By Thomas P. Ostrom

The issue:

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester is a premiere center of epidemiological students. Dr. Leonard Kurland is one of the reasons.

Ostrom says:

As if he were not busy enough superintending Mayo Clinic epidemiological research, Kurland has edited professional journals and manuscripts, and served on councils, boards and committees.

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Geographers, anthropologists and medical scientists study epidemiology, the geographic, cultural and bio-genetic causes and distribution of diseases.

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester is a premiere center of epidemiological students. Dr. Leonard Kurland (M.D., Dr.P.H.) is one of the reasons.

Kurland's gracious manner and modest conversational style obscures a plethora of professional accomplishments: Bachelor's degree from Johns Hopkins; M.D. from the University of Maryland; an MPH from Harvard; and a second degree from Johns Hopkins, a doctorate in public health.

Kurland's doctoral dissertation, a geographic profile of multiple sclerosis, was a preamble to his future specialty, an expertise that led to four books and several hundred publications.

Numerous honors have been bestowed upon Dr. Kurland, including the Distinguished Service Award from the U.S. Congress, before which he has testified.

When he was a neurological fellow at the Mayo Clinic in the 1950s, Kurland perceived the significance of the medical records system, which was devised by Dr. H.S. Plummer in the early 20th century, and subsequently modified by staff colleagues. Kurland applied the detailed Mayo record system to research and teaching.

Among the seminal studies initiated by Leonard Kurland were neurological projects in Japan, neurodegenerative research on the Pacific island of Guam, and detailed historic and follow-up studies of the Rochester and Olmsted County patient populations.

As if he were not busy enough superintending Mayo Clinic epidemiological research, Kurland has edited a variety of professional journals and manuscripts, and served on a myriad of councils, boards and committees.

In personal conversation and with a variety of written materials, Kurland shared his professional passions, objectives and satisfations. The noted physician credited legions of medical, paramedical and support staff colleagues with the successes he has been part of. His goal has always been to ``benefit patients throughout the world by providing information that leads to a better understanding of disease processes, and prevent diseasae in their children and grandchildren.

Kurland has especially appreciated ``the great contribution the people of Olmsted County have made to the research efforts.''

Illustrating the eclectic nature of epidemiological research is an article written by Kurland and Craig Molgaard, a colleague who earned a Ph.D. in anthropology. The article, published in ``Scientific American'' in 1981, traced the history, methodologies and contributions of the Mayo Clinic patient record system from the days of hand-written ledger entries to the computer age.

Dr. Michael O'Fallon, chair of the Department of Health Sciences Research, and Dr. L.J. Melton III were cited as Dr. Kurland's distinguished successors. They are apprehensive about a 1996 law passed by the Minnesota Legislature that may have significant impact on further research projects, given ``the valid concern for patient privacy,'' and, Dr. Kurland continued, ``the means of utilizing vital health care data for research and education in follow-up studies.

Melton published a recent article that traced the intricate history of the Mayo Clinic from its late 19th century origins to the present, highlighting the role Kurland played in creating the Rochester Epidemiology Project.

``Olmsted County,'' writes Melton, ``is one of the few places in the world where the occurrence and natural history of diseases can be accurately described and analyzed in a defined population for half a century or more.''

Melton explained the intricate relationship the Mayo Clinic has with area physicians including the Olmsted Medical Group (now called OM Center) where, incidentally, Dr. Robert L. Kurland, the son of L.T. Kurland, is a staff orthopedic surgeon.

The Rochester Epidemiology Project historical pattern and medical intervention results, Melton asserted, ``have provided critical information on the long-term effects of drugs and and other therapeutic modalities.'' From that important information, concluded Melton, ``we were unable to confirm a link between silicone breast implants and subsequent connective tissue disorders.''

Dr. Leonard T. Kurland, Mayo Medical school emeritus professor of epidemiology, continues to contribute to his profession, in addition to enjoying the company of his wife, Miriam, and family, several grandchildren and a variety of recreational activities.@et