Tuesday, October 17, 2006

We are the champions

Yesterday, a patron contacted us for a class photograph which would include a 1909 graduate--of the Willamette University Medical Department. She was aware that Willamette's medical school had merged with the University of Oregon Medical School back in the day, and assumed (hoped) that we would have records from Willamette. Alas, the merger took place in 1913, four years too late, and we never have received much in the way of records from the defunct medical school. One outstanding archival collection which we do have, the WUMD records in Accession 1999-001, dates from a period earlier than 1909. So, sadly, we had no photo or other record of the graduate in question, John Irving Russell, who went on to found a hospital in Lakeview, WA.

The story of the merger of the two schools is itself an interesting topic. The founders of UOMS had, of course, broken away from Willamette's medical school in 1887 to start a rival institution (a nice short history of the break is included in the guide for the UOMS Faculty Minutes Collection, Accession 1999-003). Competition in this case was apparently detrimental to both schools: in 1910, the Council on Medical Education rated Willamette as a C, and although UOMS was given an A rating, Abraham Flexner slammed the school in his report on medical education. So, in 1913, the schools came together again to pool resources and improve medical education in the Pacific Northwest.

Thus, UOMS went on, became the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center, then Oregon Health Sciences University, now Oregon Health & Science University. The name has changed, but the records remain. Looking in the library catalog, there are hundreds of publications by and about UOMS.

Looking in the library catalog of the Mark O. Hatfield Library at Willamette University, you'd never even know they once had a medical department!

I guess the old adage is true: history is written by the victors. Write your version of events: donate your historical materials to an appropriate repository near you!

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