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Gold-Headed Cane Award


The Gold-Headed Cane Award is the pinnacle to which a Mount Sinai physician may aspire. This award is rarely presented, and only then to the physician who best represents the professional and personal traditions of Mount Sinai.

This award was established in 1941 by Bernard S. Oppenheimer, MD (H. 1904), Chief of the First Medical Service. The cane, which is passed on to succeeding generations, is a replica of a cane that is in the library of the Royal College of Physicians in London. In remarks given in 1982 when he passed the golden cane to Arthur Aufses, Jr., MD (H. 1957), Morris Bender, MD (H. 1934), described the meaning of the original cane:

"The history of the gold-headed cane, which was carried by a series of distinguished physicians, began in London in the 17th century. It was first carried by a Dr. Radcliffe from 1689 to 1714 and it accompanied him on many consultations. He was known by royalty for his medical skills. He treated King William III for asthma with success, but he could not cure the fatal smallpox of Queen Mary. Radcliffe explained the medical failure with the excuse, which is used to this day, 'I have been called too late.' "

He was not the most learned physician, but he was the most popular. In 1714, Dr. Radcliffe passed his cane to Dr. Mead, an accomplished and liberal scholar. He was the most illustrious practitioner of the mid-eighteenth century. Among his patients was Sir Isaac Newton, who he treated for a bladder stone in 1726.  He was also physician to King George II and other members of the royal family. Subsequently, the cane was passed on to other eminent physicians. The last recipient was Dr. Matthew Baillie, a distinguished practitioner and pathologist who died in 1823. Two years later his widow donated the cane to the Royal College of Physicians in London where it has remained to this day.

Dr. Oppenheimer, a former Alumni President, appreciated the value of tradition and had a replica cane made. On February 10, 1942, Dr. Oppenheimer presented the cane to Eli Moschcowitz, MD (H. 1903), then Chief of the First Medical Service. It became the custom that the cane is passed along when retirement age is met, or is chosen by the current holder and any former honorees still living.

Holders of the Gold-Headed Cane

Eli Moschcowitz, MD

George Baehr, MD

Ralph Colp, MD

Solomon Silver, MD

Morris Bender, MD

Arthur H. Aufses, Jr., MD

David Sachar, MD

Donald Gribetz, MD

Harry Spiera, MD
Jerome Waye, MD

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