The Roberta and Stephen R. Weiner Department of Surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
The Department of Surgery at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a community of 300 faculty and staff and nearly 100 surgical residents and clinical fellows in our acclaimed training programs.
Our training programs produce the country's future surgical leaders. Clinical excellence is the foundation upon which that leadership is built, and our residency and fellowship programs endeavor to provide both extensive technical and cognitive expertise in a variety of settings of graded supervision. All members of the housestaff hold academic appointments as Clinical Fellows in Surgery at Harvard Medical School.
In addition, our residents are invited each year to apply to the Harvard Surgical Program in Innovation (SPIN), which provides the opportunity to develop the skills required to become a surgeon-innovator. Through a series of workshops, the Harvard SPIN program exposes participants to the innovative process and teaches enabling technologies that facilitate innovation.
A Robust History
Our first Chair of Surgery, David Williams Cheever, MD (1831-1915), the son and grandson of physicians who trained under Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. was recognized as a superb surgeon and a devoted educator. In 1864 Dr. Cheever established the very first competitive examination in Boston to select incoming interns or house surgeons from among the very best applicants for surgical training. In later years, Dr. Cheever wrote:
“Experience has taught that the extraordinary and unique cases, which are, of course, to the student’s mind extremely interesting, are not as desirable as clinical material as the common diseases and injuries. The former, as they present themselves in a great hospital, should be shown to students but never at the expense of omitting the latter.”
Irving J. Walker, MD (1880-1960), who served as Chief of Surgery from the 1920s through the 1940s, established the Sears Surgical Research Laboratories in 1928, which was one of the earliest laboratories for surgical investigation in the United States. As a curious, inquisitive community, we are now supported by $16 million in research funding and are joined by more than 50 postdoctoral fellows and graduate students who work with our faculty and clinical trainees – to each own a question. In the past year, the residents, fellows, students, and faculty of our department made significant contributions to the arena of ideas through publishing some 600 scholarly articles, as well as many textbooks, in many fields of both surgery and the biomedical sciences.
Dr. Leland McKittrick, MD (1893-1978) would serve as Chief of Surgery through the 1960s and was deeply devoted to training future leaders in American medicine. During a period of great change in graduate medical education in the United States, Dr. McKittrick served for many years as member and Chair of the Council of Medical Education of the American Medical Association. He often reflected on how best to educate the next generation of surgeons:
“Human life is a frail and precious possession. Learning at the bedside or operating table should not come from trial and error but from maximum utilization of the experience of others toward the development of a pattern best suited to the individual student.”
As the central academic hub for a healthcare network of eight owned or affiliated hospitals throughout eastern Massachusetts, close to 30,000 operative procedures are currently performed each year, making Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center one of the busiest centers for surgical care in the United States, drawing patients, trainees, and faculty from around the nation and the world.
Nearing the end of his career, Dr. McKittrick reflected:
“Knowingly or unknowingly the young physician accepts responsibilities and obligations not equaled by those entering any other profession; responsibilities for the maintenance of high moral and ethical standards in his relation to his associates, to the public he serves, and to the community in which he lives.”