Friday, February 09, 2007

Tooth or Consequences

Did you know that February is National Children's Dental Health Month? While the American Dental Association invites you to be part of the GrIN Crowd, the Portland Children's Museum invites you to a Celebration of Smiles.

But sometimes, a little fear can become a real motivating force. I have to wonder whether it was a bit of a scare tactic when the School of Dentistry participated in Tooth or Consequences, a "suitcase" program introducing dental care to youngsters.

The brainchild of Dr. Richard Park of Portland and Dr. Chester Gibson of McMinnville, the program was developed by the Oregon Dental Association, OMSI, and the School of Dentistry here at OHSU. Each suitcase held portable demonstrations and mini-labs which were taken into classrooms around the state starting in 1976. (For complete details on the program and its development, see Tomme, C. "Tooth or Consequences" travling suitcases teach Oregon children about dentistry. Journal of the ADA 1977 May;94(5) 858-60)

The presentations were clearly designed to entertain and educate. But the pictures in the Historical Image Collection show groups of children clustered together on braided rugs, and some of them surely look scared--I mean, motivated!

Keep the lessons of your youth in mind this month as you munch on your Valentines candies!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Men and milestones in medicine

This year marks the 140th anniversary of the start of medical education here in Oregon (by orthodox accounts; surely, Native Americans were educating their own in healing arts long before any formal medical school was founded.)

Back in 1967, the state celebrated the centennial of this beginning with the commissioning of a mural. The resulting artwork, dubbed Men and Milestones in Medicine, was seen today by a rather larger-than-usual percentage of OHSU employees, as we all filed into the OHSU Auditorium to participate in the town hall meeting on strategic planning. While many may not have looked up, we all nevertheless passed directly beneath the painting, which hangs over the auditorium entrance.

For those who have never studied the painting, or who have studied it and wondered at its meaning, a large poster in the Subject Files here literally plots out the major elements. The buildings shown on the left are (top to bottom): Jason Lee Mission (1834); Willamette University Medical School (1867); Willamette's later building at Couch and 15th Streets (1885); and the University of Oregon Medical School at 23rd and Lovejoy (1889). The Marquam Hill campus, as of 1967, is shown in the upper center of the canvas, from the old Library building at the top to the Medical School Hospital (now OHSU Hospital) at the bottom.

The painting was executed by Northwest artist John Sherrill Houser, a graduate of Lewis & Clark College. After its completion, the painting went on tour around the state, as we learn in the small blurb contained in the centennial booklet, Men and milestones in medicine: 100 years of medical education in Oregon, written by Thelma Wilson (who just happened to be an employee of the public relations department here at the Medical School).

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Inventories go online

Exciting news for researchers interested in our materials here in Historical Collections & Archives: two new inventories are now available on our website in PDF format!

Biographical Files:
The Biographical Files are what we call an artificial collection, something that we here have created to provide access to ephemeral materials by or about specific individuals. Folders contain from one to hundreds of pieces of information, drawn from newspapers, pamphlets, correspondence, et cetera. New folders are added fairly frequently for contemporary individuals not yet covered in the files, so we hope to update this web-based inventory periodically.

Subject Files: Another artificial collection, the Subject Files catch all those miscellaneous bits of information that seem important but don't really fit under a particular person. Many of these categories were established years ago, but new files are periodically created. Information on the tram, for instance, now fills four folders!

If you have any questions about the genesis of these collections or their contents, contact us at

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Curtain Number 2

Sometimes, what's behind curtain number 2 is not nearly so interesting and surprising as curtain number 2 itself.

Today, going through the last of the oversize format items in a long-standing
purgatorial pile atop the flat file in the archives, I at last opened a large box labeled: Extra drape (unlined), Physicians Reading Room, 1942. The Physicians' Reading Room is an old name for one of the second floor rooms here in the Old Library Building. We have a lovely contemporary image of the room in the Digital Resources Library, in which you can actually see the curtains in question. While the curtains certainly did give the room a comfortable, homey air back in the 1940s, the windows have since been covered with blinds. I didn't see any good reason to keep old curtains in the archives.

Until, of course, I opened that box. Inside was a small card: Handwoven drapery. Art silk boucle on cotton boucle warp. Created for the University of Oregon Medical School by the Oregon WPA Project.

That gave me a new perspective on things! Considering that the WPA murals created for the walls in Mackenzie Hall (then called the Medical Science Building) have been "misplaced," it seems all the more important to hang on to this textile work.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Diet of Worms

Another tidbit from the forefront of medicine which reminds one of the backwaters of medicine:

New research has shown that in patients with multiple sclerosis, the progress of the disease is slowed by parasitic worms. Yes, really. Investigators in Argentina recently published their findings in the Annals of Neurology (DOI

This should be welcome news here in Oregon, which (last I heard) has the one of the highest rates of MS in the United States. In addition, OHSU has a long and distinguished history of research into MS, from Dr. Roy Swank's MS diet to the current work of Dr. Dennis Bourdette in the Multiple Sclerosis Center of Oregon.

Parastic worms hereby join leeches in the ranks of gross but useful creatures. For centuries, leeches were used for bloodletting purposes, bloodletting being the main therapy of choice for, well, just about everything under the sun. Leeches remain in use today, but in a more limited capacity, especially for wound healing and tissue grafts. The leech has been so entwined with medicine that there is actually a species of leech called Hirudo medicinalis. Yes, really.

At some point, medical practitioners did try to mechanize the bloodletting action of the leech, creating "artificial leeches" to draw blood effectively. We have one of these man-made leeches in the Medical Museum Collection. Looking at the business end of the artificial leech, I might be tempted to opt for one of the real little bloodsuckers.

[Ok, lastly, I must admit I didn't come up with today's clever blog title on my own. Credit is due to the headline writers at New Scientist
, where I first saw an announcement of this new research. For those not as familiar with the history of the early modern period, more information on the real Diet of Worms can be found in Wikipedia.]