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Hospital for Special Surgery, Founded During the Civil War, Celebrates 150 Years with Symposium

Noted historians and leading researchers to discuss evolution of medicine from “Dark Ages” of Civil War to present. Program will also highlight medical advances and health-care challenges for the future.

New York—April 22, 2013

An upcoming symposium will offer highlights of the 150-year history of Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) and at the same time provide a fascinating look at the evolution of medicine from the “Dark Ages” of the Civil War period to modern medicine as we know it today. Speakers will also discuss the latest medical advances and the coming economic changes that will significantly affect the future of health care.

The two-day conference, “Honoring the Past, Envisioning the Future,” will take place Friday, May 3, and Saturday, May 4, at the hospital, which is marking its 150th anniversary in May.

Internationally recognized for leadership in orthopedics and rheumatology, Hospital for Special Surgery had its beginnings during the Civil War. A number of noted Lincoln and Civil War scholars, including Ronald C. White, Jr., Ph.D., and Harold Holzer, will be speaking at the symposium. Holzer is one of the country’s leading authorities on Abraham Lincoln and the political culture of the Civil War era. White is the author of “A.Lincoln: A Biography” (2009), a New York Times bestseller. His Lincoln biography won the Christopher Award in 2010, which salutes books “that affirm the highest values of the human spirit.”

“Medical historians often refer to the Civil War era as the ‘medical Middle Ages,’” said Thomas P. Sculco, M.D., surgeon-in-chief at HSS. “Injuries we successfully treat today by taking an x-ray and fixing a fracture were treated by a 15-minute amputation during the Civil War. It was not yet known that bacteria cause diseases, and many soldiers died from these injuries from devastating infections,” said Dr. Sculco, who will lead the Friday program.

“Most Civil War casualties were not from gunshots and other battlefield wounds, but from diseases and infections that were rampant at that time,” explained Dr. David B. Levine, who helped organize the symposium and will be discussing Special Surgery’s early beginnings. “Before Abraham Lincoln could end the war, as many as 500,000 soldiers died of diseases and infections, while 250,000 died from battlefield injuries. Antibiotics had not yet been invented,” added Dr. Levine, author of “Anatomy of a Hospital,” a new book that chronicles the history of Hospital for Special Surgery.

After the opening session that will cover the Civil War era, Lincoln and advances that changed the face of medicine in the 19th and 20th centuries, the conference will feature important issues in modern-day medicine, patient perspectives, health-care economics and current research.

“The symposium begins with the past and brings us up to the present to show the extraordinary medical advances that have taken place and what lies ahead for the future of orthopedic care,” said Louis A. Shapiro, Hospital for Special Surgery president and CEO. “Leading investigators from HSS and other prominent institutions will discuss the latest research to find new and better approaches to treat and prevent arthritis and other debilitating conditions.”

The following is a partial list of symposium topics:

  • New York, the Era of the Civil War, and Hospital for Special Surgery
  • Lincoln and the Civil War
  • NYC and the Political Culture of the Civil War Era
  • Inspirational HSS Patient Narratives: patient who climbed Mt. Everest after hip replacement; post-polio patient describes his scoliosis care in 1968
  • Global Healthcare and the Economics of Medicine
  • Challenges of Building an Orthopedic Hospital in Ghana
  • The Journey to Accountable Care: Past, Present, and Future
  • Genes, Viruses and the Future of Medicine
  • The Reversibility of Skeletal Disease
  • Current Concepts in Cartilage Repair
  • Developing New Therapies for Osteoarthritis
  • How Robots are Impacting Orthopedic Surgery
  • What Might it Take to Find a Cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis?

View a complete list of TOPICS and SPEAKERS.

The conference will also feature a preview of a short documentary on the history of HSS.

The symposium takes place Friday, May 3, and Saturday, May 4, starting at 7:30 a.m., in the Richard L. Menschel Education Center, Second Floor, at Hospital for Special Surgery, 535 East 70th Street (between York and FDR Drive).

The new book, “Anatomy of a Hospital,” will be available for purchase at the event.



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