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JAMA 100 Years Ago
June 16, 2010

AMERICAN SURGERY—AN APPRECIATION

JAMA. 2010;303(23):2419. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.710

Europeans who have made a study of commercial life in the United States maintain that the fundamental difference in methods between the American and the European is one of mental attitude. With the European the tendency is to adhere to, or at most to modify, the old; with the American, to attempt what is altogether new. The European engineer prides himself on the fact that his machinery is so well made and so carefully preserved that it will last a generation; the American engineer on the other hand does not hesitate to relegate to the scrap-heap the most elaborate piece of machinery the moment a more efficient piece is invented to take its place. That this progressive attitude is not confined to mechanics and commerce in America is evidenced by the observations recently made in the Practitioner, by a London surgeon, Mr. W. Arbuthnot Lane of Guy's Hospital. In contrasting the skepticism of British surgeons with the attitude of the surgeons of the United States and Canada he says: “They are in advance of us in many ways in their methods of investigation. They attack any new problem very thoroughly and do their utmost to verify every fact by personal observation and they determine whether there is any truth in it or not. Trouble or expense affords no obstacle to their thirst for knowledge. They are not satisfied to accept unreservedly any statement or observation, and least of all, any opinion, and they are only prepared to receive it when they themselves have either seen it or are satisfied as to its accuracy. They have no respect for so-called authority and part with innumerable surgical creeds which continue to control us as readily as their business men ‘scrap’ machinery the moment a better mechanism is devised. It is this attitude of the American surgeon that is exerting such a magnificent influence on the surgery of that country and is, in my opinion, making them the most progressive surgical body in the world.” Mr. Lane of course has been in the United States and evidently speaks from observation.

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