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Jose Mendonca Surgeon of the Faculty of Medicine Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Jose Mendonca

A year ago, this photo was unidentified and part of a campaign to ask College members if they could help in identifying unknown photos that were discovered in the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Archives.

The identification came to light while ACS then-archivist Susan Rishworth was perusing the volume entitled South America by Franklin H. Martin, MD, FACS, founder of the College. The volume is a travelogue/journal/diary account of Dr. Martin’s extensive travels in South America (1920-1925), for the purpose of visiting surgeons and other medical personnel who were at work in the region. It was published in 1927 by Fleming H. Revell Co. in New York, and is subtitled: Amplified to include all of Latin America; the VanDyck Cruise.

The South America volume in turn led to the early 1921 issues of Surgery, Gynecology & Obstetrics (SG&O), where some of the material was excerpted and amplified with photos of some of the surgeons mentioned. Going back and forth between the SG&O article and the South America volume, more information about Dr. Mendonca was gleaned:

Dr. Martin described Mendonca as the “Dean of Surgery” in Rio de Janeiro, having had a long and distinguished career. Mendonca and his wife and daughters entertained Dr. and Mrs. Martin in their home and showed the Martins “ his extensive library of medical and general literature in Portuguese, French, English, and German, all languages which he reads.” Mendonca’s son-in-law, Dr. Oscar Clark, served as the guide and translator for the Martins and fellow travelers. It was in the company of these gentlemen that Martin apparently first made the acquaintance of Bowman Crowell, described by Martin as an “eminent American pathologist,” who was to become an Associate Director of the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Martin mentions that it was also at this time that he spoke with Crowell about the proposed Gorgas Memorial which Martin envisioned as something like the Oswald Cruz Institute in Rio with which Crowell was affiliated.

The Doctors Mendonca and Clark took the Martins to their private workshop, as a sample of a surgeon’s office in Rio. “The building, a four-story structure with a pharmacy on the first floor, was constructed on one of the principal business streets for the exclusive use of Dr. Mendonca. It contains an elevator and every convenience and modern apparatus for which an up-to-date surgeon and physician could wish, including an x-ray apparatus, a laboratory and complete record files.” Dr. Martin also witnessed Dr. Mendonca performing operations on various occasions: once a nephrectomy under local anesthesia and once an emergency appendectomy, a complex case with a retrocaecal gangrenous appendix, on one of his students in a strange hospital where everything was new to him. Dr. Martin was impressed with Mendonca’s careful and skillful performance.

ACS Archives Highlights is a series showcasing the vibrant history of the American College of Surgeons, its members, and the history of surgery. For further information on our featured highlights, search the Archives Catalog or contact the ACS Archivist.