In a recent blog, Dr. Randy Cook reflected upon the importance of those directly affected by the pandemic, doctors serving on the frontlines. “Remembering Doctors” traces the history of how doctors have come to be honored on National Doctors Day on March 30 and later emerged into National Physicians Week celebrated March 25-31. As we approach these nationally honored days as a way to enforce efforts to express our gratitude and appreciation to all those who are putting themselves at risk to care for others.
These are frightening times. It is highly unlikely that anyone alive today is old enough to remember the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. In my relatively abbreviated research, I think that would be the last time this country has been faced with a public health crisis matching that which we’re witnessing right now. As of March 27, 2020 the U.S. was reporting the largest number of active COVID-19 cases of any country in the world. With that in mind, I’m focusing my blog today on a group of people at the front line of the battle against COVID-19 and that is physicians.
This is an appropriate week to be thinking about our physicians. March 30 happens to be the date designated as National Doctor’s Day in the U.S. I did a little research and I found out that the first celebration of Doctor’s Day took place in the tiny community of Winder, Georgia on March 28, 1933. That original celebration was a strictly local event to honor local physicians, both living and deceased…and especially the late Dr. Crawford W. Long whose gravesite is near Winder.
Now it turns out that Dr. Crawford Long made a substantial contribution to the advancement of medicine, especially surgery. He was a surgeon and pharmacist who grew up in Madison County in northeastern Georgia. He earned his M.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania and after an 18-month internship in New York, he returned to Georgia in 1841 to start his medical practice in the town of Jefferson, not far from where he grew up. In 1842, Dr. Long administered the first general anesthesia for surgery using diethyl ether. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t publish his experience until 1849, after he had accumulated a series of several cases. It was at that point that he discovered a dentist, Dr. William T. G. Morton had demonstrated use of ether as an anesthetic to an audience at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and published his experience in December of 1846. So even though Long was first to use ether, he never really got the recognition for it because he was late to publish. In spite of that, he was much revered across the state of Georgia, and especially in those counties where he practiced.
So now, let’s get back to Doctor’s Day. The original event was put together back in 1933 by Mrs. Eudora Brown Almond who was the wife of a physician in Winder, Georgia. She wanted to do something to honor the physicians in the community, so, among other things, ‘thank you’ cards were mailed to the local physicians and their wives, flowers were placed on the graves of deceased physicians (including Dr. Crawford Long), and finally there was an elaborate formal dinner in the home of Dr. and Mrs. William T. Randolph on March 28.
The event was so successful that Mrs. Eudora Brown, who was the chief organizer, rallied the community of Winder and the surrounding counties to get the attention of the Women’s Alliance of the Southern Medical Association in 1935. As a result of that effort, commemoration of Doctor’s Day started to spread across the South.
Then, finally, on October 30, 1990, 55 years after that original event, the 101’st Congress of the United States enacted a joint resolution proclaiming March 30 as National Doctor’s Day in the U.S. The date is significant because March 30 is the anniversary of the day that Dr. Crawford Long administered that first general anesthetic in surgery.
But that’s not quite the end of the story. Just a few years ago, Dr. Marion Mass, who has been a guest on my podcast, along with Dr. Kimberly Jackson and Dr. Christina Lang, representing their organization, Physicians Working Together, applied to have “Physician’s Day” expanded to “Physician’s Week” and their request was approved in 2017 by the National Day Calendar organization. National Physicians Week runs from March 25 through March 31 annually. And as an aside, I think it is profoundly appropriate that a campaign that was started nearly a century ago by a group of physician wives was ultimately brought to completion by a group of female physicians!
So, especially in view of the challenges that our healthcare providers are facing today in the midst of this frightening pandemic, all of us at MD Coaches want to remember our physician colleagues during their special week and say “thank you for all that you do and please know that our nation is grateful for your service.”
But this remembrance can’t close without also remembering the countless other individuals who serve as guardians within the infrastructure of our healthcare system. There are the nurses, who can rightly claim the frontline position in the battle against disease during times like this and who do so at great risk to themselves. Additionally, there are lab technicians, imaging technicians, clerical personnel, dietary staff, housekeeping staff, and many others who put themselves at great risk to care for those who’ve been stricken. To you as well, there are no words to adequately express our gratitude. You are heroes all, in the truest sense of the word.
To read more of Dr. Randy Cook's blog "The Script Pad" go to https://mymdcoaches.com/blog. Dr. Cook is also host of MD Coaches, LLC's weekly Rx for Success Podcast found at http://rxforsuccesspodcast.com.
MD Coaches, LLC is a company dedicated to developing and empowering physicians to realize a greater satisfaction in their roles. Understanding the challenges and operational concerns for both physicians and hospital administrators. MD Coaches utilizes experience and coaching skils to support their physician clients in establishing strategies for positive career progression.