A Moment in History

Armand J. Quick, MD, PhD, Develops the Quick Test for Blood Clotting

Armand J. Quick, MD, developed the Quick Test for blood clotting in 1935
Armand J. Quick, MD, from portrait taken at MCW in 1971.

Armand J. Quick, MD, PhD, now remembered as an international figure in the scientific community for his discoveries in the area of blood coagulation, joined the Medical College of Wisconsin's predecessor institution (Marquette University School of Medicine) in 1935 as assistant professor of pharmacology.

Born roughly 50 miles outside of Milwaukee in Theresa, Wisconsin, Dr. Quick returned to southeastern Wisconsin to practice medicine and conduct research after working for several years in New York City at what is now Cornell University's Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences and NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue. It was there that Dr. Quick became fascinated with blood clotting and began working on a consistent test of the speed of coagulation.

"There was a huge demand for this type of test, certainly in the case of bleeding disorders – but also for liver disease and other conditions that alter blood clotting," says Albert Girotti, PhD, professor of biochemistry at MCW.

Dr. Quick discovered a reagent and testing procedure that, once refined, consistently measured normal blood clotting time at 12 seconds – making it possible for clinicians to measure abnormal coagulation in a quick and affordable manner. These 12 seconds are known as "prothrombin time" because they measure the conversion of the coagulation factor protein prothrombin into the enzyme thrombin, which then actively catalyzes many key reactions required for blood cells to clump and clot.

As noted by Dr. John Dirckx in an article published in Annals of Internal Medicine in 1980, "prothrombin time as determined by the now standard Quick method has proved to be one of the most constant measurements in human biology."

According to Dr. Girotti, the prothrombin time (or Quick Test) is still used today, albeit in a more sophisticated form. "It has many applications beyond bleeding disorders, including monitoring the proper dosage of blood thinning medications for preventing harmful blood clots," says Dr. Girotti.

Armand J. Quick, MD
Dr. Quick is shown about the time he first developed the Quick test for blood clotting.

In addition to developing this important clinical test and serving as chair of the department of biochemistry at Marquette University's School of Medicine from 1944-1964, Dr. Quick also developed the first quantitative test of liver function, made important findings in hereditary bleeding disorders, contributed to the discovery of the widely-prescribed anticoagulant drug Warfarin and created a tolerance test to identify patients sensitive to the anti-clotting effects of aspirin.

Historical photo of Dr. Armand J. Quick in his laboratory

Wasakorn Kittipongdaja, MDDr. Quick died on January 26, 1978, and in 1982, MCW's department of biochemistry decided to honor his legacy by establishing the Armand J. Quick Award to recognize senior medical students who have demonstrated outstanding scholarship in biochemistry, an aptitude for scientific investigation and a dedication to conduct biomedical research in the future.

"It was a great surprise when I found out I had been selected for the award," reflects Wasakorn Kittipongdaja, MD '14, (pictured right), who was one of two recipients in 2014. "I find it interesting that, as an anesthesiology resident, I routinely use the prothrombin time test when preparing for surgeries with patients taking blood thinners," he adds.

Dr. Kittipongdaja, like Dr. Quick before him, intends to be a physician scientist helping meet patients' acute needs while also dedicating himself to research that continues pushing forward at the frontier of medical knowledge.

– Greg Calhoun

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