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New York, NY – The Civil War’s profound impact on medical practice in America had much less to do with technological breakthroughs in therapies or surgical techniques than with the lessons of clinical and organizational experience in treating millions of sick and wounded. This will be the theme of the annual John K. Lattimer Lecture hosted by The New York Academy of Medicine, the first of a three-part series on medicine during the Civil War. The event will take place on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 from 6-7:30 p.m. at NYAM, 1216 Fifth Avenue (at 103rd Street). Featured speaker Dr. Ira Rutkow, a surgeon and author whose current professional activities are focused on the study of American medical history, will present “The Civil War: How Did It Impact Medicine in America?”
During the Civil War, doctors learned about diseases and their clinical manifestations on a scale never before possible. Physicians who had minimal background in treating complex illnesses and communicable diseases experienced a lifetime of practice in several years of camping and marching. The war created surgeons from physicians who previously had minimal operating experience. America’s healers acquired administrative skills not feasible in antebellum America. For the first time, the nation’s physicians organized ambulance corps, assembled hospital trains, served on draft boards, resolved questions of medical manpower, and designed, staffed, and managed vast general hospitals. Finally, the scale and urgency of the war imposed much needed comradeship and discipline. “The constant mingling of men of high medical culture with the less educated had value,” wrote S. Weir Mitchell, “and the general influence of the war on our art was, in this and other ways, of great service.” Physicians familiarized themselves with disease and injury on an individual plane while the profession became cohesive and national on a societal level
Ira Rutkow is a surgeon and author whose current professional activities are focused on the study of American medical history. After graduating from Union College he earned his medical degree from St. Louis University. While completing training as a general surgeon, Rutkow also received a master and doctorate in public health from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. He is the author of seven books, most recently Seeking the Cure: A History of Medicine in America (2010). Rutkow’s other works are James A. Garfield (2006), part of Times Books’ American Presidents series edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.; Bleeding Blue and Gray: Civil War Surgery and the Evolution of American Medicine (2005); American Surgery: An Illustrated History (1998); Surgery: An Illustrated History (1993), named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; and the two-volume The History of Surgery in the United States (1992 and 1988).
Posted on January 9, 2012
Andrew J. Martin
Director of Communications
The New York Academy of Medicine
1216 Fifth Avenue
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