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Moments in Surgical History
December 1, 2003

A Tradition of National Service in Times of Crisis

Arch Surg. 2003;138(12):1297-1301. doi:10.1001/archsurg.138.12.1297

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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