Friday, September 08, 2006

Botanical medicine

A recent query from a gentleman in California sent us on a rather interesting chase here: he was looking for confirmation of a story he'd heard, that cacti were under cultivation at UOMS in the 1960s in specially designed greenhouses, the subjects of research for heart therapy drugs. Since researchers here have been delving into the mysteries of the heart (medically speaking) for half a century or more, there was an overabundance of unindexed information that may have yielded clues. We have annual reports from the Heart Research Laboratory, lists of faculty publications, biographical and subject files, all of which were cursorily searched for mention of cacti.


So, I contacted Space Planning. They revealed that there were greenhouses on top of Mackenzie Hall in the 1950s and 1960s (later removed) which can be seen in some aerial photographs from the period. Of course, you can't tell what's growing inside.

So, I decided to move methodically through the publications of any pharmacologists or cardiologists on the faculty in the 1960s. I didn't have to go far down the list: Elton McCawley and H. Lenox H.J. Dick (yes, that's all just one name) did research on several plant derivatives and their effects on the heart--nothing I recognized as cactus-based, but certainly enough to assume that if anyone was cultivating succulents for heart research here, they would have known about it.

Dr. McCawley passed away in 2002, but Dr. Dick may yet be able to reveal the answer to this question...

As a side note to the search for information on UOMS-based cactus research, I discovered that cacti and cardiology go way back: the National Library of Medicine's IndexCat has entries for studies on the use of cactus derivatives in heart medicine dating back to 1883.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sport of Kings

Fans of professional American football know that today is the start of the NFL season, but they probably don't know that OHSU used to have a football team. It's unclear what the "S" in the jersey acronym MDSU Oregon stood for (perhaps Medical Department of the State University of Oregon?), but the skull & crossbones leave little room for doubt that these guys were dead serious about their play. Briggs must have been a ringer, because he does not appear on lists of alumni for the Medical School or UO more generally. The dog may have come from the animal lab.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Back to school, and a teaser

Kids everywhere go back to school after the Labor Day holiday. The shortening days, cooler air, and falling leaves make some people nostalgic for the old school days.

In 1887, it wasn't until October 5th that the first group of students at University of Oregon Medical Department (the original name, about five iterations back) were expected to show up for classes. You can get an idea of what they looked like by checking out the Class of 1889-90 photograph. Before that day, they had to make sure they met all requirements for admission, including "satisfactory evidence of knowledge of the common English branches," "a degree in arts or sciences or ... a certificate from a high school or other institution in good standing," and, of course, "payment of the matriculation fee" (which was $5.00, but there was an additional fee of $120.00 to get into the full course of lectures).

What did they study? You can see for yourself by checking out our First Class Collection, housed in the History of Medicine Room. If you can't come to the Room, you can still see the books included by looking in the library's catalog.

days of yore always seem to be simpler times, but how would you have fared dissecting bodies with 19th century tools--not to mention 19th century embalming techniques!

TEASER: Check in with us on Monday for the thrilling conclusion to the search for information about the Richfield sign. Seems we weren't the only ones wondering about that landmark lately!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Labor Day

Well, yesterday was Labor Day, traditional end of summer. It's obvious that the fashionistas have little power on campus here at OHSU: clinicians continue to walk about in their white coats without regard for the "rules" of post-Labor Day dress.

In the spirit of the holiday, I thought I'd take a moment to highlight the CROET, OHSU's Center for Research in Occupational and Environmental Toxicology. As the Center's website states: "In 1985, House Bill 2290 created a center for occupational disease research and provided continuous base funding from the State of Oregon Workers' Compensation Division. Programmatic approval and funding authority for the center was granted by the Oregon State Board of Higher Education in December 1987."

In his oral history interview, former OHSU President Dr. Leonard Laster noted that "the Legislature had set up some workers’ comp system where they had a facility for workers’ comp injuries that hadn’t worked out; you were going to go there and get your back pain cured. And they were going to close it down, and there was money available from it. And we talked them into putting two million a year in perpetuity into us to do re­search and make it workers’ comp related."

In his oral history interview last Monday, current OHSU President Dr. Peter Kohler mentioned that one of his first tasks as President in 1988 was to hire a director for the CROET; Dr. Peter Spencer continues to fill that role to this day.

So, here's to the staff of the CROET and the important work they do!