March 30 Is National Doctors' Day

Doctor giving high-five to boy in corridor
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National Doctors’ Day falls on March 30 each year. It was established to recognize physicians, their work, and their contributions to society and the community. It's interesting to look into the history of this annual event because it commemorates a breakthrough in medicine.

History

The holiday was officially signed into U.S. law in the early 1990s by President George Bush.

The history of Doctors’ Day dates back to the early 1930s, however.

It was conceived by Eudora Brown Almond, a physician’s wife in Georgia. She chose the date of March 30 because it is the anniversary of the day that surgical anesthesia was first administered to a patient. This was an innovation by Dr. Crawford W. Long in 1842 in Georgia.

The Invention of Anesthesia

American physician Crawford Long noticed that his friends felt no pain when they injured themselves while staggering around under the influence of the recreational use of ether. He immediately thought of its potential in surgery.

Conveniently, a participant in one of those "ether frolics," a student named James Venable, had two small tumors he wanted to be excised. Fearing the pain of surgery, Venable kept putting the operation off. Long suggested that he have his operation while under the influence of ether. Venable agreed, and on March 30, 1842, he underwent a painless operation.

However, Long did not announce his discovery until 1849.

Celebrations

The very first Doctors’ Day in 1933 consisted of a few doctors’ wives putting together a luncheon for the local physicians in Winder, Georgia, northeast of Atlanta. This first observance included mailing greeting cards and placing flowers on graves of deceased doctors.

On March 30, 1958, the "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 Doctor's Day. Following overwhelming approval by both houses of Congress, on October 30, 1990, President George Bush signed S.J. RES. #366 (which became Public Law 101-473) designating March 30th as "National Doctor's Day."

Today, National Doctors’ Day is commemorated in a variety of ways. Some hospitals and employers offer a variety of perks to doctors on this day, including luncheons, gifts, or pampering them with spa treatments. As with any holiday, a number of companies have contributed to the commercialism of the holiday. This includes greeting cards from Hallmark and other companies who sell products specifically for Doctors’ Day.

Historically, a card or red carnation may be sent to physicians and their spouses, along with a flower being placed on the graves of deceased physicians.

International Doctors' Days

Other nations also have a day to honor physicians. The date often has significance in the life of a prominent doctor from that country.

  • In Cuba, this holiday (December 3) commemorates the birthday of Carlos Juan Finlay, a Cuban physician, and scientist recognized as a pioneer in yellow fever research. 
  • In India on July 1, Doctor's Day honors the legendary physician Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy.
  • Vietnam founded Doctor's Day on February 28, 1955. The day is usually celebrated there on February 27.

A Word From Verywell

National Doctors' Day is a good time to tell the doctors you know that you appreciate their hard work and dedication. Whether it's a card, a red carnation, or a simple "thank you," it's a kind gesture for those professionals charged with caring for our health.

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View Article Sources
  • U.S. Congress. S.J.Res.366 - A Joint Resolution to Designate March 30, 1991, as "National Doctors Day." Congress.gov.
  • Crawford W. Long Museum. Our History. Crawford Long.org.