“Excellent work” Gero Hütter, MD PhD, physician responsible for the world’s first successful case of HIV cure.


Rod Tanchanco is an internist, Fellow in the American College of Physicians, and has three decades of experience. Rod has worked as a primary care physician, hospitalist, research doctor, and medical director for global healthcare organizations. He writes medically-themed non-fiction focused on historical events and their human narratives. He is the author of First Patients and his articles have appeared in Time.com, TheAtlantic.com, History News Network, Intima, Medical Economics, and KevinMD.com.


Extremely timely, coming to us on the second anniversary of the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Tanchanco shows us how far we’ve come; what we’ve learned from past pandemics and the real-life patient stories behind our most important medical advancements.

Often marked by the desperate need to save human lives, important developments in medicine have invariably started with patients—people whose ordeals fostered the advancement of medical knowledge. This book is a collection of such stories, each chapter an enthralling view into the history of medicine, revealing the extent of human inventiveness, resilience, and compassion.


  1. “Farmer Jesty’s Bold Experiment” —A farmer in 1774 vaccinates his family against smallpox using a new technique. This was 20 years before vaccination was introduced by a now famous doctor known for the discovery.
  2. “A Neglected Operation” —Account of the first blood transfusions from human to human.
  3. “Mosquito Men” —Account of the U.S. Army Yellow Fever Board in 1799, led by Major Walter Reed. Working in Cuba, they discovered the source of yellow fever through experiments on volunteers and themselves.
  4. “Luck of a Mold” —Story of the first patient to receive penicillin in the U.S. in 1942.
  5. “A Heart Too Good to Die” —The story of the first successful use of a defibrillator on a 14 year old boy who went into cardiac arrest during surgery.
  6. “A Billion Heartbeats” —The story of the first successful implantable pacemaker in a dying Swedish man after his wife badgered 2 doctors to invent the device.
  7. “AIDS in the Heartland” —The story of the earliest known AIDs case in the U.S. in 1968–decades before HIV was even identified.
  8. “The Patient Zero Scapegoat” —The story of the so-called Patient Zero of AIDS, wrongly accused of bringing HIV to the U.S.
  9. “Solitude of the Cured” —The story of the first man cured of HIV using a radical approach of stem cell transplantation from a donor with a rare genetic mutation.
  10. “Shattered Illusion of Knowledge” —The story of the 2 doctors who discovered the real cause of peptic ulcers and the daring self-experiment one of them performed to prove it.

Most readers will recognize these renowned health solutions. What makes this book so compelling is how the cases that prompted such groundbreaking innovations have considerably affected longevity and quality of human life for generations.


  • What was it like to be that patient caught in a medical crisis that sparked a medical milestone?
  • How did an English farmer become the first smallpox vaccinator?
  • What compelled U.S. Army doctors to infect themselves with yellow fever virus in Cuba?
  • What led to the first human-to-human blood transfusion in the 18th century?
  • Who was the first boy to be revived by a defibrillator, and how did that lead to the launch of CPR?
  • Could a woman force cautious doctors to implant a new, untested pacemaker in time to save her husband’s life?
  • How did a 15-year-old boy become a victim of AIDS in 1968, decades before the virus even had a name?


“Tanchanco tells the stories chronologically and in a smooth, clear style that’s impeccably researched but devoid of potentially off-putting clinical jargon. That approach makes this book ideal reading for anyone intrigued by medical innovations.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Like the very best narrative nonfiction writers, Tanchanco is gifted with a prose style that provides clarity of information with the flow of a novelist. At times these historic cases read with the pace and excitement of a top notch medical thriller.“ —IndieReader (5-star review)

“Tanchanco is a captivating writer, and his research into each medical discovery is thorough but always presented with vivid, polished storytelling that will engage readers from the start. Fans of medical history will find these stories highly compelling” —BookLife

Highly recommend. Dr. Rod Tanchanco has accomplished a rare feat; he has written a history of scientific and medical discovery that privileges the human dimension of discovery, that is, the personal stories, the emotions, the motivations, and aspirations that led men and women to seek out new treatments for diseases…” —Kimba Tichenor, PhD, author of Religious Crisis and Civic Transformation