P&S Journal: Fall 1994, Vol.14, No.3
Kenneth B. Olson, M.D.
New Smyrna Beach, Florida
My internship at Columbia-Presbyterian started Oct. 1, 1934, and Virginia Apgar had preceded me by three months. We worked together for nearly two years on what was then Columbia-Presbyterian's Second Division, headed by Dr. Hugh Auchincloss. Dr. Allen O. Whipple headed the 1st and 2nd Divisions and the Fracture Service. Dr. Apgar fully intended to be a surgeon and was most adept with both her hands and brain. Female surgeons were scarce in that day and they had to be pushy and aggressive and mannish to succeed. Some diverted into pathology or other specialties. Surgery was not an easy life for women.
Anesthesia was administered mostly by nurses with special training, and ether was the choice of most surgeons. At about this time-1930s-more physicians were interested in this specialty. Special schools for training became available, especially one in Wisconsin, which Dr. Apgar attended.
She returned to Presbyterian Hospital as a teacher and a professor of anesthesiology. Even Dr. Whipple found it hard to adjust. If the patient became restless, he would order more ether. Dr. Apgar would put ether on a sponge and tuck it under the drapes to calm Dr. Whipple and proceed with other medication. I doubt that Dr. Whipple ever knew of this, but we other young surgeons knew and were amused. It was never discussed with Dr. Whipple.