Friday, March 27, 2015

Artifact Spotlight, History of Vaccines Edition: Istúriz Vaccinator

Today's artifact caught my eye while pulling items to display for a recent tour: It's a c. 1940s "Istúriz style" vaccinator kit, complete with vaccinator handle, tweezers, vaccinator tips and racks, as well as printed instructions in English and Spanish. The kit was designed to administer the smallpox vaccine in large populations.

Close-up view of the kit
The printed instructions emphasize the efficient, and relatively painless qualities of his vaccination process: "The operation is very quick in itself; no blood is seen, no pain is felt, and there is no reason for the operator to touch with his fingers, even slightly, the part affected."

Detail of the illustration in the kit's printed instructions (English side)

Dr. Jesús María Istúriz was born in Venezuela, where he received his medical training at the Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas. In 1936 he was commissioned by the Ministry of Health to conduct a study of public health practices in the United States. He patented his vaccinator in the United States, Cuba, and Venezuela, where it was used for administering vaccines in both healthcare and agriculture.[1] Dr. Istúriz's 1937 U.S. patent application explains, "The object of the invention is to provide an improved technique and apparatus through which successive vaccinations against smallpox may be effected upon large numbers of persons, with great rapidity, without pain to the individual and with absolute safety against the infection of one person from another."[2]

According to the CDC, smallpox was eliminated in the United States in 1949, and the last naturally occurring case in the world was in Somalia in 1977. As a result, routine vaccination against smallpox was deemed no longer necessary.[3] Today, the United States currently maintains enough vaccine to vaccinate everyone in the country in the case of a smallpox emergency. 

Thanks to vaccines, smallpox has been effectively eradicated from the world. But Dr. Istúriz's larger concern of providing efficient, safe vaccination of populations is still a matter of urgency for world public health officials: The World Health Organization's World Immunization Week 2015 is coming up on April 24-30, 2015, with the theme, "Close the immunization gap," a focus on providing equitable access to vaccines worldwide under the Global Vaccine Action Plan of 2012. Under GVAP, countries are aiming for vaccination coverage of ≥90% nationally and ≥80% in every district by 2020.[4]

In anticipation of the worthy objectives of World Immunization Week, in the coming month I'll be posting more materials related to the history of vaccines and the successful eradication of preventable diseases in Oregon and worldwide. 

[1] “Biografía de Istúriz, Jesús María,” Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas (IVIC),

[2] Jesús María Istúriz, “Vaccinating Method and Means,” US Patent 2 131 284A, issued Sept. 27, 1938. Accessed via

[3] “Smallpox Fact Sheet: Vaccine Overview,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Emergency Preprardness and Response,

[4] “Fact Sheet No. 378: Immunization Coverage,” World Health Organization Media Centre,

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

New Accession: Multnomah County Division of Public Health

I was showing you, dear readers, our Scroll of Nursing Uniform Changes last week and wanted to bring to your attention some more materials which were donated alongside the scroll.

New publications on nursing, public health and VD clinics.
Above are the publications we received as part of the transfer which include a microfilm index, list of VD clinics, a history of Public Health in Oregon and a Multnomah County Department of Medical Services, Division of Public Health Annual Report from 1967-68.  All in great condition.  We also received a second copy of OPHA proceedings which I am excited to store next to our current copy.  I tend to keep at least two copies of publications that are somewhat more uncommon.
Photos of Public Health workers.
Included in the transfer was a packet of photos from an early 1960s State Board of Health Meeting.  The top photo includes Mike Gleason - County Commissioner, Julie Sheldon--Director of Nursing, County Health, and Dr. Hanson--also related to County Health.  The picture on the lower right contains the same individuals and the one on the lower left includes members of the Oregon State Lab and Dr. Adolph Weinzirl, who was faculty at the University of Oregon Medical School before becoming Chief of the Public Health Department.
Public Health Scrapbook
We received two scrapbooks as part of the deal as well.  These scrapbooks mainly contain newspaper clippings related to public health initiatives and issues in Multnomah County.  While photographing this I noticed one of the articles, let's check it out in closer detail:
Light-bulb moment
Dear readers, you know the faucet handles that are handle-like, long and narrow with an upturned end?  I had always figured that was simply to make grasping the handle easier.  Did you know that it was a public health measure?  According to this article, those handles, as opposed to the knob styled ones, were developed so that folks could turn the water on and off using their wrists or inner forearm.  And here I had thought they were because the knob ones could be hard to turn with wet hands!  You learn something new everyday.
Till next week when I have something "hot" to show you!

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Scroll of Nursing Uniform Changes

We received a unique donation this week from one of our allies at the School of Nursing, Elaine Mahoney, RN., MPH., who also served on the Archives Committee at SoN (the SON Archives Collection is at HC&A and open for research).  Elaine has been working on a way to track the changes in nursing uniforms through out the school's history and on Tuesday I was presented with this:
A mysterious scroll?

Elaine and I unwrapped this donation and she explained the resulting tabular data to me.  On the top row of the table we have the year in chronological order, along the side column is the type of uniform (dress, apron, cloak, etc.) and in the boxes are the changes that happened to the uniform during that year.
Example of years with many changes.

Included are notes on acronym usage.
This excellent resource will be housed along with the SON Archives Collection Finding Aid and linked to the textile materials in that collection.  We anticipate the information being extremely useful in several cases, for instance if a patron or colleague has a uniform that we need to date, this chart will go a long way towards helping accomplish this goal.

Meg Langford, HC&A's Public Services Coordinator and I are discussing whether to digitize the document or whether to create a table in Excel so we have something to send distance-patrons-- or both!

A big "Thanks!" to Elaine for creating this information and sharing it with us.

I'll be back next week with more New Accessions.

Till then!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

New rare book acquisition: Medical Women by Sophia Jex-Blake

Last month we were lucky to acquire a copy of Sophia Jex-Blake's Medical Women: A Thesis in History. First published in 1872, ours is the expanded second edition, published by Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier in Edinburgh, 1886.

It's bound in rather flamboyant bright scarlet cloth with gold lettering!

Sophia Jex-Blake was one of the first female physicians in Great Britain. She was a leading advocate for women's rights and medical education for women. Interestingly, our copy of the book has the signature of Thomas B. Jex-Blake, and a note presenting the book from Miss Th. B. Jex-Blake to a Dr. Wyatt.

As "Thomas" appears to be the preferred name for men in the Jex-Blake lineage, it will take more research to determine how this individual is related to Sophia, and who Dr. Wyatt might be.

One of the most interesting parts of the book is a detailed account of the Surgeons' Hall Riot in Edinburgh. In 1870, hundreds of protestors blocked seven women medical students (known as the "Edinburgh Seven") from entering the school for an anatomy lecture. Withstanding verbal and physical abuse, the women finally accessed the building. The riot was the culmination of an ongoing, organized campaign to harass and threaten the women students. However, media coverage of the riot created public sympathy for the women students, and broadened support for medical education for women. Unfortunately, the university eventually refused to graduate the students. Soon after, Sophia Jex-Blake founded the London School of Medicine for Women. Most of the original seven women from Edinburgh attended the school.

Medical Women will be cataloged for the History of Medicine Collection, and available for research in our reading room.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Exhibit Snapshots: Dental Anomalies featured in "Impressions in Time"

It's been a lot of fun showing visitors our winter exhibit, "Impressions in Time: The Growth of the OHSU School of Dentistry," which was beautifully curated by University Archivist Max Johnson. In preparation for a poster display at the upcoming Oregon Dental Convention (April 9-11 at the Oregon Convention Center), we had occasion to photograph the exhibit and its artifacts. I just had to share these "glamour shots" of the biggest crowd-pleasers of the exhibit, the Ernest Starr Memorial Museum of Dental Anomalies. 

From the exhibit text:
For the last 60 years, this collection was housed in the Marquam Hill School of Dentistry building, where it was a regular fixture in the lives of many in the School of Dentistry.  The collection includes a wide variety of dental anomalies collected by Dr. Ernest E. Starr (North Pacific Dental College Class of 1907) from his patients and those of his colleagues.  The collection was donated by Dr. Starr in 1946 and was housed in the school until 2014.   The collection contains over 500 specimens of dental anomalies, including examples such as  a four-rooted upper molar, hypercementosis, and calculus on a lower anterior. 
Originally stored in a glass case on a plywood display stand with labels, OHSU Historical Collections & Archives worked with the School of Dentistry to relocate the collection to a secure storage space in 2014.  Archives staff housed the collection in archival storage containers and make every effort to ensure the preservation of these fascinating objects for future generations.
Apparently the dental anomalies were sometimes known colloquially among SOD faculty & students as the "freaky teeth" - take a gander at these specimens and you may understand why!

The collection has a whole exhibit case to itself - and these aren't even all of them!

In the land of the dental anomalies...
According to the collection's original index, this specimen & x-ray set is an example of "[r]esorption – lower 2nd molar by impacted 3rd molar" 

This is actually my favorite shot of the anomalies - It looks like it belongs in the opening credits of "American Horror Story"!
As great as these photos are, you really have to see the specimens in person to appreciate the uniqueness of these artifacts. Come and visit our exhibit, "Impressions in Time: The Growth of the OHSU School of Dentistry" in the OHSU Library, on the 3rd floor of the BICC at OHSU's Marquam Hill campus. The dental anomalies await!

Update: Check out this great video of Dr. Henry Clarke talking about the collection and other SOD artifacts, when they were on display in the former SOD building, as first posted by Maija in 2012: