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Featured LMS Foundation Grant Recipient: McDowell House

Featured LMS Foundation Grant Recipient: McDowell House
By Lauren Clontz, Assistant Director

How would you like to work without anesthesia or the knowledge of germs?

What if a patient came to you with an ailment that had never been cured before?

Would you break conventions and risk your reputation to save them?

Those are the questions, and the circumstances that Dr. Ephraim McDowell found himself in one cold Christmas Day in 1809. His patient had ridden for 3 days on horseback to make it to his home. He had diagnosed her a few days before, the first doctor to realize she was not pregnant. He had offered to try a risky abdominal surgery. To remove a horrendous tumor that stretched down, almost to her knees. A tumor that would undoubtedly kill her.

That surgery had never been done before. But her life depended on it.

Was he right, that it was possible?

It was.

The 22-pound ovarian cyst was removed, in an upstairs bedroom, without anesthesia or antisepsis. In just half an hour, world medical history was made.

She recovered quickly. In five days, Dr. McDowell found her on her feet, making her bed.

She went on to live another 32 years.

Generations ago, doctors like you made sure that the McDowell home would be preserved as a shrine to this amazing surgery, and the doctor who performed it. Today, the museum endures and is open for tours five days a week. Every year it receives visitors from all over the United States, and even the world.

We would like to thank the Lexington Medical Society for its longstanding relationship with McDowell House Museum. Through January 7th we are offering free tours to members of the Lexington Medical Society and their families. This Holiday Season we welcome you to visit us in Danville and see the surgery room. Bring your family, meet your friends for an afternoon, or come alone and reflect.

Please visit for available tour times, and call (859)236-2804 or e-mail to book a complimentary tour. Private tours are available upon request.  

McDowell House Museum

125 S. Second St.

Danville, KY 40422

Contact/Author: Lauren Clontz, Assistant Director