Charles Barber, "In the Blood" in conversation with Bart Gullong

Tuesday, September 26, 2023
5:00 PM (ET)
Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore
Event Type
Bookstore Event
(860) 685 - 3939

Join Wesleyan University Writer in Residence Charles Barber to discuss his latest book, In the Blood. Charles will be joined by QuickClot pioneer, Bart Gullong.


The "high-stakes" true story of how an absent-minded inventor and a down-on-his-luck salesman joined forces to create a once in a generation lifesaving product: "Suspenseful storytelling helps us see and feel the struggle and frustration, the sweat and tears . . . Inspiring” (Robert Kolker, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Hidden Valley Road).

At the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, dramatized by the popular film Black Hawk Down, the majority of soldiers who died were killed instantly or bled to death before they could reach an operating table. This tragedy reinforced the need for a revolutionary treatment that could transform trauma medicine. So, when Frank Hursey and Bart Gullong—who had no medical or military experience—discovered that a cheap, crushed rock called zeolite had blood clotting properties, they brought it to the military's attention. The Marines and the Navy adopted the resulting product, QuikClot, immediately. The Army, however, resisted. It had two products of its own being developed to prevent excessive bleeds, one of which had already cost tens of millions of dollars. The other, "Factor Seven," had a more dangerous complication: its side effects could be deadly. Unwilling to let its efforts end in failure—and led by the highly influential surgeon Colonel John Holcomb—the Army set out to smear QuikClot’s reputation.

Over the course of six years, Hursey and Gullong engaged in an epic struggle with Holcomb for recognition. Ultimately, a whistle blower inside the Army challenged the Army’s embrace of Factor Seven, which resulted in a massive lawsuit led by the U.S. Department of Justice. The lawsuit focused further attention on the financial ties between the pharmaceutical company that produced Factor Seven and Holcomb’s research institute.

By withholding QuikClot—which later became the medical miracle of the Iraq War—and in the use of Factor Seven with its known, life-threatening risks of heart attacks and strokes, the lives of countless soldiers were imperiled. Using deep reportage and riveting prose, In the Blood recounts this little known David and Goliath story of corruption, greed, and power within the military—and the devastating consequences of unchecked institutional arrogance.

Charles Barber is a Writer in Residence at Wesleyan University, a Lecturer in Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, and the author of the critically acclaimed books In the Blood: How Two Outsiders Solved a Centuries-Old Medical Mystery and Took on the US Army (Grand Central, 2023), Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry is Medicating a Nation (Pantheon, 2008), and Citizen Outlaw: One Man’s Journey from Gangleader to Peacekeeper (Ecco, 2019). His work has appeared in The New York Times and the Washington Post, among dozens of publications. Barber grew up in Connecticut, where his father was an economics professor, also at Wesleyan. He lives in Connecticut with his family.

At age 50, Bart Gullong he met his future business partner Frank Hursey. Working with Hursey, he brought to the attention of the military a miraculous blood clotting product, QuikClot, that Hursey had discovered two decades before. QuikClot was immediately adopted by all branches of the military but the Army and was credited with saving many lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now QuikClot (also known as Combat Gauze) is in all American military first aid kits, and is used by first responders worldwide. Bart Gullong grew up in Old Saybrook and Wethersfield, Connecticut.


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