The Education of American Surgeons and the Rise of Surgical Residencies, 1930-1960.
In the first half of the twentieth century, the training of American surgeons changed from an idiosyncratic, often isolated venture to a standardized, regulated, and mandated regimen in the form of the surgical residency. Over the three critical decades between 1930 and 1960, these residencies developed from an extraordinary, unique opportunity for a few leading practitioners to a widespread, uniform requirement. This article explores the transformation of surgical education in the United States, focusing on the standardization and dissemination of residencies during this key period. Utilizing the archives of professional organizations, it shows how surgical societies initiated and forced reform in the 1930s. It demonstrates the seminal and early role taken by the federal government in the expansion of surgical residencies through incentivized policies and, especially, the growth of the Veterans Administration health system after World War II. Finally, an examination of intra-professional debates over this process illustrates both the deeper struggles to control the nature of surgical training and the importance of residency education in defining the midcentury American surgeon.
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