Biography of René Burnand
René Burnand was the son of the famous naturalist painter Eugène Burnand (1850-1921). He began his medical studies at Montpellier in 1900 and obtained his diploma in 1906. He was director of the Sanatorium Populaire in Leysin in the Canton of Vaud and of the Al Hayat sanatorium near Cairo. There he made important discoveries in the fight against tuberculosis.
In 1922 he became a Privat-Dozent, then part-time lecturer to the University of Lausanne where he was made professor emeritus in 1954. He was made Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur in 1959.
For a long time Leysin lodged tuberculous of the whole world in its Sanatorium where the patients benefitted from the favourable sunning of the station. In 2006, Leysin celebrates the 50 years of a reconversion successful as a tourist resort, and while having become the host many international schools.
René Burnand, one of the great TB specialists at the time, said of contemporary chest surgeons: "they were a generation of surgeons who had only the crudest armamentarium and who in spite of a few victories had to face a terrifying percentage of defeats, but had nevertheless the courage to persevere because they had the faith in the validity as well as the promises of their therapeutic concept".
Time Magazine, Monday, May 21, 1951
Modern medical science has produced scores of wonder drugs and made enormous technical advances. Has it meanwhile been losing the human touch? Yes, says Swiss Dr. René Burnand, who believes it is high time for a return to some forgotten fundamentals.
Writes Burnand, a lung specialist, in Paris' Concours Médical: "We live under the rule of pharmacy . . . The equation
'Disease a equals drug a' not only tyrannizes the minds of the public, it haunts the practitioner, whose professional capacity is rated according to the skill with which he applies the formula. There is something still worse; mass medicine, socialized, mechanized to excess, tends to substitute an even more deceitful equation: 'Symptom b equals drug b.'
"Faced with a difficult case, too many physicians think it advisable to try a series of drugs, in the hope that a happy accident will point out the one, good, effective drug after a series of failures.
"The doctors are positively forgetting that the human organism possesses in itself the defences, a potential for cure, which they should utilize more often, with more faith. Who in our day thinks of the resources of another age—morale, the will to health, valor . . .? But these things are still powerful . . . The faith of the patient, his will to recover and to live, to recover by life and for life, are a powerful support for our prudent counsels."