Tag Archives: Surgery

The art of surgery: ‘surgical theatrics’ on the surgeon’s stage

Cynthia J. Avila Chicago, Illinois, USA   Thomas Eakins. The Agnew Clinic. 1889. Oil on canvas, 84 3/8 in x 118 1/8 in, John Morgan Building at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Sorry indeed should I be, to sport with the life of a fellow-creature who might repose a confidence either in my surgical […]

Loyal Davis, legendary neurosurgeon (1896-1982)

  For more than thirty years, in an era less politically correct than ours, Dr. Loyal Davis reigned supreme as chief of surgery at the Northwestern University medical school in Chicago. He retired in 1963, but stories about him persisted as lively subjects of conversation and amusement, to be told with relish at meetings and […]

Karl A. Meyer (1888-1972)

For over half a century, Dr. Karl Meyer was the absolute ruler of what under his command became the largest public hospital in the United States, the Cook County Hospital in Chicago. He interned there in 1908, joined its staff as attending surgeon in 1918, and at the age of 28 was appointed hospital superintendent. […]

Christian Fenger (1840-1902)

Danish born Christian Fenger practiced pathology and surgery in Chicago over a century ago and made such an impact on education that a public school in his adopted city is still named after him. As a young man he studied medicine in Copenhagen, completed his internship there, served in the 1865 war against Germany, and […]

William Stewart Halsted (1852-1920)

One of the greatest early American surgeons and one of the “big four” founders of the John Hopkins Medical School faculty, William Halsted was a curious personality, a loner and egomaniac recluse, aristocrat in his breeding, touchy and sharp tongued, an advocate of precision who had little interest in private practice and spent his life […]

Pursuit of immortality: Dr. Amosov

Olena Lupalo Bursa, Turkey   Portrait of Nikolai Amosov. Photo by L. Sherstennikov. In 1962, after his visit to the USA, heart surgeon Nikolai Amosov (1913-2002) became obsessed by artificial heart valves. There were no opportunities for this in the Soviet Union – neither information nor technology. Amosov sewed his first cusp of the artificial […]

Impostor syndrome: Richard Selzer’s life of doubt

Mahala Yates Stripling Fort Worth, Texas, United States   Richard Selzer in the two-act play The Doctor Stories “I am called by the name of Chekhov. Each time I hear it, I blush and cringe. He had true genius; I just do the best I can. There is an enormous difference. I do believe it is […]

Evidence versus practice: the story of surgery in breast cancer

Robert Biggar Bethesda, Maryland, USA   “As to diseases, make a habit of two things — to help, or at least, to do no harm.” ― Hippocrates (circa 400 BCE) Imhotep: physician, architect and adviser to Pharaoh Djoser, 26th Century BCE As a scientist, I see breast cancer as a biological process that starts with a […]

Ghosts from the Ether Dome

Isabel Legarda Belmont, Massachusetts   The ether dome today. Author photo. On October 16, 1846, dentist William Morton successfully demonstrated the use of ether as an anesthetic inside Massachusetts General Hospital’s Bulfinch Pavilion. That day, now passed down to us as “Ether Day,” is often seen as a turning point for surgery both in the United […]

Sir James Paget

Born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, in 1814, James Paget was one of the outstanding surgeons of his time, remembered for his description of osteitis deformans (Paget’s disease of bone) and of Paget’s disease of the breast. He has been regarded as the surgical equivalent of  William Osler in medical education and of Rudolph Virchow in […]