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Paper
April 2001

The History of Surgery in Massachusetts

Author Affiliations

From Baystate Medical Center, Springfield, Mass.

Arch Surg. 2001;136(4):442-447. doi:10.1001/archsurg.136.4.442

Thomas Carlyle noted that "The history of the world is but the biography of great men."1 The history of surgery in Massachusetts is full of great men who have made enormous contributions to the art and the science of surgery. I will concentrate for the most part on the century just past, and on the surgeons, mostly from Massachusetts but some from the other New England states, who have made those contributions and provided leadership and vision to the New England Surgical Society (NESS).

At the turn of the 19th century, surgical practice, and indeed medical practice as a whole, was chaotic. Many of the 11 medical schools in Massachusetts were of poor quality. In most instances, medical education consisted of a series of lectures and an examination, usually an oral one since most of the students could not read.2 Surgical training consisted of an internship of 1 year, followed either by practice or perhaps an assistantship. Only a fortunate few could go to Europe to study in the great clinics and universities before returning to a practice in the United States. Therefore, many surgeons were poorly trained by our standards.

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