In 1953, Virginia Apgar published the article "A Proposal for a New Method for Evaluation of the Newborn Infant" about her method for scoring newborn infants directly after birth to assess their health and whether medical intervention was necessary. Apgar worked at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, New York, as an obstetrical anesthesiologist, a physician who administers pain medication during childbirth. In that capacity, she sought to reestablish clear scoring guidelines for newborn infants so that she could compare which obstetric practices, pain relief methods, and resuscitation methods worked the best during and after childbirth. She published her article in Current Researches in Anesthesia and Analgesia in 1953, and the Apgar scoring system is still used in hospitals around the world as of 2016. In the article, Apgar establishes a scoring system for newborn infants that allows for quick assessment of their health directly after birth and therefore swift intervention by medical personnel to promote healthy development.
William Stewart Halsted was a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, during the late 1800s and early 1900s. In 1894 Halsted described his procedure for treating breast cancer by removing the breast tissue, chest muscles, and lymph nodes in the armpit, a procedure he named radical mastectomy, and that became the standard of care for treating breast cancer until 1970. He also made contributions to other novel medical procedures such as gallbladder surgery, blood transfusions, antiseptic techniques, anesthesia use, and using plates and screws to hold bones in position when setting bone fractures. At Johns Hopkins Hospital, Halsted established a surgical training program in which he allowed medical students and surgical residents to shadow him and perform procedures under his guidance. In the twentieth century, similar training programs spread across the country and informed the standardization of medical training. Halsted devised a surgical treatment for breast cancer and reshaped the way physicians practiced medicine in the twentieth century, which resulted in better health outcomes through more careful surgical methods, especially in women with breast cancer.
The 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade was a significant event in the story of fetal personhood—the story of whether embryos and fetuses are legal persons. Roe legalized abortion care in the United States (US). However, the story of fetal personhood began long before the 1970s. People have been talking about embryos, fetuses, and their status in science, the law, and society for centuries. I studied the history of fetal personhood in the United States, tracing its origins from Ancient Rome and Medieval England to its first appearance in a US courtroom in 1884 and then to the Supreme Court’s decision in 1973.
In 1894, William Stewart Halsted published The Results of Operations for the Cure of Cancer of the Breast Performed at the Johns Hopkins Hospital from June, 1889, to January, 1894, in the medical journal Annals of Surgery. In the article, Halsted describes the results from fifty of his operations on women with breast cancer, performed at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Those operations involved a surgical procedure Halsted called radical mastectomy, which consists in removing all of the patient’s breast tissue, chest muscle, and underarm lymph nodes. Halsted’s surgery effectively cured breast cancer in a time period when no other effective treatment options were available. The radical mastectomy remained the standard of care from the 1890s to the 1970s as a means of treating a type of reproductive cancer common to women.
During the twentieth century, Austin Bradford Hill researched diseases and their causes in England and developed the Bradford Hill criteria, which comprise the minimal requirements that must be met for a causal relationship to be established between a factor and a disease. Hill also suggested that researchers should randomize clinical trials to evaluate the effects of a drug or treatment by monitoring large groups of people. In addition, Hill advocated for case-control studies, in which researchers compare a group of people with a medical condition to a group without that condition to investigate the condition's possible causes. Hill's own work with clinical trials and case-control studies helped him prove that smoking caused lung cancer. The Bradford Hill criteria have also been used to establish causal links between factors and cancer, including reproductive cancers such as human papillomavirus that causes cervical cancer.
Percivall Pott was a physician in England during the eighteenth century who identified soot as the cause of chimney sweeps' scrotal cancer, later called testicular cancer. In the 1770s, Pott observed that scrotal cancer commonly afflicted chimney sweeps, the young boys sent up into chimneys to clean away the soot left over from fires, and he hypothesized that the soot inside chimneys might cause that type of cancer. Pott was one of the first doctors to identify some environmental factor as causing cancer. Pott's research helped chimney sweeps to prevent scrotal cancer by using protective clothing, and it also allowed for future research on environmental causes of cancers.