Red Letter Day

As word of the Lakeside Unit’s service spread, requests to visit the American Ambulance to view Crile’s techniques came from medical personnel from as far away as Japan. In response to these requests, Crile organized a special day at the American Ambulance on which the greatest minds in medicine (those not on the Front) gathered to witness the Lakeside Unit in action.

On February 6, “Red Letter Day” as Crile called it, Sir Almroth Wright (discovered the typhoid vaccine), Sir Berkeley Moynihan (British surgeon), Dr. Helm (French medical writer), Théodore Tuffier (French surgeon), Alexis Carrel (French surgeon and Nobel Laureate), and Henry Dakin (English chemist) visited the American Ambulance to observe surgical procedures performed by members of the Lakeside Unit. Upon request, nurses and junior members from other services attended the operations and all were treated to a lantern slide program showing the histological changes in brains, adrenals and livers.

The day long program, patterned after meetings of the American College of Clinical Surgery, began with tours of the hospital and dental clinic, after which participants observed surgery using nitrous oxide anesthesia and laboratory demonstrations.  The more than 100 attendees saw everything from neurological cases, to fractured bones, to maxillo-facial trauma. The afternoon session offered 15 minute presentations by the distinguished guests.

Captions for the photographs in this module were taken from Dr. Crile’s diaries and letters written by Benjamin Jablons, pathologist at the American Ambulance, which were submitted to the New York Medical Journal in 1915.