in the midwestern United States. Dr. Lam developed, or helped to develop, new surgical procedures for the correction of such cardiac and thoracic conditions as mitral valve stenosis and congential esophageal stenosis.Dr. Lam (second from left) in surgery, 1955.
He retired from active surgery in 1975 and remained a consultant at the Hospital. The following year Dr. Lam established the Henry Ford Hospital Archives and Historical Collections in a small office in the Clara Ford Nurses Home, and regularly contributed a column called "Echoes of a Surgeon's Trumpet" for Rounds, the Henry Ford Hospital newsletter for medical staff.
Dr. Lam continued to be active in music throughout his life. For many years he was director of the Franklin Village Band, in which his wife Marian Lam, played the bass drum. The band performed regularly at Henry Ford Hospital events.
Dr. Lam died in 1990 at the age of 85 having spent his entire career of 58 years at Henry Ford Hospital. He is still spoken of with affection by the staff and employees who remember him.