“Everything Old Is New Again”

Two lines from Peter Allen’s memorable song, “Everything Old Is New Again,” are:

Don’t throw the past away
You might need it some rainy day*

History is being resurrected at the American College of Surgeons (ACS) as we embrace the notion that “the past is prologue.” In the College’s centennial year, 2012–2013, a steering committee was formed to help maintain and promote surgery’s rich history. This committee hosted an organizational meeting at the 2013 Clinical Congress in Washington, DC. An open invitation was extended to those attendees with an interest in forming a new program of the ACS centered on American surgical history, with a focus on the rich, meaningful, and colorful history of our College. A large group gathered for a 6:30 am breakfast on October 8. That meeting resulted in the formation of the ACS Surgical History Group (ACSSHG).

At that founding meeting, we defined the group’s mission, developed a position statement, identified the group’s purpose, and reviewed an enumeration of the College’s historical assets and a listing of some potential opportunities for action, for both the short and the long term. The College’s leadership has been most supportive of this new group and its charge to organize, promote, sustain, and expand the appreciation, presentation, preservation, and study of American surgical history and to stimulate and facilitate research and other scholarly activities on this subject. Furthermore, we have agreed that the surgical curriculum could be bolstered and enhanced by appropriate inclusion of pertinent surgical history at all levels of education and training. On March 17, 2014, a subset of the Steering Committee met at the Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport, IL, to brainstorm and add focus to the group’s ideas for action.

ACS History Group Committees

Executive Committee
LaMar S. McGinnis, Jr., MD, FACS, Chair
David L. Narhwold, MD, FACS, Vice-Chair
William Barlow Inabnet III, MD, FACS
J. Patrick O’Leary, MD, FACS
Basil A. Pruitt, Jr., MD, FACS, FCCM, MCCM
Norman M. Rich, MD, FACS
Marshall Z. Schwartz, MD, FACS

Bylaws Committee
Dr. Rich, Chair
Don K. Nakayama, MD, FACS, Vice-Chair
Diana Dickson-Witmer, MD, FACS
Leo Gordon, MD, FACS
Kenneth L. Mattox, MD, FACS
Frederick L. Greene, MD, FACS

Archives Committee
Dr. Nahrwold, Chair
Peter J. Kernahan, MD, PhD, FACS, Vice-Chair
Justin Barr, medical student
Mary H. McGrath, MD, MPH, FACS
Craig Miller, MD, FACS
Robert Nesbit, MD, FACS
Donald P. Shedd, MD, FACS
James Yao, MD, FACS

Programs Committee
Dr. Pruitt, Chair
Dr. Inabnet, Vice-Chair
Stanley B. Burns, MD, FACS
Martin Fleming, MD, FACS
Richard Lynn, MD, FACS
Patrick W. McGonagill, MD
Dr. O’Leary
John S. O’Shea, MD, FACS

Outreach Committee
Dr. Schwartz, Chair
James G. Chandler, MD, FACS, Vice-Chair
John L. Cameron, MD, FACS
Howard M. Snyder III, MD, FACS

As the ACSSHG has evolved, a flurry of activity has ensued. Adam Carey has been recruited to serve as the College’s Archivist, and several committees have been appointed and are in the early stages of functionality (see sidebar).

Our goal is to establish a sustainable, ongoing ACS program to keep surgical history at the forefront, to bring our Archives to life, to better use and expand our assets, to enhance the visibility of the College’s historical material, and to establish mutually beneficial relationships/collaborations with other organizations currently active in surgical and medical history. Opportunities and interest abound in this arena.

Clinical Congress programs

The 2014 Clinical Congress will include an array of programming that is specifically geared toward surgical history devotees. The ACSSHG is sponsoring a Panel Session titled Factors Shaping Surgery in the 20th Century, 2:30–4:00 pm, Tuesday, October 28, at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, CA. Following is the agenda for the session, moderated by LaMar S. McGinnis, Jr., MD, FACS, and Norman M. Rich, MD, FACS:

  • The Education and Training of a Surgeon: John Cameron, MD, FACS
  • Professional Organizations and Their Impact upon American Surgery: David L. Nahrwold, MD, FACS
  • What Surgeons Learn from Wars: Basil A. Pruitt, Jr., MD, FACS, FCCM, MCCM
  • A Fruitful Partnership—Surgeons and Technology: Mark Talamini, MD, FACS

In addition, a one-hour session on Monday, October 27, is aimed at increasing awareness of surgical history among medical students. This presentation, part of the Medical Student Program–Session II, will be moderated by Leo A. Gordon, MD, FACS, Los Angeles, CA, and Justin Barr, a medical student at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

On Tuesday, October 28, 7:00–8:00 am, another open continental breakfast meeting will convene at the Moscone Center. Craig Miller, MD, FACS, will discuss his recently published book, The Big Z: The Life of Robert Zollinger, which will be released at the conference. ACS Second Vice-President-Elect Kenneth L. Mattox, MD, FACS, along with Tyler Hughes, MD, FACS, will discuss the newly evolving surgical history community coming to the new ACS website.

The Charles G. Drake History of Surgery Lecture: Symbiotics and Serendipity in Aortic Trauma Management, which Dr. Mattox will deliver, 2:30–3:30 pm, Monday, October 27, also should be of great interest to surgical history aficionados. A Clinical Congress Video-based Education Session, Heroes in Surgery: Our Legacy, will be co-moderated by William O. Richards, MD, FACS, and Steven D. Schwaitzberg, MD, FACS, 9:45–11:15 am, Tuesday, October 28. Also on Tuesday, 9:45–10:45, Dr. Rich will present the Excelsior/Churchill Lecture, titled Military Surgeons and Surgeons in the Military.

The ACSSHG has further proposed a Panel Session for presentation at the 2015 Clinical Congress, which would adhere to this year’s theme of Factors Shaping Surgery in the 20th Century. Dr. Pruitt and William Barlow Inabnet III, MD, FACS, would co-moderate. Topics for discussion at this session include:

  • Infection control
  • The pump and the pipes
  • Transplantation (new and used parts)
  • Clinical judgment and imaging

In addition, the ACSSHG has proposed a Surgical History Poster Competition for the 2015 Clinical Congress and plans are under way for the 2015 ACS Resident and Associates Society Forum to include a session on surgical history, featuring Dr. Gordon; Patrick W. McGonagill, MD, a general surgery resident; and Mr. Barr. Also in 2015, a new module on surgical history developed by Dr. McGonagill will be added to the popular Surgical Jeopardy activity for residents.

More for surgical history buffs

The following activities and programs may be of interest to surgeons who would like to learn more about surgical history and tradition:

  • Our history listserv began morphing into a surgical history community this summer as part of the ACS website overhaul described in the article on page 12. This new resource will greatly facilitate our ability to access our history community anytime, anywhere, on any communication device, thereby enhancing interaction, participation, and engagement. Dr. Mattox has agreed to be the Editor.
  • Surgical and medical history buffs may be interested in watching a new drama series, The Knick, which premiered August 8 on Cinemax. The series, which airs at 8:00 pm Eastern, is set in a fictional New York, NY, hospital in 1900. Stanley Burns, MD, FACS, is the scientific/technical adviser for this program, and Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh is the director.
  • On July 22, 2014, the ACS; The Joint Commission; the American Society for Shoulder and Elbow Surgery; Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; the American Hospital Association; and the ACS West Virginia Chapter dedicated a beautiful headstone at the previously unmarked gravesite of Ernest Amory Codman, MD, FACS, a founder of the College and the originator of outcomes studies with his “end result idea.” (See this month’s “Looking forward” column for more details.)
  • ACSSHG member James G. Chandler, MD, FACS, discovered a website that will be of interest and utility for our group: History of Health Sciences World Wide Web Links.
  • The College’s footprint is extending at the Chicago, IL, headquarters building, as we rent out less space to other businesses, and use the room to promote College initiatives. Dr. Hoyt has indicated that this may be an opportunity to better display historical exhibits. Our Washington, DC, office building may also be included in this endeavor. An interactive digital display of our archival/history collection may also be considered. In this regard, the ACSSHG will be reviewing and updating our ACS history acquisition policy.

Come join us

There is considerable interest in this revitalized history-related activity within our College’s surgical community, and even beyond. You are invited to join and participate in our listserv/surgical community at surgical-history-club@yahoo.com. Share news, information, announcements, and so on, related to our mutual interests. Also, we suggest that you make the ACSSHG aware of your interests and special, related talents so that we may put those abilities to good use.

George Santayana, philosopher and writer, said it best: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” And as author Ronald Wright has proclaimed, “Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up.”

*CBS Interactive. Metro Lyrics. Peter Allen lyics. Everything old is new again. Available at: http://www.metrolyrics.com/everything-old-is-new-again-lyrics-peter-allen.html. Accessed July 21, 2014.

Indiana University. Institute for American Thought. The Santayana edition. Available at: http://iat.iupui.edu/santayana/content/santayana-quotations. Accessed July 21, 2014.

Wright R. Ronaldwright.com. Books. Available at: http://ronaldwright.com/books/a-short-history-of-progress/. Accessed July 21, 2014.

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