Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Live! Tonight! Smallpox Eradication in Global Context

Smallpox vaccination brochure, c. 1930s, Public Health Survey Records

We hope you can join us this evening at 5pm for Bob H. Reinhardt's lecture, "Variola Vanquished? The Complex History and Legacy of Smallpox Eradication," held in the OHSU Old Library/Auditorium (map). Come at 4:45 for mingling and snacks!

If you can't join us in person, you can watch the livestream of the event here starting at 5pm:

I'll update this post with the recorded video once it's online, as well.

See you soon!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

History of Medicine Collection spotlight: death & the physician

Today I came across a really delightful bit of medical humanities in our History of Medicine collection: Dr. Albert Scott Warthin's The Physician of the Dance of Death; a Historical Study of the Evolution of the Dance of Death Mythus in Art, published in 1931. The book explores the changing depiction of the physician figure in the evolving forms of the Danse Macabre, or Dance of Death, which originated in the late medieval period and endured with fascinating modifications over ensuing centuries.

Dr. Warthin, a pathologist and Director of Pathological Laboratories at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, lays out a personal narrative of his interest in the subject in the book's forward:

By drawing together the many images of the physician in the Dance of Death, Warthin combines visual analysis with historical references to trace the changing depiction of the physician. Warthin notes, "From the standpoint of costume alone, such a study might be worthwhile, but more important than this, it should reveal something of the physician's social standing through the ages, how and what he appears to the layman, and the latter's opinion of him" (p. 7).

I must tell you that Dr. Warthin's writing is quite lively and compelling as he journeys through the centuries, touching on the interplay of death, medicine and society in European and American cultural history. Discussing the late Middle Ages and the origins of the Dance of Death, he writes:
It was a neurotic and psychopathic age, as shown in its superstitions, its religious fanaticism, its sensuality, belief in witchcraft and magic, its pleasure in torture and the dancing manias of the Rhine villages and in a thousand other manifestations of an unbalanced and uncontrolled mentality. To the mind of the period the visions of the Apocalypse made special appeal. A natural, though pathologic, reaction to the environment of the times! (p. 6)

Warthin traces the evolution of the physician in these depictions from a complicit accomplice of death in the early modern period (see Fig. 36) to a helpless mortal, surprised and outwitted by death in nineteenth century parody and satire (Figs. 68 & 82). 

Warthin concludes with a meditation on the meaning of the physician and the Dance of Death in the aftermath of World War I, and considers changes in the portrayed relationship between death and the doctor. Discussing Walt Draesner's 1922 silhouette illustration, "Death and the Anatomist" (Fig. 91), Warthin relates that the work was dedicated to the two brothers of the artist who perished in the war. He notes, "The expression on the skeleton's face as he throttles the old Professor of Anatomy is that of tense and determined cruelty." 

The text concludes with a suggestion for a new iteration of the Dance of Death: "Out of this theme surely some inspired artist could create a Dance of Death that would serve as a memorial of the important part played by medicine in the great catastrophe." 

The Physician of the Dance of Death is available for in-person research in the History of Medicine room. Contact us to make an appointment! 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

May 24th: Variola Vanquished? The Complex History and Legacy of Smallpox Eradication

Please join us Tuesday, May 24th, at 5:00pm, for the last History of Medicine Society Lecture of the 2015-2016 season:

"Variola Vanquished? The Complex History and Legacy of Smallpox Eradication"
Bob H. Reinhardt, Willamette Heritage Center

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016 at 5:00pm
OHSU Auditorium
Light refreshments served at 4:45pm

In May of 1980, the World Health Organization declared that smallpox had been eradicated.  But in July of 2014, three forgotten vials of the smallpox virus were found at a laboratory in Maryland.  How is this possible, and how worried should we be?  The End of a Global Pox: America and the Eradication of Smallpox in the Cold War Era explains the causes, development, and legacy of global effort to eradicate smallpox in the 1960s and 1970s—a remarkable transnational attempt to master the nonhuman world that both expressed and transcended the global Cold War and the American liberal state’s emphasis on modernization and development. The eradication program that evolved in this context ultimately produced a world free of smallpox as a disease, yet still haunted by the presence of the smallpox virus in high-security laboratories and in the imagination of people throughout the globe

Bob H. Reinhardt is the author of The End of a Global Pox: America and the Eradication of Smallpox in the Cold War Era (University of North Carolina Press).  He received his PhD in history from the University of California, Davis, and is currently the Executive Director of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon, where he works in the fields of environmental and public history, in addition to ongoing research in the history of public health.
For customized driving, biking, and transit directions to the venue, please visit the interactive OHSU map: http://www.ohsu.edu/map/?id=439&mrkIid=32204  

For more information, please contact: hcaref@ohsu.edu or 503.494.5587

We hope to see you there!

Friday, March 25, 2016

OHSU Poetry Contest 2016: Call for submissions

Calling all campus poets!
OHSU students, staff, faculty and volunteers are invited to submit one to two original, unpublished poems on or before Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016, to be included in the OHSU Library and OHSU WRITEs annual poetry contest.

Prizes will be awarded for the top-rated poem in each of these three categories:
  • OHSU experience
  • Artistic excellence
  • Health and healing
The winning poems will be framed and showcased in the OHSU Library (BICC 3rd floor), and posted on the OHSU Library’s website. The winning authors in each of the three categories will receive a $50 Powell's gift card.

See the Poetry Contest 2016 page for contest guidelines and other details. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Women's History Month spotlight: Bertha Hallam, pioneering medical librarian

I almost titled this post, "Bertha Hallam was a total boss," and if you don't already agree with me, you will after reading this!

A few months ago I came across the profile, "Portrait of a Librarian," in the Summer 1965 University of Oregon Medical School's "What's Going On?" publication. Honoring Hallam's forty-six years of service (she retired in 1965, the year of publication), the piece describes her upbringing in rural Minnesota, her start as the first UOMS librarian at the NW 23rd and Lovejoy building, and her larger-than-life stature among the medical circles of the Pacific Northwest. Click each page to enlarge and read more about the woman the writer calls a "four-foot, ten-inch dynamo": 

If one looks at Hallam's long list of honors, honorary memberships, and achievements, it becomes clear how passionately she advocated for medical libraries, and how proactively she engaged with the medical communities up on the hill and around the region. She was an honorary member of Oregon State Medical Society, the Multnomah County Medical Society, the Portland Academy of Medicine, and University of Oregon Medical School Alumni Association -- that's not even counting all of her pioneering work in the Medical Library Association! 

So, how did a librarian become such a staggering figure among professional medical associations? I'd like to present you with one example of Hallam's determined advocacy efforts from the Pacific Northwest Medical Association Records. In 1931, the Pacific Northwest Medical Association was hosting their annual meeting in Seattle. Medical professionals from five states and three Canadian provinces were attending. Hallam wrote to Dr. Frederick Epplen, Secretary-Treasurer of the organization, to ask to attend and share the services and new acquisitions that the UOMS Library offered to the members as practitioners. Epplen wrote back to turn down her request:
Frederick Epplen to Bertha Hallam, April 1, 1931, Pacific Northwest Medical Association Records
Undeterred, Hallam took her request up the chain to the Dr. George W. Swift, President-Elect of the PNMA and chair of the Committee on Arrangements for the 1931 meeting, including an attached 2-page list of the services available to Northwest physicians and the new acquisitions the library offered. And when her first letter went unanswered, she persisted! 
Bertha Hallam to George W. Swift, June 16, 1931, Pacific Northwest Medical Association Records
Bertha Hallam to George W. Swift, June 22, 1931, Pacific Northwest Medical Association Records
I am especially fond of her full steam ahead approach evident in her closing line, "If I do not hear from you, Miss Ashworth and I will drive to Seattle Wednesday afternoon." I was also quite pleased to see that Clarice Ashworth Francone, medical illustrator and future head of the medical illustration department at UOMS, was also part of the plan!

So, did her persistence pay off?
George W. Swift to Bertha Hallam, June 23, 1931, Pacific Northwest Medical Association Records
I guess that got Dr. Swift's attention! 

One thing that strikes me about these documents is how they counter the narrative of the twentieth century reference librarian, sitting at the desk and passively waiting for students and faculty to come with questions. In 1931, Bertha Hallam was determinedly pursing the kind of proactive engagement with existing and potential users that liaison librarians are challenged to pursue today -- and she was quite successful! Keep in mind, Bertha Hallam was a female librarian at a relatively recently established medical library, with no postgraduate training, who managed to embed herself with numerous professional medical associations. Talk about a fearless trailblazer! We can all take a lesson from the playbook of "Miss Hallam," wouldn't you say?
Bertha Hallam in the Richard B. Dillehunt Photograph Album, circa 1920s
Happy Women's History Month!