Little Bits of History

Hospital for Special Surgery

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 13, 2014
Hospital for Special Surgery today

Hospital for Special Surgery today

April 13, 1863: The Society for the Relief of the Ruptured and Crippled is incorporated in the State of New York. Today, it is known as the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS). Located in New York City, it specializes in the orthopedic surgery and the treatment of rheumatologic conditions. It is the oldest orthopedic hospital in  the US and is considered to be one of the world’s best institutions for joint replacement surgery. They are also famous for spinal surgery both from congenital and acute causes and sports medicine. They also offer limb lengthening procedures. Included are programs for medical education. They are associated with Weill Cornell Medical College and have 277 active medical staff led by Thomas Sculco, MD and Louis Shapiro. They run a 205 bed facility.

James A. Knight, MD and Robert M. Hartley began the institution to help those in need. At the time, New York City had a population of around 800,000 and there was little access to medical care, especially for the poor in the city. Hartley funded the idea while Dr. Knight, a general practitioner, opened his private house on Second Avenue and 6th Street to patients. He had 28 inpatient beds in his house and the first patients were brought in on May 1, 1863. Since it was the middle of the US Civil War, there were many patients in need of services provided. In the first year 824 patients were treated. A larger space would be needed to meet the growing demand. John C. Green, a successful New York businessman, began to raise $200,000 for a new building which opened in May 1870 on 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue.

The hospital did well under Dr. Knight. He developed a system called Expectant Treatment which included fresh air, good diet, exercise, electrical stimulation, and gentle rehabilitation. There were few surgeries actually performed while he was Surgeon-in-Chief as he thought surgical intervention was often detrimental. This was a time before sterile technique and antibiotics and infection rates were very high. It wasn’t until 1887 when Dr. Virgil P Gibney became Surgeon-in-Chief that an Operating Room, Hernia Department, and Resident Training program were instituted. Dr. Gibney became the first Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Columbia Medical College. He introduced the use of plaster of Paris, traction, and surgery when absolutely necessary. The hospital again changed locations and by the end of Dr. Gibney’s tenure in 1924, 3,000 surgical procedures had taken place.

The hospital moved to its present location on East River between 70th and 71st Streets in 1955. A fellowship in rheumatology had been introduced in 1944 and in 1955 with Dr. T. Campbell Thompson in charge, expanded orthopedic surgical treatments were brought in. As time passed, more new departments were added to increase the number of conditions which could be treated at the small but highly acclaimed institution. Today, there are seventeen specialized centers focusing on specific problems and patient needs.

To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone. – Reba McEntire

What a dog I got, his favorite bone is in my arm. – Rodney Dangerfield

A broken bone can heal, but the wound a word opens can fester forever. – Jessamyn West

When a gust of wind hits a broken bone, you feel it. – Shia LaBeouf

Also on this day: Houston We Have a Problem – In 1970, there is an explosion on the Apollo 13 lunar mission.
Freedom of Religion – In 1829, Britain granted Roman Catholics to practice their religion.
Hallelujah! – In 1742, Handel’s Messiah debuted.
What Were They Thinking? – In 1953, MK-ULTRA was launched by Allen Dulles.

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