The Value of Surgical History

Ira M. Rutkow, MD, MPH, DrPH
Arch Surg. 1991;126(8):953-956. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1991.01410320035002.
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• It remains a rhetorical question whether or not an understanding of surgical history is important to the maturation and continued education of a surgeon. Conversely, it is hardly necessary to dwell on the heuristic value that an appreciation of history provides in developing adjunctive humanistic, literary, and philosophic tastes. Unfortunately, modern medical historians usually hold nonmedical degrees and basically restrict themselves to research concerning medical or public health aspects of social history. Clinical surgical history is increasingly avoided because the professional medical historian has no clinical background. However, practicing surgeons, who can serve as amateur medical historians, have knowledge and experience that place them in a unique position to assess historic facts and direct surgical historic inquiry. It is my belief that if medicine were taught with a greater emphasis on the historic approach, our country's physicians would be better prepared to cope with the health care problems of the future. By increasing the number of surgeons, who, as an avocation, research and write about surgical history, our ability to provide better surgical care in our nation's coming years will be enhanced.

(Arch Surg. 1991;126:953-956)


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