J. Englebert Dunphy

John Englebert ‘Bert’ Dunphy (1908-1981) was an American surgeon.

Dunphy’s contribution to the surgical literature was prodigious. Described as a caring physician, a curious biologist, an enthusiastic teacher, and a profound humanist who left a legacy that consists not only of surgical teachings but also of a body of philosophy about patient care

Served as chairman of the American Board of Surgery, Board of Regents of the American College of Surgeons and received 10 honorary degrees including six honorary fellowship. Eponymously remembered for the Dunphy sign in the evaluation of appendicitis

  • Born on March 31, 1908 in Northampton, Massachusetts.
  • 1929 – AB, The College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts
  • 1933 – MD, Harvard Medical School
  • 1934 – Embarked on a surgical career at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital with Surgeon-in-Chief was Elliot Carr Cutler (1888-1947) and Chief Resident was Robert M. Zollinger (1903-1992)
  • 1940-1945 Captain in the Army; Commanding officer of the Surgical Service 5th General Hospital;
  • 1955 – Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School
  • 1963 – Hon FRCS
  • Died on December 25, 1981

Medical Eponyms
Dunphy sign (1953)

Increased abdominal pain, localised to the right lower quadrant, with coughing. [AKA *cough test; *coughing test; cough tenderness]

The patient should first be asked to cough. In the presence of acute peritoneal inflammation this usually elicits a sharp twinge of pain localized to the involved area. It is extremely valuable to elicit this “cough tenderness” and have the patient point with one finger to the exact area of pain. This localizes the area of inflammation before the examiner so much as touches the abdomen. He can thus avoid palpating this area until the remainder of the abdominal examination is completed

Dunphy 1953

Major Publications

Surgery, like war, is hard, but it is better than war. It saves lives and binds men and women of good will together in deepest friendship

Dunphy 1977



Eponymous terms


BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

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