April 30th is celebrated as National Doctors’ Day in the United States. Other countries celebrate our healthcare providers on different days of the year. In the U.S., this date commemorates the use of general anesthesia in surgery for the first time.
Dr. Crawford W. Long of Georgia already had ties to history, having roomed with future Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens at the University of Georgia as well as being a cousin of the legendary Doc Holliday. On March 30, 1842, Dr. Long put sulfuric ether on a towel. He then had patient James Venable inhale the ether, and the doctor removed a tumor from Venable’s neck successfully. Dr. Long subsequently performed several additional surgeries using ether as an anesthetic.
The doctor was never fully credited for his discovery of anesthesia while he was alive. The National Eclectic Medical Association declared the doctor as its official discoverer in 1879, a year after his death. The first observance of Doctors’ Day in the U.S. was on March 28, 1933, and flowers were placed on the graves of Dr. Long and others. The U.S. House of Representatives adopted a resolution commemorating Doctors’ Day. President George H. W. Bush signed a joint resolution into law on October 30, 1990, designating March 30 as National Doctors’ Day.
Our lives would be shorter, less comfortable, and probably more painful without medicine and those who practice it! Thank a doctor today.