Nikolay Pirogov: 200 Years to Nowhere

I had heard of Nikola Pirogov as one of the early propounder of Anesthesia in surgery and also as the father of field surgery. It came to my attention that a BMJ Blog was written to celebrate the hero that he was HERE. I must say I did not know that he was that huge a figure in Russian Medicine.

A little more digging around revealed a lot of interesting bits of information:

  • He had treated an injured Guiseppe Garibaldi for a foot injury that he had sustained at Aspromonte
  • He was friends with the composer Tchaikowsky
  • Along with the Grand Ducess Yelena Pavlovna, he raised a corpus of well trained nurses, much like the ones Florence Nightingale is said to have started.
  • He developed a new osteoclastic method for the amputation of the foot, known as the Pirogov Amputation (I haven’t heard of it in my obscenely little Orthopedic readings!)
  • He was one of the first proponents of pegagogical methods in medical education.
  • After his death, a special for of embalming that he had devised, was used to preserve his body, which exists today, without any change. While it just takes mere dusting to keep it clean, the embalmed body of Lenin needs thorough management for maintenance (I wonder what a waste of money THAT is).

He seemed to have not just been a doctor, but also an educationist, a philanthropist and a philosopher, all rolled into one. Despite the fact that he was one of the leading lights of his day, his ideas seem to still pretty practicable. However, the author of the BMJ Blog, Vasiliy Vlassov, seems to be lamenting the fact that those lofty ideals of his were almost always shoved under the carpet. Dr. Vlassov makes no effort to hide his contempt for the politicking officials who offer a lot of lip service, but in reality do not act on their words to honor the principles of Pirogov. It seems that though there is a lot of fanfare and celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of Pirogov, there are very few endeavors being taken to implement the ideals which made Pirogov such a respected figure.

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