He established the Woman’s
Hospital of New York, the
first of its kind, which became
an incubator for progressive
concepts in surgery. Years later—
noting that cancer patients could
not be admitted to hospitals
due to the misconception that
cancer was a communicable
disease—Dr. Sims opened the
New York Cancer Hospital,
which evolved over time into the
Memorial Hospital for Cancer
and Allied Diseases (now known
as Memorial Sloan Kettering).
His reputation continued
to grow both nationally and
internationally. He operated in
the U.S. and in Europe. He was
widely decorated and acclaimed,
serving as president of the
American Medical Association
in 1875 and the American
Gynecological Society in 1879.
He has been recognized as
the father of the specialties of
gynecology and infertility.
Dr. Sims, who died in 1883,
was an inquisitive innovator,
an able and talented surgeon,
and a humanitarian. It has been
said that he advanced surgery
as much or perhaps more than
any other U.S. surgeon who
lived in the 19th century.
Today, there are some health
care scholars who may discredit
parts of our heritage, largely
based on a lack of information.
Therefore, when remembering
historical pioneers and their
achievements, it is important
to note the circumstances of
that particular period of history.
Some have written that because
Dr. Sims operated on slave
women without anesthesia or
proper informed consent, he
should be disclaimed rather
than applauded. However, that
view misses the point of what
Dr. Sims accomplished in the
mid-19th century. Anarcha and
others should be celebrated
for their contributions just as
Henrietta Lacks—an African-American woman whose cells
were unwittingly used to create
the first human immortal cell
line in the 1950s—has been
acknowledged for her role in
the evolution of medicine. ♦
American College of Surgeons Archives.
Available at: facs.org/about-acs/
archives. Accessed November 19, 2016.
Cutter IS. Landmarks in surgical
progress. International abstract of
surgery. 1928. Available at: catalog.
November 19, 2016.
Massachusetts Medical Society. Marion
Sims and his silver sutures. N Engl J
Marr JP. James Marion Sims: The Founder of
the Woman’s Hospital in the State of New
York. New York City, New York: The
Woman’s Hospital; 1949.
Shingleton HM. The lesser known
Dr. Sims. ACOG Clin Rev.
2009; 14( 2): 13-16.
Sparkman RS. J. Marion Sims: Women’s
surgeon and more. Bull Am Coll Surg.
1975; 60( 3): 11-17.
Ward GG. Marion Sims and the origin
of modern gynecology. Bull N Y Acad
Med. 1936; 12( 3):93-104.
Abell I. J. Marion Sims: An appreciation.
SMJ. 1933; 26( 12).
J. Marion Sims monument in Central Park