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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/32158

Title: Men of Strong Opinions: Identity, Self-Representation, and the Performance of Neurosurgery, 1919-1950
Authors: Gavrus, Delia Elena
Advisor: Dacome, Lucia
Mazumdar, Pauline M. H.
Department: History and Philosophy of Science and Technology
Keywords: history of medicine
professional identity
Issue Date: 29-Feb-2012
Abstract: This thesis explores the ways in which American and Canadian neurosurgeons fashioned their professional identity in the period between 1919 and 1950. This dissertation is an exploration of the ways in which American and Canadian neurosurgeons fashioned their professional identity in the formative period of the specialty’s history. Part I argues that an ethos of elitism and exclusionism structured the cultural landscape of the specialty and was reflected in the membership policy of the Society of Neurological Surgeons and the Harvey Cushing Society, which screened for certain moral and professional values. The meetings of the societies opened with surgical performances designed to encourage particular technical practices, to negotiate and standardize procedures, and to demonstrate the prowess of the neurosurgeon. In theatrical performances at these meetings the neurosurgeons also created a distinctive type of masculinity, which was inflected with a feminine resonance. Part II outlines the extraordinary professional success of the neurosurgeons in the 1930s and 1940s when they assumed leadership of neurological institutes. Wilder Penfield’s effort to build such an institute in Montreal led him to challenge the authority of clinical neurologists by claiming therapeutic superiority and by engineering a public debate about the future of these related specialties. Jurisdictional disputes between neurosurgeons and neurologists played out in animated rhetorical performances at the meetings of professional societies and illustrate the divergent ways in which these specialists envisioned medical specialization. Neurosurgeons cleaved neurology along therapeutic lines, while neurologists, attempting to regain conditions lost to neurosurgeons and psychiatrists, sought authority over all organic and functional disorders. Part III charts the neurosurgeons’ growing authority in popular culture. Although popular representations testify to an increasing glamorization of brain surgeons over the first half of the twentieth century, these narratives reveal culturally contingent tensions. The ideal cure for brain tumors was portrayed as medical, not surgical, while the public expressed an ambivalent reaction to the violence to both body and mind that brain surgery appeared to threaten.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/32158
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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