Dr. Philip Syng Physick: Physician + Lecturer + Inventor

I took a recent tour that provided an overview of Dr. Philip Syng Physick’s life (1768 -1837) and his mansion, an example of the Federal Style of American Architecture.

Dr. Physick studied at the University of Pennsylvania, was known in his lifetime as the Father of American Surgery, and trained many surgeons as a Lecturer at Penn. He was responsible for the design of a number of surgical instruments and operative techniques and innovatively treating dislocations and fractures.

💡Why was I intrigued by his story?

Although he was very close to his grandfather and wanted to follow in his footsteps as a silversmith, his father Edmund Physick insisted he pursue a medical career, consistent with the family’s societal status at the time.

Can you relate to this? So many times you’re passionate about a field but society, family etc. dictate what the “right,” and often singular, path is for you.

I was happy to see that ultimately Dr. Physick tapped into his interest in silversmithing by inventing medical products and brought his multiple interests together in his contributions.

These are some of Dr. Physick’s Product and Other Contributions:

✅️ Invented the tonsil guillotine and needle forceps
✅️ Pioneered the use of the stomach pump
✅️ The first to use animal ligatures as sutures in surgery
✅️ Performed the first successful human blood transfusion
✅️ The first to practice capillary puncture of the head for hydrocephalus
✅️ Believed that dental conditions could affect the overall personal health
✅️ Treated depressed skull fractures by attempting to elevate the bone
✅️ Introduced cataract surgery to America
✅️ Used autopsy as a regular means of observation and discovery
✅️ Introduced artificial carbonated water to America for the relief of gastric disorders
✅️ Offered the first Health Insurance in America. For $20 a year, he would take care of an entire family’s medical needs
✅️ Contributed a modern referral system
✅️ Contributed the use of medical students as clinical clerks

💡What’s the takeaway?

Humans are dynamic beings with many interests, skills, talents and experiences. Lean into the things you enjoy and look for ways to bring them forward. Seek opportunities to combine them to solve a customer’s problem. Innovation usually happens at the intersection of different fields.

My love of experiential learning and research led me to this post. I took a self-guided walking tour, then I took a focused 40-minute docent-led Physick tour, performed additional research including here, wrote this and pressed Post!


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