History of National Doctors’ Day

By Jacqueline G. Goodwin, Ed.D.

National Doctors’ Day is held every year on March 30 in the United States. It is a day to celebrate the contribution of physicians who serve our country by caring for its citizens.

The first Doctors’ Day observance was March 30, 1933 in Winder, Georgia.  Eudora Brown Almond, wife of Dr. Charles B. Almond, decided to set aside a day to honor physicians and the date chosen was the anniversary of the first use of general anesthesia in surgery. On March 30, 1842, in Jefferson, Georgia, Dr. Crawford Long used ether to anesthetize a patient, James Venable, and excised a tumor from his neck without the patient feeling any pain. Though there is some controversy as to which doctor discovered anesthesia, Dr. Long is widely accepted today as the pioneer of surgical anesthesia through inhalation of ether.

This first observance included the mailing of greeting cards and placing flowers on graves of deceased doctors. On March 30, 1958, a Resolution Commemorating Doctors’ Day was adopted by the United States House of Representatives. In 1990, legislation was introduced in the House and Senate to establish a national Doctors’ Day. Following overwhelming approval by the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, on October 30, 1990, President George Bush signed S.J. RES. #366 (which became Public Law 101-473) designating March 30 as “National Doctor’s Day.”

Do doctors celebrate National Doctors Day?

It’s possible to see some medical doctors sporting red carnations, the symbolic flower of National Doctors Day, on March 30. Other medical providers might also mark the day by distributing commemorative cards, as Eudora Brown Almond did in 1933, or small Doctors Day gifts such as lapel pins.

In her blog, ParagonFire, Kelly Cawcutt, MD, MS, pondered whether doctors actually celebrate. “I am not sure that we celebrate it in the way Hallmark would suggest,” Cawcutt writes. “I think we celebrate it not for ourselves, but in deep, sometimes wordless, appreciation of our colleagues. In recognition of the commitment and care of our colleagues. And at the end of the day, we do not toast ourselves. We toast our colleagues and silently strive to improve. To be worthy of the thank you, the note of appreciation, the calling.”

Why become a doctor?

For Dr. Jack Smith, a passion for helping others lead to a career in medicine.

“I always wanted to be able to help other people, which stated my interest in pain management,” says Dr. Smith, who recently joined the expert team of neurosurgeons at Argires Marotti Neurosurgical Associates of Lancaster.

“Because I had many family members who dealt with chronic pain, and I saw first-hand the challenges of living with pain daily, it made my decision an easy one.”

A graduate of Temple University School of Medicine, Dr. Smith completed his residency and fellowship at Virginia Commonwealth University Hospital.

“Pain steals the joy from simple things like holding hands or hugging a loved one,” says Dr. Smith, whose focus is on non-invasive, interventional pain management, such as with peripheral joint and epidural steroid injections and regenerative medicine. 

“Regenerative medicine is a unique focus in which a patient uses their own body’s healing ability,” he adds. “At Argires Marotti Neurosurgical Associates, we use platelet-rich plasma injections to accelerate the healing of injured tendons, ligaments, muscles and joints.”

Dr. Smith believes creating a customized plan of care is key to his patient philosophy. 

“My approach is listen to the patient first, consider all options and make the final goal of giving them a happier, more fulfilled life.

“I’m very excited to come to the practice to partner with this group of expert physicians.”

Does Pennsylvania have a shortage of doctors?

According to a report by The Senior List, a site that offers advice to older adults, some states are much more likely than others to see a doctor shortage. However, Pennsylvania, where 17.4 percent of the population is at least 65 years old, is not among them. The report found that Pennsylvania is the ninth least likely state to see a doctor shortage. 

Here are the report’s key findings for Pennsylvania: 

• Doctors per 100,000 residents: 311.8, well above the recommended 238 physicians per 100,000 people by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.

• Share of doctors nearing retirement age: 32.2 percent.

• Residents and fellows in accredited programs: 63.7 per 100,000 residents.

• One of the 10 states least likely to experience a physician shortage. 

Pennsylvania ranks at 50 in the nation in terms of its likelihood of a physician shortfall in the coming years, and ties with three other states: New York, Michigan and Connecticut. In comparison, the most likely state, Wyoming, ranks 140, while the two least likely states, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, rank at 24.

Did you know?

• Nearly 3 out of 4 (73%) of doctors knew before the age of 20 that they wanted to be doctors. 
-American Medical Association

• The Top 5 rated medical schools for research are Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and University of California – San Francisco. 
-Best Medical Schools: Research 2020, U.S. News & World Report

• The median level of debt for medical school graduates is $192,000, including undergraduate debt. 
-Medical Student Education: Debt, Costs, and Loan Repayment Fact Card, October 2019, American Medical Association

• Medical school graduates spend 2-7 years in residency, depending on specialty. 
-Occupational Outlook Handbook, Physicians and Surgeons, Bureau of Labor Statistics

• The average overall salary is $223,000 for primary care physicians and $329,000 for specialist physicians. 
-Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2019

• 56% of doctors spend 35-40 hours per week seeing patients. 
-Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2019

• 62% of doctors spend 13-24 minutes with each patient. 
-Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2019

• 9 in 10 doctors say they are satisfied with their career choice. 
-American Medical Association

• 27% of doctors say the most rewarding part of their job is “gratitude/relationships with patients.” 
-Medscape National Physician Burnout, Depression & Suicide Report 2019

• 61% of doctors said they would encourage others to enter the field of medicine. 
-American Medical Association