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Account of Cushing surgery rekindles memory

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2010 - Autumn


I was interested in your account of Harvey Cushing’s second operation on General Leonard Wood in 1927 [“Cushing Collection Once Again Open for Research,” Yale Medicine, Spring 2010]. As a student interested in the history of medicine, I met Cushing’s secretary, Madeline Stanton, who had an office in the Historical Library. She permitted me to go into a back room where Cushing’s journals were available.

After 45 years my recollections may be faulty, but Cushing had extensive notes about the second operation. Wood was awake during the procedure. Cushing was not able to completely excise the tumor and expressed a desire to terminate or finish the operation. Wood talked him into trying to finish the operation and do a more complete or curative resection.

During the additional excision of tumor, a bleeder developed and retracted into a region where it was not reachable. Wood asked Cushing how long the procedure was going to last. Cushing replied that it would be over soon, or words to that effect. From the comments in the journal, I had the impression that Wood died on the table.

Robert I. Finkel, M.D. ’65
Toledo, Ohio