Albert Aranson, MD
In virtually every state in the United States, there were legends of respiratory care who had an historic impact on the profession. Some of them were the first medical directors of Respiratory Therapy departments, who acted locally to initiate and develop the profession, but whose actions eventually were felt globally. Were it not for these medical directors, the profession of respiratory care might never have come to be. And so, it was with Dr. Albert Aranson, the first formally trained pulmonologist in the State of Maine, who was Maine's pioneer of both Respiratory Therapy and Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. In essence, he was the history of those fields in the State of Maine.
In 1947, immediately out of fellowship training at the Cushing VAMC in Framingham, MA, Dr. Aranson became its Chief of Pulmonary Medicine, an advancement unheard of in those days. Upon his arrival in 1949 at Maine Medical Center (MMC), the state’s largest hospital, Dr. Aranson founded Maine’s first Pulmonary Division, Pulmonary Function Laboratory, and Inhalation Therapy Department (as it was called in those days). He hired Maine’s first PFT tech, Virginia Charlton, and Maine’s first respiratory therapist, Robert H. Miller, RRT, the first RT to become president of the NBRC and for whom the NBRC award is named. Mr. Miller was director of MMC’s Respiratory Therapy Department for more than 25 years.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Dr. Aranson obtained grant money from the federal government and from the York and Cumberland County TB & Health Associations to fund projects at MMC for the study of obstructive lung diseases and the measurement of pulmonary function in health and disease, in which respiratory therapists were intimately involved. These grant monies funded expansion of the then Inhalation Therapy Department, training of respiratory therapists and pulmonary function technologists, establishment of a new Intensive Care Unit (ICU), and development of the state’s first TB Clinic, which he founded in 1949 and directed until his retirement. He also created the Respiratory Therapy Department, Pulmonary Function Laboratory, and Maine’s first ICU at Portland's Mercy Hospital.
Dr. Aranson was one of the first physicians in the country to use streptomycin, the first drug used for the treatment of tuberculosis (TB). As Maine’s chief TB consultant, Dr. Aranson helped develop protocols for the modern antibiotic treatment of TB, as well as TB control and prevention protocols for the State of Maine Department of Health, involving RTs in the process. He served as TB consultant during his entire medical career in Maine.
Dr. Aranson had a long and prolific alliance with the American Lung Association of Maine, including involvement in anti-smoking campaigns and TB prevention and control, in which RTs participated. In the 1960s, Dr. Aranson was responsible for the removal of cigarette vending machines at MMC, a movement far ahead of his time that spread throughout the state.
As Director of Medical Education at MMC, Dr. Aranson trained hundreds of students of respiratory therapy, nursing, and medicine, as well as residents and pulmonary fellows, many of whom, because of his encouragement, chose to settle in Maine, including in underserved areas, to care for the state’s citizens. In the training of these students, Dr. Aranson inculcated care for the patient first and foremost, a legendary philosophy for which he is remembered by all who came under his tutelage.
In summary, Dr. Albert Aranson was truly a legend as Maine’s pioneer of Respiratory Therapy and Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, just one piece of meaningful, consequential, and historical impact on respiratory care nationwide.