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October 1995

The Commemoration of Surgical Teachers

Author Affiliations

From The Warren and Clara Cole Foundation, Chicago, Ill.

Arch Surg. 1995;130(10):1131-1135. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1995.01430100109021

This address was given at a biennial meeting of the Michael E. DeBakey International Surgical Society. Surgical teachers are commemorated by the imitation of their pupils in accord with the human tendency to model ourselves after our heroes. The modeling is not merely a search for technical mastery but an emulation of virtues beyond the purely scientific. The lecture addresses the nature of teachers and teaching, the role of teachers as exemplars or heroes, the reasons why we commemorate certain teachers, and finally, the personal recollection of virtues, such as compassion, that make surgeons memorable for their pupils and patients. Citations from Thomas Carlyle, Jacques Barzun, and William Bennett illustrate the role of heroes, the nature of teaching, and the importance of virtue. Lessons are drawn from the lives of John Hunter and William S. Halsted, and from the work of the DeBakey family in surgery and in the craft of medical writing. (Arch Surg. 1995;131:1131-1135)