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July 14, 1989

Surgery, in the Days of Controversy

JAMA. 1989;262(2):256-258. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430020098037

My father was George Crile, a world-famous surgeon who participated in the founding of the American College of Surgeons and was one of its first presidents. I was his first son and I never had a chance of growing up to be anything but a surgeon.

The years at Harvard Medical School (Boston, Mass), from 1929 to 1933, were exciting because in those days students were sent out to "the district" with no significant training to deliver babies. Although we had access to backup by residents, they were about an hour away. I had one tragedy after another, all the way from a tiny preemie, who barely made it, to a 15-lb baby of a diabetic who did not. Then and there I vowed not to go into obstetrics.

Surgery at the Harvard Hospitals was unspecialized in those days. Mastectomies in Boston always were radical and took 3 to 4