Bronson S. Ray
1962, Houston, TX
Our honored guest in 1962, Dr. Bronson Sands Ray, clinical professor of surgery (neurosurgery), Cornell University Medical College, and chief, Department of Neurological Surgery, The New York Hospital, was born January 4, 1904, in New Albany, Indiana. Shortly thereafter his family moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he grew up and attended elementary and secondary schools. He was graduated from Franklin College, Franklin, Indiana, in 1924, cum laude, with honors in chemistry. His alma mater in 1950 bestowed upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.
His medical aspirations took him to Northwestern University where he received his M.D. degree in 1928. An early interest in both organic neurology and surgery was kindled perhaps by a brush with poliomyelitis at a young age and by living the formative years in the environment of an active general surgeon, his father, who only at the age of 87 years finally gave up the active practice of medicine in 1961. This interest was undoubtedly further abetted by extra work n neuroanatomy under Dr. Loyal Davis while Dr. Ray was still a medical school freshman, and by additional endeavors as a student assistant in Dr. Stephen W. Ranson's neurophysiological laboratories.
Still undecided as to the exact form his medical career should take, Dr. Ray served a general internship at the Wesley Memorial Hospital and a year as an assistant resident in internal medicine at the Passavant Memorial Hospital, both in Chicago. With the encouragement of Dr. Loyal Davis, he moved on to Boston as surgical house officer at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital during 1930 and 1931. In 1931 to 1932 he served as Dr. Harvey Cushing's last resident at the Brigham.
Dr. Ray was not convinced that he cared to turn his back on the broader field of surgery and, at the end of his service with Dr. Cushing, went to the newly opened New York Hospital-Cornell University Medical Center in New York, New York. Here he served for the next 4 years, in turn, as assistant resident and resident on the surgical services of the late Dr. George J. Heuer, who in the tradition of his mentor, Dr. William S. Halsted, ran a department of surgery where all phases of surgery were practiced without ubdivision. However, soon after Dr. Ray's appointment as attending surgeon to the New York Hospital in 1936, the natural affinity between him and the neurosurgical problems gradually found him, by circumstances if not by design, doing more and more neurological surgery and less and less general surgery as the former made increasing demands on his time. It was not until the mid-1940s, however, that he devoted his efforts completely to neurological surgery.
That this background has served him well is attested by his eminent position in the specialty today. It has undoubtedly convinced him that a solid background in general surgery is a prerequisite to competence in neurological surgery and undoubtedly has molded a career known for its technical excellence and masterful ability to glean from clinical practice knowledge not only regarding individual or series case studies but even basic physiological data, some previously unknown and some formerly erroneously interpreted. During his tenure as chief of the Department of Neurological Surgery at New York Hospital-Cornell University Medical Center he helped to achieve the happy situation of intimate and congenial relationships between neurosurgery and organic neurology. This not always easy conviviality has yielded such basic knowledge as the sources of intracranial pain, and the combined conferences of staff members in these two departments have been both a stimulus and a pleasure to countless medical students and physicians not primarily oriented toward the neurological specialties. Without impinging disproportionately upon the medical school's curriculum, Dr. Ray has by his lectures and conferences provided medical students with a knowledge and, more important, an approach to neurological problems in a form eagerly grasped.
Dr. Ray is now witnessing the fruition of his well conceived career, as evidenced by the innumerable honors and offices he now holds or has held in the recent past, including: secretary-general, Second International Congress of Neurological Surgery; president, Harvey Cushing Society; vice president, American Neurological Association; secretary-treasurer, Society of Neurological Surgeons; representative of the American Neurological Association on the American Board of Neurological Surgery; member, National Research Council, Division of Medical Sciences (Subcommittee on Neurosurgery); delegate from the Society of Neurological Surgery to the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies; chairman, International Affairs Committee of the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies; member, Visiting Committee for Department of Medicine, Brookhaven National Laboratory; member, Editorial Board, Journal of Neurosurgery; consulting editor as representative in neurosurgery and member of the Advisory Board, International Abstracts of Surgery, Gynecology and Obstetrics; and member of the Advisory Council, Neurological Surgeons, American College of Surgeons.
He has impressed upon his residents that their first duty is to their patients, and that, from those committed to their care, they should glean by observation and careful, long-term follow-up whatever the problems present in the way of statistical data as well as basic understanding of disease or physiological processes. He has no quarrel with those who believe that a residency should have a period of laboratory investigation, but he feels that not all are suited to best utilize such time and that risks are inherent in not getting on with the fundamental job of acquiring clinical judgment and technical skill. He has inspired in his residents some of the attitude of the skeptic, taken in its finest sense, to set out to prove no preconceived hypothesis but to evaluate results objectively
and to question established opinions if personal bservation does not bear out conclusions previously reached by others.
These are but a few of the accomplishments and qualities of this surgeon par excellence, objective observer, and commanding personality whose impressions are left indelibly on all those privileged to have had close contact with him.