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Friday, February 22, 2008

If the glove fits, wear it

Photo: Special to The Times

Have you ever wondered when and why phyisicians started wearing gloves?

Leave it to Anil Nanda to come up with such an unusual topic to deliver to a brainy group — a room filled with hundreds of neurosurgeons.

Nanda is a neurosurgeon and head of the department of neurosurgery at LSU Health Sciences center.

He discussed "Surgical Gloves and the Confederacy" at the Southern Neurosurgical Society’s annual meeting in Puerto Rico earlier this month. (That is Nanda on the far right in the photo above, shown with Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Ford (left), his wife Christine Ford and Nanda’s wife, Laura, at the session.)
In the talk, he outlined the history and development of the surgical glove, illustrating it's beginning by one of the father's of American Neurosurgery, Dr. William Halsted.

To cut to the chase of the speech, apparently, the use of gloves were helped along by a woman.

A surgical nurse and head of the surgical division of Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1889, Caroline Hampton, was from a family of prominent Southerners. She was also Halsted's wife.

Anyway, surgeon Harvey Cushing wrote that Hampton wore "a masculine garb of the plainest sort...She was one of the early nurses at J.H.H."
But here is how the gloves got started. Halsted talking: "In the winter of 1889 and 1890 the nurse (Caroline Hampton) in charge of my operating room complained that the solutions of mercuric chloride produced a dermatitis on her arms and hands. As she was an unusually efficient woman, I gave the matter my consideration, and one day in New York requested Goodyear Rubber Co., to make as an experiment two pair of thin rubber gloves with gauntlets."
Hampton inspired the gloves and was the first to wear them, according to Nanda's power point presentation.

And, as J.M.T. Finney put it: "Venus came to the aid of Aesculapius," said Nanda, in his talk.

So, if you were wondering, now you know!


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