Inscription by Dr. Elliott C. Cutler to President Emeritus Eliot on flyleaf of journal.
In spring 1915, a deputation of surgeons and nurses from the Harvard Medical School travelled to Paris to join the service at the American Ambulance Hospital, giving medical aid to injured soldiers from battles taking place across Europe. The unit had been invited by Dr. Joseph Blake, one of the surgeons already working in Paris.
One of the surgeons who came from Harvard was Dr. Elliott Carr Cutler. In 1916, he put together a journal of the expedition, publishing it as A Journal of the Harvard Medical School Unit to The American Ambulance Hospital in Paris. The unit totalled 17, including surgeons, medical staff, and four nurses to work at the Hospital at Neuilly.
The Journal starts with the departure of the unit from Boston in March 1915 and concludes with an epilogue written in Canada in July of the same year, after the unit had taken over the hospital service for the intervening three months.
Cutler describes the trip, the difficulties the unit had even in getting into France through Spain (customs officers insisted on opening some boxes of chocolates that had been given as gifts and the Harvard unit only retained them with difficulty), and the final arrival and work at the Hospital. The unit took over all aspects of the Hospital work, including devising a filing system to record and store patient information. Some of the doctors took opportunity of their time in France to make tours, some to historical sites, including Versailles, but often visiting other hospitals and medical services, some very close to the front, or the front itself, under appropriate supervision from armed services.
The day-to-day medical services given to wounded soldiers receive attention, too. Cutler is dispassionate in recording what cases are brought in and what can be done for them, even saying once when discussing some discharged soldiers who were returning for further work on old wounds, “It was a considerable blow to our hopes for more cranial work, though to be sure they were wounded in the head.” (32) Despite this early breeziness, as time goes by Cutler is clearly affected by what he is seeing. As the major “season” for battles over the spring and summer advances as the weather improves, Cutler notes that the wounds become worse and the number of patients higher. Long days in the surgery are mentioned and Cutler sometimes waxes philosophical about what the overall “point” of the war might be, when the major outcome seems to be shattered bodies.
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