Friday, March 30, 2007


It's been a morning of exhibit installation here, as major and minor new displays went up in the Main Library lobby.

Our lovely and talented Archivist, Karen Peterson, is putting the finishing touches on our primary exhibit, "A Return From Oblivion: Portland's First Neurosurgeon, A.J. McLean" (about which more later, when the web component is complete).

I, on the other hand, took the coincidence of a recently emptied case (which had been holding a selection of our historic postcards, until the stock of those sold out and the case copies were pulled) and Wednesday's photo shoot of the rare book collection (for an upcoming issue of the School of Medicine Alumni Association's Focus magazine) to throw together a little carrier-over-content display of visually interesting book bindings. Hopefully, it will give passers-by a little reminder of the downside of e-books.

If you can't make it to the Marquam Hill campus to see these two new exhibits, stay tuned for the McLean website, and check out some of these sites to (virtually) enjoy the beauty of the book arts:

University of Wisconsin Libraries, Art of Books
Richard Minsky's American Decorated Publishers' Bindings 1872-1929
Smithsonian Institution Libraries, Science and the Artist's Book

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hot off the presses: The Life of Seinosuke

In yesterday's mail we received, direct from the author and hot off the presses, the new biography of 1895 University of Oregon Medical School graduate Oishi Seinosuke. In The Life of Seinosuke: Dr. Oishi and the High Treason Incident, Kyoto-based author Joseph Cronin sheds new light on the life of this important figure in Japanese history (here is more information on the High Treason Incident).

We're apparently the first American library to get our hands on this new biography. A copy will be available for check out as soon as it's cataloged.

A sampling of passages from the book to whet your appetite:

Oishi introduced a policy of not insisting on payment from his patients sometime about 1902. Prices for drugs and treatment were displayed with the notice "to the degree you can." People who were unable to pay were treated the next time without any loss of civility.... Nishimura Isaku wrote that Oishi disliked rich people and didn't ask for much money from his poorer patients.... There is a story of the richest man in town, who lived just a few doors away, asking Oishi to come and treat him. The fee Oishi later demanded was twice what would have been normal for medicine, and the fee for the house call was one whole yen. The rich man's clerk protested but Oishi said he treated others for free and this steep fee should be considered as the rich man's service to the public. [page 47]

From Oishi's interest in cooking, he opened a restaurant in October using a vacant lot owned by the Nishimura family across from his clinic. The restaurant was named Taiheiyo Shokudo, with a sign in English made by Isaku--the Pacific Refreshment Room. The name was taken from the facts that Shingu looked onto the Pacific Ocean, and that Oishi was a pacifist. Seinosuke didn't only want a restaurant but also a place where young people could gather and read newspapers and magazines. There would also be musical instruments and games for people to play. At first the restaurant did well. However Seinosuke's efforts to educate people in correct table manners led to people not wanting to go anymore. The restaurant opened in October 1904 but closed within two years. [page 56]

In an article of 1 January 1907 Oishi tells about an occasion where he heard people as shouting abunai!--Danger! when in fact they were giving three shouts of manzai!--Hurray! Oishi explains that two things he really dislikes are pickles and shouts of manzai! There's no place as dangerous for him as someplace where either of these may be served up. [page 65]

Oishi had a long piece titled Ima no kanso (My Thoughts Now) published in the 1 January 1910 issue of Muro Shimpo. In it he expresses a lack of satisfaction from his work as a doctor. "I examine the sick, give them medicine, receive money and am able to feed myself. If they get well the patients are glad. If I eat my stomach is satisfied. I presume I've fulfilled my duty as a doctor, but as a human being maybe not. Somehow I don't feel satisfied." [page 87]

From the book blurb on the back cover:

"Oishi Seinosuke (1867-1911) had a life in many acts. He was born in the town of Shingu in Wakayama Prefecture, the son of a proud and eccentric family. He attended Doshisha English School for two years in 1884 to 1886. Traveling to America in 1891, he received a medical degree from the University of Oregon Medical School in 1895. He returned to Japan later that same year but also spent two years in Singapore and India in 1899 and 1900. After his return to Japan he became increasingly radicalized and would get caught up in the High Treason Incident of 1910. In "The Life of Seinosuke" Joseph Cronin tells the basic narrative of Oishi's life. He has found an amount of new material. People who may have imagined there was little more that would be discovered about Oishi will be interested to read this book."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fees for service

Generally, I don't cite other blogs (blogging, like rap, has become a little too self-referential for its own good, I think), but I just have to share this cartoon from The Examining Room of Dr. Charles.

The accreting comments are what finally made me want to share: there are people, it seems, who think in-kind payments have never happened--are, in fact, too hilarious to even speculate about. Of course, we here in Historical Collections & Archives know that this was de rigueur not that long ago. If you don't believe me, I (ahem) refer you to my earlier post on a collection we recently processed here....

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

History and the health sciences

During this spring break week for many of Oregon's students (including most of our own here at OHSU), it is perhaps a good time to step back from what we're doing here in Historical Collections & Archives and ask: why? What is the purpose of maintaining these collections for study? In a world of fast-paced discovery where today's state-of-the-art is tomorrow's quaint solution, what purpose can study of the history of the health sciences possibly serve?

Luckily for me, others have considered this question and put forth eloquent statements. The American Association for the History of Nursing, for one, has developed a position paper, "Nursing History in the Curriculum: Preparing Nurses for the 21st Century" (2001). The paper states, in part:
All nursing students will face challenges in the next decades as they respond to the complexities of health care and the knowledge explosion of the 21st century. These challenges will require new approaches to nursing education.... Creative approaches will be necessary to enhance student's cognitive flexibility and receptivity. Critical choices will have to be made. While debate continues concerning the technical elements that should be present in nursing education, the temptation to base curricular decisions on technical knowledge, overlooking the relevance of other elements, is short sighted. Nurses in the 21st century will need more than sheer information; they will need a greater sensitivity to contextual variables and ambiguity if they are to critically evaluate the information they receive....

The content of nursing history is only one aspect of its contribution to the profession today. Nursing history also serves to expand students' thinking, and provides them with a sense of professional heritage and identity. Moreover, the addition of historical methodology to doctoral courses serves to broaden the students' repertoire of research skills....

Moving beyond quantitative research methods, the qualitative skill of conducting social history can enrich both the research of the scholar and the students one teaches. Moreover, communicating the complex contextual issues related to an historical topic is a challenge to the writing skill of any scholar, and enhances one's ability to think critically.

In summary, including nursing history into the curriculum will allow us to educate rather than "train" our students. In so doing, we will give them a sense of professional identity, a useful methodological research skill, and a context for evaluating information. Overall, it will provide students with the cognitive flexibility that will be required for the formation and navigation of tomorrow's health care environment. [Emphases added]
This, of course, is true for medicine, dentistry, and the rest of the allied sciences--in fact, is true for any specialized field of study. The challenges presented by the historical record force us to think, every day, creatively, critically, deeply, and seriously. And that's a powerful remedy for the instant information gratification addiction fueled by the web and other technologies.

Monday, March 26, 2007

North Pacific College...of Pharmacy

A most perplexing question from a patron has given me a good excuse these past few days to spend a little more time getting to know the North Pacific College, ancestor of our own OHSU School of Dentistry. While I have yet to master the chain of name changes (University of Oregon Dental School, North Pacific College of Oregon, North Pacific Dental College, Oregon College of Dentistry, Tacoma College of Dental Surgery--whew!), I did learn more about a significant aspect of the college that is usually overlooked: for over thirty years, the dental school was coupled with an equally active School of Pharmacy.

In the annual announcement for the 1924-25 session, we learn this about the institution's history:
"[North Pacific College of Oregon] was organized and received its charter from the State of Oregon as a school of dentistry in 1898.... In 1908 the scope of the college was enlarged and a department of pharmacy was created....

"The rapid advance made by North Pacific College among the educational institutions of America is shown by the fact that over sixty-five percent of the entire student body come from outside of the State of Oregon, over half the American states and almost all Canadian provinces and several foreign countries being represented."
The announcement for the 1929-30 session adds this fact:
"The growth of the institution will be better appreciated by a comparison of the attendance of 18 students (the first year) in 1899 when the institution was exclusively a College of Dentistry, to more than 700 students of pharmacy and dentistry in attendance in 1922..."
By 1941, however, the College had decided to focus its attention on dentistry alone and the pharmacy curriculum was discontinued, bringing to an end one of the earliest four-year pharmacy schools in the nation.