Friday, September 15, 2006

Early minute books: medical education in the 1920s and 1930s

In an attempt to track down some information on early research grants for a patron, I happened to have a chance to go through two archival collections of early school history: University of Oregon Medical School Faculty Minutes (Accession 1999-003) and University of Oregon Medical School Executive Committee Minutes (Accession 1999-005). The latter covers the period 1917-1919, and the former has materials dating from 1903-1969. I did find some information on grants and other research funding, along with a wealth of other fascinating tidbits.

For example, the minutes of the Faculty for Feb. 16, 1925, record that "Dr. Dillehunt presented evidence showing that a first year student ... had been advertising as a Chinese herb doctor, and explained that he had examined the student and suspended him until action by the faculty should be taken." The next meeting of the Faculty was not held until June 9, 1925, at which time Dillehunt reported that the student "had been recommended for reinstatement .... [The student] subsequently had been suspected of further practice in herb healing but had been dropped from the Medical School for poor scholarship before further action could be taken."

Chinese herbal medicine as a sideline might have appeared objectionable to the Faculty, but how much more objectionable was the conduct of other students, including two different students both named in the minutes of Nov. 24, 1925, and both expelled because they had been incarcerated on charges of larceny in two separate events. Clearly, the cost of medical education drove some students to extremes.

The price of education was dealt another small blow in December of 1935, when the minutes record that "The Dean ... approved the recommendation submitted by Miss Hallam, Librarian, providing for a system of fines for students for the non-return of reserve books .... Assessment of 25 cents for the first morning hour and five cents for each additional hour or fraction thereof for over-due material would be made." It's interesting to note how many years elapsed before these fines were raised to any significant degree.

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!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Canyon crossing

I am in the process of loading some new pictures into the OHSU Digital Resources Library (DRL), where we store and provide access to our digitized images, streaming video, and other electronic files. One of the photos I happen to be loading today is an aerial view of campus taken in the 1950s which shows the old wooden bridge that used to provide a shortcut for pedestrians across the canyon between Mac Hall and the TB Hospital. The best shot of this bridge that I have seen so far is already in the DRL here--and it looks as rickety as people say it was! As part of the Oral History Project, School of Nursing alumna Bernice Cochran and her friend Martha Watson were reminiscing about rotations from Multnomah County Hospital over to the TB Hospital, and recalled:


COCHRAN: We had six weeks there. And by then they were doing these horrible surgeries for pneumonectomies, and so on, but they were a horrible, horrible type of surgery. But thank God they're not doing it now. But we had to come across that bridge at 11:30.
WATSON: A swinging bridge.
WEIMER: A swinging bridge?
COCHRAN: It swang, believe me, because we ran. We had to come from over there, over to Emma Jones at night.

Makes you a little nostalgic for the good old days, before concrete, doesn't it?

We have many, many aerial shots of campus in the Historical Image Collection, some of which were made into a very cool little animation showing the growth of campus over time, from the 1920s to the present, by our Web Manager Laura Zeigen.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Photo preservation

Today, I have been reminded of how fragile our collections are. I went up to our storage room on the fourth floor where the bulk of our materials are stored to see about the Proof Collection, a subset of the Historical Image Collection. These photographic materials were minimally processed at some point in the past (read: placed in folders with titles like "Adminstrators" and "Medical Students" and "Research") but still needed work. We knew that the proof sheets needed to be put into Mylar sleeves to prevent damage, and we knew that we needed to get more intellectual control over the pictures (i.e., identifying the students and administrators by name on the inventory, listing what types of research activities are shown in the images).

So I thought, Hey! I'll just sleeve a folder of proof sheets each time I find myself up there, doing them one at a time to move the project along while
getting other tasks accomplished. I have a few words to describe my horror upon opening Folder One: Masking Tape. Paper Clips. Staples. Glassine negative holders. All of these things, eating into the proof sheets and their corresponding negatives. Unique photographic images that we do not hold in print format elsewhere in the Historical Image Collection, slowly being eaten by acids and marred by grease and bent around metal. It took me a full 30 minutes to properly house the handful of materials in that one folder.

I urge all of you amateur photographers to give serious thought to how you might be housing your pictures at home. We'll continue to work on our unprocessed images as fast as we can (given the ever-present constraints on time, staff, and supplies) to save the photographic history of OHSU--one folder at a time...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Richfield redux

As promised, more information on the Richfield enigma, courtesy of this morning's Oregonian:

The Richfield (oil company) sign: Lots of people were able to help S.H. of Southwest Portland, who wrote, "I've been trying for years to find someone who can tell me where in the West Hills the old Richfield sign was located."

That sign reportedly was the biggest electrical sign in North America in the 1930s. It was 725 feet long and 60 feet high, readable for 10 miles, and visible for 50 miles. It was installed in 1928 in Healy Heights on a ridge. It was on until 1931, when Richfield went into bankruptcy, switched on again in 1933. The plug was pulled for good in the late 1930s, according to E. Kimbark MacColl's 1979 book, "The Growth of a City, Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon 1915 to 1950."

Several readers remember it, including Lewis McArthur (of "Oregon Geographic Names," who lived two blocks from it); N.R.B. of Southwest Portland, who remembered a walkway up there; and J.C., of Northwest Portland, who said the best view was from the east side. J.T. of Portland Heights pointed out the MacColl book; G.H. says the sign was at the extreme south end of Southwest Council Crest Drive, just north of where the KGON radio tower now stands. It covered several lots and the footings for the sign may still be there.

S.P., an OHSU librarian, has an old glass lantern slide of it; and The Oregonian's history columnist, John Terry, wrote a column about it in 2001, in a response to a woman with the same question.

There were other, smaller, Richfield signs: B.T. of Southwest Portland remembers one on Northeast 12th Avenue and Sandy Boulevard. Al from North Portland and "Old Old Timer" remember one right before the bridge at Jantzen Beach and one at the intersection of highways 99E and 99W in the heyday of the Jantzen Beach amusement park.

See the entire Back Fence column online at OregonLive.com.

I think our glass lantern slide does add some information to this history: clearly, the sign was still up on the hill and in good condition circa 1940, when the Library/Auditorium building was originally constructed. It was only two years later, in February 1942, when Richfield's Elwood Field in California was shelled by a Japanese submarine, making Richfield the "first victim of attack by foreign power on U.S. soil since War of 1812," according to the ARCO company history web page.