A CHEERY CHART: Warshaw looks through Santa's lengthy medical file.
Every December for as long as many staff members can remember, a cheerful old man with a long white beard has been admitted to the MGH Department of Surgery. And each year, this jolly patient insists on leaving the hospital at midnight on Dec. 24, saying he has important “things to do.”
The tradition of caring for Santa Claus at the MGH began in the early 1950s, when a surgical resident with some downtime decided to provide a little comic relief for his colleagues. Since then, thousands of notes have been added to Santa’s medical chart by services ranging from physical therapy to the pharmacy. An article about the annual holiday custom was published in the December issue of Annals of Surgery by Gregory Ruhnke, MD, MS, MPH, an internist at the University of Chicago and former MGH resident, and Andrew L. Warshaw, MD, MGH surgeon-in-chief emeritus.
Treating Santa for whatever might ail him – whether a bump on the head from a troublesome chimney landing or the sound of bells ringing in his ears – is more than just holiday fun. Santa serves as a valuable training tool for staff and is the topic for educational discussion during Surgical Grand Rounds. But children need not worry about their holiday gifts; regardless of the medical issues Santa may face, MGH clinicians are always able to heal him right on time.
Read more articles from the 12/23/11 Hotline issue.