In 1951 the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists chose St. René Goupil as their patron.
Listed as one of the North American Martyrs, St. René Goupil is well-known both for his sanctity and his medical practice.
He was a young man who volunteered to be a lay missionary with the Jesuits in New France. Before his martyrdom he was accepted as a lay brother in the Society of Jesus.
According to an article published on the US National Library of Medicine, “Goupil was a barber-surgeon, and as such, lower in the medical pecking order of the day than surgeons proper or physicians. His major duties would have been bloodletting and dressing wounds.”
Goupil practiced these duties well and proved to be a valuable asset to the Jesuit missionaries.
Goupil, with his surgical expertise in dressing wounds, proved useful at the Hôtel-Dieu. For the Relation of 1640, one of the Hospitalières reported on the case of Lazare Petikouchkaouat, “afflicted with very painful sores” which were “large and deep” and putrified. Lazare, clearly named after the poor man afflicted with sores in Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and Dives (Lk 16:19–31), “particularly loved the young man [presumably Goupil] who offered himself to our hospital to assist the poor patients; but then it must be confessed that this good young man succored him with a charity that cannot be sufficiently praised. He called this patient his consolation.”
Furthermore, St. Isaac Jogues, “asked his Jesuit superior to send Goupil to Huron country with him ‘because the Hurons had great need of a surgeon.’”
Despite his medical skill among the native people, he was ambushed by a local tribe and suffered much torture before he died.
Ever since his death René Goupil became a powerful intercessor for surgeons and was even recognized by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists as their patron.