In class, we talked about the fact that physicians we completely different than surgeons in the Medieval times, and a question was asked as to what caused these differences. I stated that in a paper that I read by Dr. David A. Bloom of the University of Michigan, he emphasized that in the Hippocratic Oath, physicians were not allowed to wield a knife to cure their patients. A translation of the Oath reveals this statement:
“I will not use the knife, even upon those suffering from stones, but I will leave this to those who are trained in this craft.”
The people trained in this craft were surgeons, those who used implements to cut a human’s body in order to heal. I spoke with Dr. Bloom last week, and he said that in England, where he worked for some time, physicians and surgeons are still somewhat separate entities. For example, internal medicine practitioners are referred to as “Doctor”, while surgeons are referred to as “Mister”. Dr. Bloom showed me his name plate from England which had “Mr. Bloom” inscribed in it.
Today in America, doctors and surgeons are usually thought of as very similar. Both must go to undergrad and medical school, and both must complete residencies, which are at least 4 years. In most cases today, surgeons receive more formal training than internal medicine practitioners.
A brief history of surgery can be found on this website:
Some information on the life of a surgeon/internist can be found at this website.