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Commentary |

The Department of Surgery, University of California, San Francisco

Pamela Derish, MA; Nancy L. Ascher, MD, PhD
Arch Surg. 2005;140(12):1143-1148. doi:10.1001/archsurg.140.12.1143.
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The Department of Surgery at the University of California (UC), San Francisco, was shaped by Gold Rush–era adventurers who stayed on after the gold ran out. In 1852, South Carolina surgeon Hugh H. Toland, MD, was lured to California by gold fever, crossing the 2000-mile overland route by wagon train. By then, gold reserves were declining and the number of miners was increasing dramatically. Whereas many other forty-niners headed home or turned to poker or crime, Toland established an enormously successful surgical practice in the boomtown of San Francisco. He founded the second medical school, Toland Medical College, in the Far West in 1864, timing that coincided with a new state law permitting the use of paupers’ bodies for study by accredited physicians (Figure 1).1 Through the efforts of Richard Beverly Cole, MD—another Gold Rush pioneer and an accomplished surgeon who had arrived in San Francisco aboard a steamship in 1852—the college became the Medical Department of UC in 1873, with Cole as its dean and Toland, the first chair of the Department of Surgery. The early surgical curriculum consisted of “lectures on the principles and practices of surgery, demonstrations of surgical technique on the cadaver, and clinical lectures at the college building and the adjacent county hospital.”2 Anesthesia was scarce, when it was available at all, and Toland, Cole, and the other surgeons performed operations on a table in the middle of the ward. “Blood and noise were the principal features observed by the goggle eyed spectators.”3(p39)

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Figure 1.

Hugh H. Toland, MD, and the Toland Medical College, San Francisco, Calif. A, Toland (1806-1880). B, Illustration of Toland Medical College, circa 1866. C, Medical students in the Toland Medical College Dissecting Room, circa 1870. Photograph by Edward Muybridge.

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Figure 2.

The University of California Medical Department, San Francisco, Parnassus Heights location. A, Photograph of the new Parnassus Heights campus with a streetcar in front. B, The Medical School building at Parnassus, refitted to house a 75-bed teaching hospital in 1907, is shown here in a 1947 drawing by Ralph W. Sweet (1892-1961), professor of Medical Arts and Illustrations at University of California Medical School. C, Robert A. McLean, MD (1858-1918) in an 1874 photo.

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Figure 3.

Saxton Pope, MD, Howard C. Naffziger, MD, and H. Glenn Bell, MD. A, University of California surgeon Pope, a close companion of the last Yahi Indian, Ishi. B, Naffziger (1884-1961) in his military uniform in 1918. C, Partial scene from a 1937 mural by Bernard Baruch Zakheim depicting the history of medicine. Called the Cole Hall Murals after their original location at the University of California Medical School building lecture hall named for University of California, San Francisco, founder Richard Beverly Cole, MD, this scene shows Bell (1893-1981) performing surgery in the left center foreground.

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