Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, surgeons at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Center have compiled an impressive list of surgical breakthroughs. In 1849, Dr. James Marion Sims of St. Luke's Hospital, performed the first successful repair of a vaginal fistula following childbirth. Because of this and numerous other clinical innovations, he is widely regarded as the "Father of Modern Gynecology".
In the 1880's the first use of sterile surgical gloves during surgery in the United States was introduced by Dr. William S. Halsted at the Roosevelt Hospital. Halsted later moved to Johns Hopkins University where as Chairman of Surgery, he achieved international recognition as a surgical innovator and "Father of the Modern Surgical Residency System".
In 1892, Dr. Charles McBurney, Chairman of Surgery at Roosevelt Hospital, developed the "muscle-splitting" incision for appendectomy. This innovation became the standard throughout the world and remains in widespread use to this day.
During the first decade of the twentieth century, Dr. Karl Connell, an Attending Surgeon at Roosevelt Hospital, introduced an array of life-saving devices including the Connell airway, the Connell "anesthetometer", the Connell meter for measuring gas flow during anesthesia and the gas mask used by American troops during WWI.
In 1935, the first successful removal of a cancerous lung was accomplished by Drs. Henry Lyle and Alexander Ada while working at the St. Luke's Hospital.
In 1951, the nation's first hand surgical service was created at the Roosevelt Hospital. Dr. J. William Littler, the Founder and Director of this service, was an international figure in this field. During his productive career, he was responsible for developing techniques of tendon repair, finger transplantation and methods to replace the small bones of the wrist.
In 1955, the first open-heart operation ever performed in New York was accomplished at the St. Luke's Hospital. During the next three decades, productive and distinguished cardiac surgery services flourished at both Roosevelt Hospital and at St. Luke's. It was during this period that the internal mammary to coronary artery bypass was developed St. Luke's Hospital. This technique remains a standard of coronary bypass surgery throughout the world. When the hospitals and residency programs merged in the early 1980's, a decision was made to concentrate all cardiac surgical activity at St. Luke's.