Friday, December 01, 2006

Found! Hazards of welding fumes report

Well, after fourteen months of searching from the Pacific to the Atlantic, we have finally located that item which three people at OHSU and one person in Texas have been seeking: Report of the investigation of fume hazards at the Oregon Shipbuilding Company (Kaiser Company) at St. John's, Portland, Oregon by a special committee / made at the request of the Metal Trades Council of Portland, Oregon, and vicinity.

"special committee" consisted of four faculty members from the University of Oregon Medical School: Joseph Beeman, Norman David, Warren Hunter, and Frank Menne. So, it made sense that we should have a copy of it. There was a typed card representing the report in the faculty publications file, with the note that the report was submitted to the Oregon State Board of Higher Education. So, they should have a copy, right? Also, the 1940s were a time at which faculty publications were routinely obtained and bound together into yearly volumes; so it should be in our series of Collected reprints, right? The report addressed conditions at a Kaiser shipyard, so it would probably be in the Kaiser Permanente archives, right?

Condensing fourteen months of research via phone and email, I'll tell you that it wasn't in our catalog, it wasn't included in the reprints, it wasn't available from any other libraries in WorldCat; neither the OSSHE (now called the Oregon University System) archives nor the archives at Kaiser could locate a copy; the Portland Metal Trades Council referred me to the national headquarters, who referred me to the Ramazzini Institute, who referred me to the George Meaney Archives. I emailed the Center to Protect Workers' Rights, the Oregon Historical Society, and the University of Oregon Special Collections.

Where was it found? In the first folder of the first box of the first unprocessed collection that we assigned to our new student on his first day of work. Pretty cool, huh? (Embarrassing that we had not found it to date, sure, but we've had much on our plates.)

Why so scarce? The foreword notes that five thousand copies of the report were printed: "Copies are being sent to every member of the present Oregon Legislature, to every physician and surgeon in Oregon, to the Maritime Commission, to the proper departments of the Army and Navy, to the U.S. Public Health, to the State Industrial Accident Commission of Oregon and the Department of Labor and Industries of the State of Washington, and several copies will be sent to each shipbuilding yard in the Portland area. Also, copies will be forwarded to all unions on the Pacific Coast whose members are employed in similar occupations, as well as to all international officers of the unions affiliated with the Metal Trades Department of the American Federation of Labor."

Not a librarian or archivist among them--except one!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Medicine and art in the Netherlands

It was one of those interesting confluence-of-events days yesterday when, shortly after viewing the draft poster for our upcoming History of Medicine Society Lecture on Surgery's Entry into its Modern Era: Depicted by the Art of the Times (see our web page for details on date and time) which features Rembrandt's famous Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicholas Tulp, I received a call from a patron interested in learning a little about the history of medicine in 17th century Holland for the upcoming Rembrandt exhibit at the Portland Art Museum.

Specifically, our patron was interested in Jan Steen, a contemporary of Rembrandt who is most well known for his genre paintings of Dutch life. Steen painted still lifes, historical and religious subjects, household scenes. According to a biography of the painter on the Web Gallery of Art, "a 'Jan Steen household' has become an epithet for an untidy house." (They should try cleaning with 17th-century technology and cleansing products!)

Steen also produced several medically-themed paintings, including his famous The Quack (which was famously stolen in 2002) and The Sick Lady (which can be seen here if you scroll down the page). In locating a few articles on 17th-century Dutch medicine for our patron, I came across one specifically on The Sick Lady, published in the journal Neurosurgery (2000 Nov., 47(5):1248). The sick lady, we learn, is not critically ill: she has that particular malady often referred to as "love sickness." To a 17th-century audience, this was obvious, given the patient's blushing cheeks and shy smile. How did a physician diagnose love sickness? By the tried-and-true methods of testing the pulse (obvious, even to a 21st-century audience!) and examining the urine (ok, it was still the 17th century).

All this has certainly piqued my interest in seeing these paintings up close and in person when the show comes to town. If you can't make it to the Portland Art Museum (or can't afford the entry fee), come hear more about medicine and art at our next lecture on January 8, 2007. If you can't make it to that either, don't worry--we'll provide streaming video of the presentation afterwards.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Robert E. Rinehart, M.D.

[Those who know me and are aware of the temperatures here in Portland today will be sympathetic when I say that I'm a little too cold to sit and type for long this afternoon, so apologies for the brevity of this post and any typos. Outside observers can judge whether the cold is affecting my brain as well as my fingers!]

Yesterday afternoon as I was returning from the Main Library to the Old Library, I passed again the small maple tree just north of the connecting sidewalk, furthest west of three trees planted in the grass between the Old Library and the fountain. Someone before me had kicked up, dug up, or otherwise moved some dirt around the tree base, and, because of the white snow around (but not on) the disturbed area, it caught my attention. Peeking out from beneath a layer of dirt was a memorial plaque, only a portion of which was now visible. Kicking out the rest of the dirt, I read the inscription in full:

This tree in honor of Robert E. Rinehart, M.D. / 1916-1985 / Arthritis Foundation / Oregon Chapter

So, of course I needed to find out who this gentleman was! We have nothing in the Biographical Files or in the Historical Image Collection, but Rinehart is listed as a graduate of the Medical School in the 1951 Alumni Directory. Checking in the catalog, I see that he wrote a thesis in 1942, receiving an M.S. degree as well as the M.D.

Sadly, I must admit that Google has come to the rescue with some (admittedly very small amount!) of additional information: Robert was the second generation of Rineharts to provide medical service to the town of Wheeler, OR, and the Rinehart Clinic is still in operation today.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

Our second day of the white stuff this winter puts me in mind of the old stories about students who would travel up and down Marquam Hill on skis when the weather was right. In her oral history interview, Gwynn Brice Dockery reminisces about the modes of conveyance she witnessed in her years here at the Medical School:

WEIMER: How did people get up to the Hill in the forties?

DOCKERY: [Laughing] Same way they do now, on a bus, or by car. Some of them walked. But when the snow was on the ground, it was often pretty hard to get up here, and the ambulances didn’t like it very well because the county didn't do much about keeping the roads open in those days, so it was pretty tough. But the students mostly lived on the Hill in rooms....

But mostly they came by bus—of course, students skied down occasionally, too, and they also skied up occasionally. The buses would be very crowded with patients. Of course, bus fares weren't very much then, either. I know kids rode for a nickel, and I think adults rode for ten or fifteen cents. Then maybe it went to a quarter; I'm not too sure.

Skis would be nicer than the bus most days, I imagine! There isn't quite enough on the ground yet to justify pulling out the gear, but perhaps by Thursday morning when forecasters are calling for freezing rain--then again, we might be better served by sleds than skis, since downhill is the dominant route of travel whenever ice is involved.

The situation of the university and its hospitals and clinics on such a Hill has been the subject of much writing and discussion since the first building was built up here in 1919; in his oral history interview, Michael Baird relates an old saying (which was news to me): "No patient would go up on a hill. They'll go down steps for care, but they will not go up steps for care." Which may also explain America's expanding waistline.

Whether walking, driving, riding, or skiing, we'll try to enjoy the snow while it lasts....

Monday, November 27, 2006

George Wallace and DMSO

Back at work today and moving through the Proof Collection, I came to the folder simply labeled: "Patients." Since patient confidentiality was a concern even before the advent of HIPAA, most of these photos bear no distinguishing names or dates. Meant primarily to show action scenes of health care workers on the job, the pictures neatly document things like uniforms, medical technology, and clinical spaces rather than individual events.

Unless, of course, you get a famous patient. We've had our share, and sure enough, two of the sheets in this particular folder contain images from the July 7, 1980 visit of Governor George Wallace to the then-called University of Oregon Health Sciences Center. The wheelchair-ridden Wallace is shown with surgeon Stanley Jacob, longtime faculty member and tireless promoter of the health benefits of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO). Wallace had been paralyzed by a 1972 assassination attempt and he, like many others famous or obscure, came to Jacob in hopes of a miracle cure from the controversial drug. Jacob had achieved national prominence after his appearance with Mike Wallace on the news show 60 Minutes in March 1980. His efforts to have the drug approved by the FDA seemed excessive to some, and he faced two criminal charges of influence peddling in the 1980s.

Jacob has always denied any wrongdoing and remains a vocal advocate for the benefits of DMSO. He talks about his research, his brush with fame, and some of his more notable patients in his oral history interview.