Moments in Surgical History |

A Tradition of National Service in Times of Crisis

Richard J. Mullins, MD
Arch Surg. 2003;138(12):1297-1301. doi:10.1001/archsurg.138.12.1297.
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AMERICAN SURGEONS have served in their country's 20th-century wars with dedication, courage, and skill. Civilian surgeons accepted military commissions and were deployed overseas. They disrupted their careers and were separated from their families; a few became casualties. Contemporary American surgeons witnessed the devastation of the September 11, 2001, attacks and realized that in the terrorist wars of the 21st century, the battlefields will include the homeland and the casualties may be large numbers of civilians. Surgeons ponder how best to respond to this new crisis. Nearly a century ago, George W. Crile, Harvey Cushing, and George E. Brewer were surgeons who responded to the national crisis of their time. Contemporary surgeons can learn from their example.

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Figure 1.

Members of the Presbyterian Hospital Unit in the early summer of 1917 at Etretat, France. In the second row seated on the left is George E. Brewer. To his left are Maj L. L. Hopwood (Commanding Officer), Maj Edward Welles (Adjutant), and William Darrach. Reprinted from from Lamb.7 Copyright 1955, Columbia University Press.

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Figure 2.

Map of the Ypres salient, showing the location of the key events in the last day of Revere Osler's life.

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Figure 3.

A photograph taken at Casualty Clearing Station No. 46 in November 1917 after an arduous 4 months with the British Expeditionary Forces during the Third Battle of Ypres. Seated on the left is Harvey Cushing, the leader of one of the surgical teams. Standing behind him to his right is Gilbert Horrax, the leader of the other surgical team who was from Brigham Hospital, Boston, Mass. John Fulton, Cushing's biographer, wrote that it was Horrax "whom Cushing regarded as the most steady and reliable of all the men he had trained."6(p534) Reprinted from Cushing.9 Copyright 1936, Little, Brown & Co.

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Figure 4.

George W. Crile's cannula method for performing a blood transfusion. The recipient's vein is pulled through the cannula, longitudinally bisected, folded back, and secured with a ligature. The donor's artery is pulled over the cannula and ligated. Reprinted with permission from the Dittrick Medical History Center Web site, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.

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Figure 5.

A November 1918 meeting of the Medical Research Committee at 12 Place Vendôme, Paris; France. On the left is Harvey Cushing, who had been seriously ill with a mysterious polyneuritis syndrome since October. George W. Crile is on the right. Between them is Col Cuthbert Wallace of the British Medical Corps, who was an expert in gas gangrene. Reprinted from Cushing.9 Copyright 1936, Little Brown & Co.

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