MEDICINE’S MICHELANGELOThe Life and Art of Frank H. Netter, MD
One of Frank’s friends and neighbors in Point Manalapan was Dr. Charles H. Frantz. He and Frank were about the same age and played golf together. Dr. Frantz was retired from a distinguished career as an orthopaedist and was especially interested in helping child amputees. He had helped establish the Area Child Amputee Program at the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and created a system for classifying congenital limb defects.
On the golf course and in their meetings socially, Dr. Frantz was always encouraging Frank to do some pictures on the musculoskeletal system and on congenital limb deformities in particular. Accordingly, Frank asked him to help organize an atlas on the musculoskeletal system for the Ciba Collection. Dr. Frantz then began laying out the volume and contacting potential consultants, including Dr. Harold Kleinert at the University of Louisville about replantation of limbs and digits and Dr. Charles Rockwood at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio about a section on trauma.
Dr. Franz also introduced Frank to Dr. Alfred B. Swanson, an orthopaedist who had been partners with Dr. Frantz in Grand Rapids, and to his wife, Dr. Genevieve de Groot Swanson, who was a plastic surgeon on the faculty of Michigan State University in nearby East Lansing. Frank then worked with the Swansons on a Clinical Symposia issue on the reconstruction of the arthritic hand and foot. The Swansons went into their files and showed Frank the slides and films of joint replacement of the fingers, wrist and great toe. On one occasion, Al Swanson came to Florida and even played golf with Frank and Charley Frantz. Frank went up to Michigan in 1977 to consult with Al and even went to the operating room with him. Then Frank made the sketches, which they all reviewed together before Frank made the finished pictures.
Frank then began collaborating with Charley Frantz in preparing a Clinical Symposia issue on congenital limb deformities. But no sooner had they begun that project when, in 1978, Dr. Frantz died, and Frank’s work with him on this project, as well as on the musculoskeletal volume, was interrupted. Al Swanson stepped in for Dr. Frantz for the completion of the project on congenital deformities. Again Frank went to Grand Rapids to meet with Al, who showed Frank a film of a girl who had no arms and was sitting on the edge of the sink brushing her teeth with her feet. “Stop the film!” Frank said, and Al had a still print of that frame made up to give to Frank to take back to his studio. He made a picture of that young girl, sitting on the sink brushing her teeth, and, as an artistic flourish, Frank added her reflection in the mirror over the sink, which was not in the original photograph.