Friday, March 16, 2007

A line runs through it: Howard P. "Hod" Lewis, 1902-1985

Today is Friday, so it must be history of medicine class--but the talk I attended today was in a different venue than the old Basic Science classrooms. Soon-to-be-chief medical resident Dr. Madison Macht delivered a lecture on Howard P. Lewis, MD--University of Oregon Medical School alumnus, faculty member, and chair of medicine from 1947 to 1972.

Titled "Large and Noble Lines," Macht's talk emphasized the threads which wove Lewis' life into the fabric of the medical school and into the larger world of American medical education. A master of the history and physicial exam, Lewis could diagnose almost anything through the art of percussion. Two of the anecdotes that made impressions on me:
  • Lewis directed his students to carry two colored pencils with them at all times, to be able to properly fill out patient charts diagramming all discernible lung sounds
  • Lewis told his students of his novel cure for falling asleep while reading: he would place the reading material on the fireplace mantel; if he happened to drift off while standing there, the mantel would break his fall and wake him back up.
Macht undertook his study of Lewis after hearing some things about him anecdotally and wondering: why have I not heard of him? A physician who simultaneously served as head of the American College of Physicians and the American Board of Internal Medicine; the man who literally wrote the book on physical examination; a man for whom no living individual seemed to have one bad thing to say. Thanks to Macht's research, a new generation of doctors can marvel at Lewis' diagnostic skills, his professionalism, his equanimity, his commitment to excellence, and his devotion to teaching.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Spirit of giving

A new section of our web site debuts today, as our information on donating to OHSU Historical Collections & Archives goes online.

I would estimate that about 98-99 percent of our acquisitions here in HC&A, in all formats from books to photographs to instruments, comes to us in the form of gifts. Without the generous contributions of people like you, whether affiliated with the university or not, we wouldn't have the wonderful collections we currently oversee. Many people call us to ask whether we'd be interested in some item or other, and so we thought we'd create a list of the kinds of materials we collect. Take a look, and keep an eye out as you do your spring cleaning!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Another "easy" one

It seems to be a truism of archives that nothing is ever as simple as it looks at first glance.

The above photograph was the second image donated by alumnus C.J. Hockett (see the March 7 posting for the "hard" one.) This one was supposed to be a no-brainer: it's the class photo from the year that CJ's grandfather, CT Hockett, graduated from Willamette University Medical School.

Well, the family had the date of graduation labeled as 1903. The alumni directory from 1951 lists CT as a 1904 graduate. A small mistake, easily accounted for. However, the alumni directory lists only eight graduates from 1904, one of whom was a woman. There are sixteen men in the above photo. Hmmm.

The University of Oregon Medical School Class of 1904 had sixteen graduates, with two women--so it can't be a simple case of swapping one school's class photo for the other. Plus, we have a 1904 Class photo from UOMS, and it looks very different.

We only have one other class photo from Willamette's medical school, which hardly makes a large enough pool for comparison purposes, to see whether the format of the above photo sets it apart from the "standard" Willamette class picture. And again, I am moved to wonder: where did all the records from Willamette University Medical School go? We certainly don't have many of them here, and they don't seem to have many of them at Willamette. Were they destroyed in the medical school fire of 1919? Are they out there, in the community, stuffed in an attic trunk or on a garage shelf?

The mysteries: so frustrating, but so tantalizing. They definitely keep us on our toes, and keep us coming back for more!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Gary Cooper of rural medicine

In her oral history interview, Karen Whitaker Knapp, former Director of the OHSU Office of Rural Health, describes some of the "movers and shakers" of rural medicine in Oregon. One of the characters she mentions is Lowell Euhus, M.D., the "Gary Cooper of rural medicine." Dr. Euhus was instrumental in the organization of a group of people who met in Joseph, Oregon, in 1988, to discuss the state of rural healthcare. As a result of that meeting, Senate Bill 438 was passed by the 89th legislature, creating the Oregon Area Health Education Centers, instituting a tax credit for rural physicians, and establishing a loan repayment program for doctors practicing in rural areas. Whitaker Knapp goes on to note that "he's very modest about taking credit for that now. But unquestionably, he's the one who started it."

Luckily, Dr. Euhus has also sat for an oral history interview as part of the history of medicine in Oregon project cosponsored by the OMA, the OMEF, and OHSU. In this, we hear his side of the story: how a math major from Oregon State University wound up going to medical school here at UOMS and then went back out to Enterprise, Oregon, to serve as both the community's physician and the county's medical examiner ("sometimes not much fun"). Par for the course in a town where the coroner was also the ambulance driver, and the ambulance would bring back to Euhus take-out food from La Grande restaurants.

The interviewer questioning Dr. Euhus was none other than Dr. Ted Merrill, himself a rural practitioner from John Day. Dr. Merrill has produced a book based on his experiences in rural medicine, called I Only Dress the Wounds: notes of a country doctor (2005). Recommended reading for all medical students getting prepared for their rural rotations, as well as all you baby boomers out there dreaming of retirement in a lovely mountain community somewhere...

Monday, March 12, 2007

The cost of doing business, or, How much is that picture in the window?

Today, we ran out of polyethelene sleeves for 5x7 photographs. Again. With the large photographic donations we received earlier this year from OHSU News & Publications, we are awash in fantastic pictorial resources--all of which are crying out for protection.

The sleeves not only protect the prints from finger oils, dust, and tears, they protect them from each other: some of these pictures have been taped to mounts, captioned with water-soluble inks, or not properly set when developed. Providing a layer of protection between each print is critical, since they all wind up rubbing shoulders within the folders of the Historical Image Collection.

Which brings me back to the fact that we're out of 5x7 sleeves. It's interesting: I'm sure a whole thesis could be written on the proliferation of various print sizes and which were most popular when. Pre-1970, 8x10 was king; when ordering photo supplies we always stock up on the 8x10 sleeves to make sure we always have some on hand. It has just been in the past few years, when we've started to receive photographs printed since 1970, that we have seen a rise in the number of smaller prints, 4x6 and 5x7. Needless to say, we were taken a bit by surprise when it turned out that the majority of the prints in the two recent UNP donations were of these smaller dimensions.

So, as I've watched the stock of 5x7 sleeves diminish, I've found myself asking: is anyone ever going to want to use that picture? For the pictures of the first heart transplant done here at OHSU, the answer is a resounding YES--and consequently I feel honored to be able to slip them into their little jackets.

But pictures of parking structures? Shot after shot after shot of parked cars? I realize parking is a perennial problem and point of contention here, but surely these images can't be as important as pictures of actual heart transplant surgery? Maybe, if I could squeeze some of the parking pictures into slightly smaller sleeves, with just a little bit of the print hanging out one end, I might be able to sleeve a few more of the "better" pictures in proper protection....

I'm torn: this seems the height of heresy! I shouldn't be placing my value judgments on historic materials! Someday a world-renowned scholar of parking culture may come and wish to use our vast archive of parking-ana.... Actually, I have a hard time imagining that will ever happen. And when the price of polyethelene sleeves is working out to be 10 cents per sleeve for 4x5 and 30 cents per sleeve for 8x10, the point is far from moot.

So, if you come by the History of Medicine Room in a little while, asking to see all of our parking photos, and a few of those photos have some fingerprints on the edges--well, you'll know why. And I don't think I'll be that sorry....