John Allan Wyeth

Doctor of Medicine

He contributed to the advancement of medical science through the development of surgical techniques and the foundation of the first postgraduate medical school in the United States.

John Allan Wyeth discovered a great need in the field of medical education - postgraduate instruction - and became the first to meet that need by establishing the New York Polyclinic Medical School and Hospital. He was also a surgeon of great skill and devised operating procedures that saved countless patients the needless suffering of older methods.

Born and educated in Marshall County, Alabama, Wyeth joined the Confederate Army at the age of 17 and took part in several battles. After the war he graduated from a two-year medical college, but he recognized early in his practice that he was not adequately prepared to take life-and-death responsibilities with the strictly theoretical training he had received. He went to New York to further his education but found there were no special courses available for medical graduates. He began to attend undergraduate lectures at a medical college, to frequent clinics in surgery and dissection, and earned a second medical degree. He remained on the staff of the medical college for five years after graduation; all the while envisioning and planning a new level of medical education. After several years of preparation, including a tour of the great medical centers of Europe to observe their methods, he opened the Polyclinic in 1881. The clinic provided, for the first time in America, systematic postgraduate instruction under specialists in a school connected with a general hospital and laboratory facilities. Wyeth served the institution for the remainder of his life, first as surgeon-in-chief, and later, as president.

Wyeth was highly honored for his operatiing techniques, chief among them being his ligation of the external carotid artery and his bloodless amputations at the shoulder and hip joints. An outstanding writer, he published biographies, history, poetry, a textbook on surgery, and numerous medical essays. He served as president of both the American Medical Association and the New York Academy of Medicine.

Elected 1954

Alabama Hall of Fame, 1968

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Created: 3/18/96