Dr. Seymour Furman and the Founding of IBHRE
Seymour Furman was the first to recognize the usefulness of pacing the heart endocardially, which ultimately led to the development of an entirely new discipline of clinical cardiac electrophysiology.
After serving as a naval surgeon in the early 1960s, he embarked on a clinical career at Montefiore Medical Center where he directed the pacemaker program until 1994. He also became a Professor of Medicine and Surgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. A pioneer in cardiac rhythm management, much of his work was supported by the National Institutes of Health leading to the development of clinical cardiac electrophysiology.
Among his contributions were the founding of some of the earliest pacemaker clinics, the demonstration that mercury-zinc cells destroy pacemaker circuitry, and the establishment of a database and statistical analysis of patient and hardware survival. The awards for his work are numerous, including: the Distinguished Service Award from Intersociety Commission for Heart Disease Resources; the Pioneer in Pacing Award; and the Distinguished Scientist Award from the ACC, among many others.
His work in medicine was rivaled by his service in countless organizations. In 1977, he co-founded, along with J. Warren Harthorne, Dryden Morse, and Victor Parsonnet, the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology (NASPE), eventually becoming its president in 1981. In 1984, he established an affiliate of NASPE, NASPExAM® (now the International Board of Heart Rhythm Examiners), an organization devoted to the examination process for recognizing physicians and allied professionals for competency in cardiac pacing and implantable defibrillation and to certify allied professionals in clinical cardiac electrophysiology. He acted as chair of NASPExAM® through 1998.
Dr. Furman was also a prolific academic writer. He published over 400 manuscripts and book chapters, over 100 editorials in PACE, and over 800 abstracts. He also gave over 1000 oral presentations. He coauthored the first American book on cardiac pacing, titled “A Practice of Cardiac Pacing”, being published in three successive editions.
Not only was he an excellent scientist, Dr. Furman also had a loving family. A father of three, he was married for more than 45 years. Dr. Furman remained an active physician until his death on February 20, 2006. The cause of death was due to complications of cardiovascular disease.