ADDRESS OF THE CHAIRMAN OF THE SECTION ON SURGERY AND ANATOMY

C. A. WHEATON
1896 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)  
Gentlemen of the Surgical Section:\p=m-\Through the agency of our worthy secretary we have been enabled to provide a program of rare promise for the ensuing three days. Custom has established that the presiding officer of the Section on Surgery shall offer some contribution to its proceedings. Such are usually of a scientific character. I believe, however, that fully as much benefit may accrue from a r\l=e'\sum\l=e'\of the needs and obligations of the workers in this department of our
more » ... n. In my humble opinion, at a time when the scientific attainments of the representative members of this Association were of a much more mediocre quality, when they met together in general session and deliberated upon the requirements of the profession, and before the days of the segregation of this Association, before the epoch of specialties, these meetings meant something, and much of good immediate and remote resulted. Memory recalls the time when the elder Warren, the elder Gross, Valentine Mott, Pancoast, Rhea Barton, Brainerd, Hodgen, Bigelow and many others of international fame ¿attended these meetings and shed the radiance of their brilliant intellects upon these National gatherings, and the actively working members of the profession at large, who represent the brain and sinew of the American profession, attended regularly with alacrity and enthusiasm, with insatiable appetites to assimilate all that was good and practical that emanated from these master minds. The older members were strengthened, the younger encouraged by their example to renewed efforts. In those days we learned by attrition how little we knew, and how great the magnitude of the possibilities of the future, when so directed. We have our modern Goliaths; we have Park, who have all placed indelibly upon the records of this corporate body an inscription which will endure forever; many of whom too often absent themselves from these meetings, depriving us of the benefit of their superior genius and accomplishments. This unfortunate condition of affairs is the logical result of that segregation which I so much deplore. We are individually and collectively proud of the attainments of the American Medical Association. We know that by comparison with similar organizations the world over, we do not suffer. This statement needs no defense and is, I believe, conceded, but that a house divided against itself can not stand, is as true to-day as when spoken centuries ago. We must bring these wanderers back into the fold or our Association will suffer in numbers, influence and proficiency, and the time is not far distant when the American Medical Association will be secondary to other organizations, or extinct. I earnestly deprecate this condition of affairs, because it deprives us in our deliberations of the aid of the other members of our profession, whose efforts for the conservation and preservation of life have nothing to do with the knife except in a passive sense, but whose counsel we need, and wdiose assistance often is absolutely essential in guiding our precious charges to a safe harbor. Where will we land if these leaders in surgery and in medicine, in gynecology and the various other specialties, hold themselves aloof from these gatherings? Sir Edw7ard Jenner gave us vaccination, Morton, Wells and Duncan gave us anesthesia, and Lister a knowledge of surgical cleanliness. We younger men of the present generation felt that we were approaching the surgical millenium with those adjuncts at our command. The surgical license which has resulted has led us into many excesses in surgical procedure. Only a few short years have elapsed since nature's bountiful resources for the protection of human life were revealed, and we are now experiencing the reaction which is an unavoidable consequence of riper experience. Instead of the asexualization of our suffering sisters, we are groping along conservative lines, endeavoring to preserve the organs and functions with which God and nature endowed her. Let us preserve rather than destroy. May we not again invoke the assistance of our absent brethren whose counsel and advice we so much need? The major part of our program is made up of a symposium on the injuries of the cerebro-spinal axis and its bony encasement. I feel confident the subject will be amply covered and fully discussed. It is my earnest hope that in its medico-legal relations, it will receive the attention its importance deserves. The malodorous situation in which the medical witness so often finds himself is due to several causes, chief of which is the motive which inspires his testimony, the legal jugglery of an astute lawyer, and confined by the rulings of the court it compels him to answer " yes" or " no," thus preventing intelligent testimony, baffles justice, humiliates and makes the witness ridiculous in the eyes of both the jury and the public. Our corporations as well as medical witnesses have reason to regret the theories of Erichsen, so long accepted as true, which are now relegated to that professional mausoleum that contains so many entombed medical and surgical fallacies of the past, and by their fuller knowledge derived by scientific research. We now recognize as neurasthenia the Erichsen bugbear of railway spine. We followed the teachings of Erichsen for many years, blindly I think, and it is a question in my mind whether the modern substitute Downloaded From: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/ by a Simon Fraser University User on 06/03/2015
doi:10.1001/jama.1896.02430740001001 fatcat:m2svo6jczzeszhl5lkm4anddku