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Anesthesia at Rush: Then and Now (Honoring World Anesthesia Day, Oct. 16)

by Nathalie Wheaton on 2020-10-13T08:00:00-05:00 in Anesthesia, Archives, History | 0 Comments

-Post assisted by Rush Archives Work Study Student Kirsten Petrarca, Doctoral Student in Audiology, Rush University.

World Anaesthesia Day commemorates the first successful demonstration of ether anesthesia, October 16, 1846, at Massachusetts General Hospital, home of the Harvard School of Medicine.

Surgeons across the country were quick to catch on to the use of ether during surgical procedures.

The February 1847 issue of The Illinois and Indiana Medical and Surgical Journal includes several mentions of ether and the excitement surrounding surgical results after its use. This journal was edited by the faculty of Rush Medical College, including Daniel Brainard, MD, founder and president of the school.

From the Illinois and Indiana Medical and Surgical Journal, February 1847In that 1847 issue, Brainard wrote a piece, “On the Inhalation of Etherial Vapor for the Prevention of Pain during Surgical Operations.” [1] In this article, he provides information about ether including its composition, methods of use, effects on the system, uses, and case studies.

Brainard's article is followed by a piece by G. N. Fitch, MD, of Logansport, IN, who describes his observations of surgical procedures at the College Dispensary of Rush Medical College and the use of ether by Dr. Brainard.

CAPTION: Fitch describes Brainard's use of ether in Rush's College Dispensary, The Illinois and Indiana Medical and Surgical Journal, February 1847. [2]

Of course, a lot has changed regarding surgery, anesthesia, and related professions since the 1840s!

To learn more about the development of Rush’s first department devoted to anesthesiology, explore the following links about Isabella Herb, MD. Herb was an early leader in the anesthetist profession and the first woman to serve on the staff of Rush’s historic Presbyterian Hospital, joining in 1909. She also served as a faculty member of Rush Medical College. Herb served as the head of the department of anesthesia until her retirement in 1941.

Isabella Herb, Rush Medical College Class Composite, 1914

CAPTION: Herb as the only woman faculty member to appear in the Rush Medical College Class Composite Photograph of 1914.

And, of course, a lot has changed since Dr. Herb’s tenure at Rush.

The 2002 Rush Annual Report featured a spotlight on Margaret Faut-Callahan, DNSc, CRNA, chair of adult health nursing and the director of nurse anesthesia for Rush University’s College of Nursing. The profession of nurse anesthesia has grown exponentially and the current demand for nurse anesthetists is high.

CAPTION: Faut-Callahan explained how Rush had the first nurse anesthesia program to be housed within a college of nursing in the 2002 Rush Annual Report. [3]

Margaret Faut-Callahan, 2002 Rush Annual Report“Rush was the first nurse anesthesia program to be housed in a college of nursing, which brought together mainstream nursing with nurse anesthesia,” Faut-Callahan says with pride. “We accept only the most qualified students to our program — Rush nurse anesthesia students have an average of 3.5 years of critical care nursing experience, whereas the national requirement is just one year.” While at Rush, students undergo 27 months of rigorous training in the classroom and in clinical settings. They are instructed by those who understand the real-life demands placed on anesthesia providers — working nurse anesthetists and medical anesthesiologists. And late this fall, Rush nursing and medical students began training using a device that looks and acts like a real patient, but isn’t. It’s Rush’s new human patient simulator, on which students can practice many procedures, including intubation, and get lifelike reactions to pain, medications and anesthesia. 

To learn more about World Anaesthesia Day and the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesioloigsts: 

Want to learn more about the history of Rush or the Rush Archives collections? Explore the Rush Archives website, or contact the archivist, Nathalie Wheaton, MSLS.

All documents and photographs belong to the records collections of Rush University Medical Center Archives, Chicago, Ill. Contact the archivist for permissions and full citations.



Isabella C. Herb, MD, links:


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