Thursday, September 14, 2006

Laurence Selling, M.D.

The other day, a patron mentioned that he had just read a recent article on the vocal tic called Tourette Syndrome and noticed that the article cited a 1929 paper by our very own former faculty member Dr. Laurence Selling. That original paper, "The role of infection in the etiology of tics," published in the Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, refuted the then-prevailing view that tics were of psychogenic origin. It's still quite influential, apparently: Web of Science lists 14 articles published since 1997 that have cited Selling's 1929 paper.

Confirmation of Selling's stature as a researcher made me even more curious about an unprocessed collection we have up in the Archives: Laurence Selling's First 100 Cases, Accession 2004-017. So I had a peek. Sure enough, the box contains patient records for cases that Selling took between July 1912 and February 1913, with some follow-up records dated as late as 1920. There is correspondence with patients as well as referring physicians thrown into the mix, too.

Flipping through the records, it was easy to imagine what his practice was like: patients came primarily from Portland, but some traveled from places as far away as Jennings Lodge, OR, and Seattle, WA. Diagnoses ranged from the mundane (obesity; tonsillitis; flatulence) to the serious (pancreatic cancer; leukemia; poliomyelitis). Some seem to retain 19th century terminology: agrypnia, catarrh, febricula. Even "nervousness" ranked as a diagnosis.

It would be fascinating to compare Selling's prescribed treatments with modern therapeutics--and then to compare outcomes. We await the researcher who will undertake that little project!

NOTE 6/20/17: The contents of this collection are restricted due to protected health information contents. Researchers wishing to access these materials must first obtain IRB approval to do so.

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