Thursday, June 11, 2015

Saint Luke the Physician and His Contribution as a Surgeon

By John Sanidopoulos

St. Luke the Physician was born Valentin Felixovich Voyno-Yasenetsky in 1877. He was an outstanding surgeon, the founder of purulent surgery, a spiritual writer, a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the archbishop of Simferopol and of the Crimea since May 1946. In the year 1898, he began his studies at the Medical School of the University of Kiev. He was a laureate of the Stalin Prize in medicine in 1946. His repose was in 1961.

His contribution to local anesthesia was huge, using in general anesthesia chloroform and ether. Very often it is said that local anesthesia is much more dangerous than surgery itself. But St. Luke was an advanced personality, and always used a photographic camera to photograph all the incidents he operated on.

St. Luke used to say that to perform a surgery, you must have the eye of an eagle, the heart of a lion and the hands of a woman, thus describing the precision a surgeon should have.

Before he operated, he would light an oil lamp before an icon, pray, and with a medical gauze do a cross over the patient's body.

His most important work in medicine is Purulent Surgery Essays published in 1934. This is still a reference book and a manual for surgeons. Every generation of surgeons in Russia has studied it, and no physician in Russia could give their exams unless they first studied this text. It is a medicine book primarily written with much love and contains much knowledge, as it contains details about every type of surgical operation.

When St. Luke was studying in medical school, he would tell his fellow students that he wanted to become a physician of the common people, because his primary objective in studying medicine was to help the poor. When they answered that he was a scientist with special gifts, the Saint would become upset because they did not understand him and had another mentality.

Even while being a cleric after the premature death of his wife, and being persecuted by the Stalinist regime, and defamed, imprisoned and exiled, he never stopped operating on anyone who sought his help. He would teach young surgeons and students, write important studies and books on surgery, and lived through two World Wars.

Although his scientific studies and contributions have been enormous, and he is an example to surgeons throughout the world, his spiritual contribution is greater, to the point that he is beloved by Orthodox Christians throughout the world and a recognized Saint (commemorated on June 11th), performing numerous miracles until today through his relics and icons and intercessions in general. In his day his patients would say that they had never known a surgeon like St. Luke, and there would never be anyone like him again, and his bust outside the hospital in Krasnoyarsk is a living memorial to his scientific and spiritual contribution.