Monday, December 11, 2006

Minutes for a lifetime: University of Oregon Board of Regents

This morning, one of our patrons accessed one of our unprocessed collections in her efforts to locate information on Grace Phelps, early director of the Multnomah Training School for Nurses (the first incarnation of the OHSU School of Nursing--SoN now has an endowed professorship named after Phelps, and there's a small blurb about her on the web site).

An unprocessed collection is one that has not yet been fully arranged and described by our Archivist, Karen Peterson. This generally means that we have some vague notion about what is contained in the box(es), but no sense of exactly what information lies within. Since it was down in the History of Medicine Room already anyway, I decided to take a peak into 2004-022, a.k.a. Medical School Committee, Board of Regents, Doernbecher Children's Hospital Records.

Turns out that the temporary collection name is only half the story: the collection (a single old-fashioned binder, half-filled with blank sheets) contains the minutes of the UO Board of Regents meetings that dealt with either Doernbecher Memorial Hospital for Children or the Medical School proper. The meetings were held between 1926 and 1929.

Because I couldn't restrain myself, I glanced through some of the bullet points. Here are a few tidbits:

Right off, I notice that the first meeting was being held in the offices of Lawrence & Holford. Interesting! Why? Not on university grounds, but in the offices of the "university architect," about whom we've learned so much over the past few months as we investigated campus architecture. Discussed in the minutes are all the expenses related to construction of Doernbecher, outstanding bills, donations and appropriations. "Blanket warmers etc." provided by Albatross Metal Furniture Co.--sounds comfy!

Close on the opening of the building (Aug. 16, 1926), the committee wanted Ralf Couch to approach Otis Elevator, to see what it would cost to change the elevator to "automatic control." Too much HIPAA non-compliance in front of the elevator attendant already?

Schedule of hospital rates for Doernbecher approved at the Aug. 30, 1926, meeting set rates for a private room at $7.00 per day, with major surgery costing $10. If you wanted anesthesia with that major surgery, that would set you back another $10.

In an important note for the history of the nursing school, Miss Phelps reports on March 14, 1927, that "several schools of nursing in the state are eager for affiliation with the Doernbecher Hospital." This was the start of the pediatric rounds which students in various nursing programs in the Portland area would make through the wards of Doernbecher.

While the Board clearly respected Miss Phelps' authority (she was "given authority to manipulate the pay roll within budget limits" in the April 25, 1927 minutes), you can still see evidence of her struggle to elevate the status of the nursing school within the institution: "Miss Phelps made a special report of her trip to New York to the Conference on University Relations with Schools of Nursing, one of the main decisions of the conference being that thos[e] present unanimously agreed that nursing units should be established definitely as a separate school and not as a part of a department of a school" (March 19, 1928)

Interestingly, we see in the Jan. 7, 1929, minutes this counterposed note from Dr. Richard Dillehunt: "[He] presented the matter of establishment of a Nurses' Training School in the University, either as a separate school of nursing administered by a Dean, or as a department of the School of Social Hygiene." Not very welcoming...

And that's where I really had to stop because, sadly, I have other work waiting! If you're interested in following the rest of the story of how the School of Nursing developed, check out Professor Emerita Barbara Gaines' history. As for the many other fascinating facts in the Board of Regents Medical Committee Minutes--come check them out for yourself!

P.S. We now have walk-in hours every Thursday noon-3:00. Appointments still required (but readily available!) for other days/times. Now you have no excuse not to drop by!

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