The 76th annual National Doctors' Day celebration unfolds as Emory Healthcare shows its appreciation to the physicians who have helped position Emory and its hospitals at the forefront of medicine.
"Emory physicians are recognized as true leaders in discovery, innovation and outstanding care that makes a difference in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention here in Georgia and around the world," says John T. Fox, president and CEO of Emory Healthcare. "Doctors' Day provides a simple way for Emory Healthcare and health care systems nationwide to say thank you to so many dedicated professionals."
When America shows its appreciation for doctors nationwide on Sunday, March 30, many - in fact most - will probably never stop to think about anesthesia or its innovator, who happens to be the namesake of Atlanta's Emory Crawford Long Hospital. Poised to celebrate its 100th birthday this year, the hospital makes a point each year of remembering this namesake and appreciating its medical staff.
The first Doctors' Day observance was held on March 30, 1933, by the Barrow County Alliance, in Winder, Ga. The idea of setting aside a day to honor physicians was conceived by Eudora Brown Almond, wife of Dr. Charles B. Almond, and the recognition occurred on the anniversary of the first administration of anesthesia by Dr. Crawford W. Long (March 30, 1842, when Dr. Long used ether to remove a tumor from a patient's neck.)
The Barrow County Medical Society Auxiliary proclaimed the day "Doctors' Day," which was celebrated by mailing cards to physicians and their wives, and placing flowers on the graves of deceased doctors, including Dr. Long.
The U.S. House of Representatives adopted a resolution commemorating Doctors' Day on March 30, 1958. In 1990, legislation was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate to establish a National Doctors Day. Following overwhelming approval by the House and Senate, then-President George Bush signed a resolution designating March 30 as National Doctors' Day. The first National Doctors' Day was celebrated in 1991.
Dr. Long graduated in 1839 from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, which was the most prominent medical school in America in Dr. Long's time. He trained for two more years in hospitals in New York before coming to Jefferson to set up a practice near his family.
In those days, young people often sniffed nitrous oxide to get a temporary "high." The legend that Dr. Long's family and friends passed down was that one day Dr. Long's friends were unable to get nitrous oxide, so they asked Dr. Long for a substitute. Ideas about social use of drugs were different 160 years ago, and Dr. Long agreed to help.
He suggested sulfuric ether as a possibility. While the young people were under the influence of the ether, they apparently felt no pain. As a highly trained physician, Dr. Long recognized that he might have found the solution to the search for anesthesia.
Anesthesia, a way to get patients both unaware of pain and still enough for surgery, was an essential to the advance of medicine. In fact, it is said that for modern medicine to exist, three discoveries had to be made: anesthesia, antiseptics or the realization of germs and bacteria, and antibiotics.
Dr. Long discovered the key to anesthesia in 1842, antiseptics were discovered in the 1860s, and antibiotics were discovered in the early part of the 20th century.
In 1842, life expectancy in America was 49 years. Today, the figure is 79 years in the United States - and may actually double the 1842 figure in the next few years as more people live to 100 and beyond. The rapid growth of modern medicine, built on three pillars, continues to amaze and then be accepted as routine.
The Crawford W. Long Museum at Emory Crawford Long Hospital in midtown Atlanta houses historical medical equipment, some of which came from Dr. Long's medical practice. Displays include a marble statue of Dr. Crawford Long which is a replica of that which stands in Statuary Hall, Washington, D.C.
Emory Healthcare is the clinical arm of the Emory University Woodruff Health Sciences Center. As the largest, most comprehensive health care system in Georgia, Emory Healthcare includes The Emory Clinic, Emory Children's Center, Emory Medical Affiliates, Emory Specialty Associates, Dialysis Access Center of Atlanta, Emory Genetics Laboratory, Emory Medical Foundation, Emory Physical Therapy, Emory University Hospital, Emory Crawford Long Hospital, Wesley Woods Center, the jointly owned Emory-Adventist Hospital, and the jointly-owned Emory Johns Creek Hospital.