Friday, August 03, 2007

Dental hijinks, and a farewell

Researching a question for a patron this afternoon, I took another look at some of the old issues of The Datter, a student newsletter published by the North Pacific College, precursor to the modern OHSU School of Dentistry.

The patron was looking for information on a 1924 graduate, and the May 15, 1924 issue of The Datter does indeed list all the graduates. Interestingly, it includes a short phrase or note after each name, a sort of character description of the student in question. So, we have, for example:
Alexander, Peter G.--The fightin' fool.
Arnold, Joseph E.--Old Joe, the druggist. Can sell anything from kodaks to cough syrup.
Bunker, Ivan R.--Mighty good student, but he shouldn't try to sing.
Deering, Ralph A.--Good looking, with a better looking wife.
Franks, Israel R.--Frequently displays racial characteristics. [!!??]
Johnson, Raymond E.--Lots of knowledge, little intelligence.
Smith, Francis Fabian--Ninety-nine operations in ninety-nine minutes.
Recognize any types that you remember from your school days?

We also some sad news about an old friend from the Dental School: Gene Bauer, former associate dean of business affairs and professor emeritus, passed away on July 31. In her oral history interview, Gwynn Brice Dockery notes that Bauer was the one to push for automating the patient billing system here, but it was Dean Lou Terkla, D.M.D., who recounted the now-familiar story of Gene and the gold:
ASH: Now, I mentioned that Dr. Bluemle told a story, when we did his oral history, about his being accused by the Chancellor of dealing in gold futures. And Dr. Bluemle, when he received this phone call, was quite surprised and shocked and didn’t know what it was about, and then he said, “Aha. This must have something to do with Lou Terkla.” He called you. And what was the story?

TERKLA: Well, the story was that the School of Dentistry utilizes a lot of gold because we do a lot of gold work. We make a lot of gold crowns and gold bridges and gold inlays and so on. And, of course, as part of our purchasing procedures, we had to buy that from the gold manufacturers, or the people who made the ingots that we used and melted down to make the crowns. And we would put in a supply for the following year.

Now, we were on a biennial budget, and part of the biennial budget was that they put a biennial budget limitation—the Legislature did—biennial budget expenditure limitation on us. And that expenditure limitation means that you have to project how much money you’re going to earn and how much money you’re going to spend during the biennium to run the Dental School and the Dental School clinics, and that projection then becomes your limitation. And the limitation means that if you find that you’re in a situation where you’ve got to spend even one dollar more than what you projected and what the limitation was set by the Legislature, you had to go back to the Emergency Board and request permission to spend that dollar.

Well, that was always very restrictive, and what happened was that, unbeknownst to me as well, our Business Manager did a double purchase on gold for one year, and as a result of the double purchase on gold he went over the expenditure limitation of the School of Dentistry. And immediately the red flag goes up in the Governor’s Office and with the Emergency Board of the Legislature that an institution has violated the biennial budget expenditure limitation, and that started the big inquiry. And the telephone lines were hot and heavy.

And so when Mr. Bauer, Gene Bauer, who was the Business Manager at the time, was called about it, I guess by a budget analyst at the Governor’s Office, or maybe somebody in the—I think it was the Governor’s—I think it was the budget analyst either in the Legislative Office or the Governor’s Office, called him. He said, “Well, look. Gold prices have gone up so high.” I mean, they were, what, up to six-, seven hundred dollars an ounce. He said, “It turned out to be a pretty good move because we saved a lot of money.” And immediately they translated that into, “Here’s a guy speculating on the gold market” [laughter]. And it wasn’t speculation on the gold market, it was an honest mistake on his part by ordering twice, which pushed us past the biennial budget expenditure limitation, and his response was, “Well, gee, don’t worry about it, because we’re going to save a lot of money as a result.” And as soon as he says we’re going to save a lot of money as a result, they think he did it on purpose and was speculating on the gold market. Well, eventually that was resolved to the satisfaction of everybody.

ASH: It makes a good story.

TERKLA: [Laughing] They accepted our explanation, which was true. We did have a lot of gold we had to stash away [laughter]. Incidentally, we were burglarized. Burglarized several times with our gold. We used to keep the gold in the safe at the Dental School, and burglars got in there and they just went right through that safe with their torches and everything and took all the gold we had in there. It was right after that we changed the gold storage situation to a bank vault. And the times that the person who issues the gold from the student store goes and gets it will vary from week to week, time to time, and so on, so that nobody can track that.
Well, after a long an eventful career here at OHSU, Bauer retired in 1980. Little did I (or probably many others here) know, but he wasn't done: he went on to another career, as a private investigator, of all things--a career he practiced successfully until he finally, really, truly retired just this past year. Maybe he got the idea of the job switch from guarding all that gold!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Shocking new book

Fresh from cataloging, Electricity and medicine: history of their interaction hit my desk this afternoon. The volume is long awaited: when I did my stint as Acquisitions Librarian a few years back, I came across it in the Desiderata file, where it had been filed after our first copy was stolen from our shelves. "Must be fantastic!" I thought, and so, "Must be replaced!" Good ol' Alibris finally to the rescue after all this time.

In their introduction, authors Margaret Rowbottom and Charles Susskind detail the short history of the book itself:
This book originated in an exhibition on Electricity and Medicine mounted by one of the authors (M.R.) at the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum in London in 1963 that featured apparatus and books drawn from the Museum's collections. An American visitor who saw the exhibits suggested that a book-length historical account might be based on them and ultimately became a co-author. The collaboration has combined the expertise of a graduate physicist and historian of science and medicine with that of an engineer and historian of technology.
One of the greatest compliments an exhibit can get, I think: "You should do a whole book on that!" That response indicates that not only have you captured the viewer's attention with the display, but that you have chosen to present the material with a hint of incompleteness, the suggestion to the viewer that profitable research projects lay just beyond the cases. We here call it "leaving footprints to the collections." Don't give them everything they want to know; pique their curiosity to a level that will make them want to learn more. Our last exhibit, on A.J. McLean, must also have hit just the right note, since we have since been approached by four separate faculty members who think a longer treatment (whether book or journal article) is now called for.

To make a neat tie back into the Rowbottom and Susskind text, I will note that William Bovie is mentioned on page 162, along with Harvey Cushing, who had a great interest in Bovie's electro-surgical apparatus. McLean, as exhibit viewers may recall, had a particularly dramatic run-in with Bovie when he wrote an article entitled "Some principles and underlying effects produced by the Bovie Electro-Surgical Current Generator." If you're interested in learning more about that incident, we've left some of those footprints online.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Women in medicine, and a timely donation

The topic of women in medicine has been much on my mind lately as we begin to gear up for the June 2008 arrival of the National Library of Medicine traveling exhibit Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating America's Women Physicians at the Multnomah County Library's Collins Gallery. OHSU, in cooperation with MCL and a few other institutions, will be developing a series of satellite exhibits, programs and activities in support of the NLM display.

What great serendipity, then, when I picked up a package from library administration just 3o minutes before the start of today's kickoff planning meeting and found this missive with its enclosed contents:
Enclosed is my mother's laboratory kit from Cook County Hospital where she was a laboratory technician in the 1920s.

I am donating it to OHSU for your historical archives, or any other use. She was very excited about medical work, considered being a doctor, but in the 20s there were not many role models for women as doctors. She kept this despite several moves for over 50 years until her death in 1989.
A perfect segue into the meeting! We hope that with the publicity surrounding this exhibit next year, more members of the community will come forward with their stories of medical women--whether themselves or someone they knew--and the challenges they faced. Only three women physicians associated with Oregon are featured in the national exhibit (you can sort by state on this page). We here have collected the stories of a few notable women physicians in our Oral History Program, but we just don't have the resources to collect all of the stories by ourselves. If you know a medical woman whom you admire, let us know about her, capture her story on tape or on paper, contribute her information to the NLM guidebook, or--if she's really remarkable--get your congressman to nominate her as a local legend (nomination form here)--only one local legend has been nominated from Oregon, and we know there are lots more out there!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Swan revealed

Well, the delivery snafu has been corrected and at last we have been left with the boxes of materials that will form the Kenneth Carl Swan Papers (Accession 2007-011)--and although there may be a few more items trickling in through the month of August, what we have now received is certainly more than enough to crow about.

Most of the oversize moving boxes have now been opened, their contents transferred into smaller boxes that we (wee women) can actually move. The books will be transferred to the library collections (mostly pre-1940 ophthalmology texts, including what appear to be full sets of Duke-Elder's works). We've already started to weed out multiple copies of reprints and other publications, and so the original thirty boxes may turn out to occupy about 20 linear feet of our storage area. The big surprise is that there may actually be more linear feet of artifacts than of papers and photographic materials: there are tiny knives for eye surgery, tonometers from several different decades, a stereopticon, and lots and lots of things whose purpose I frankly do not yet understand. We do know that at least some of the early artifacts belonged to fellow ophthalmologist John E. Weeks, M.D., who was instrumental in the construction of the very building in which I sit.

We have found, so far, two pathological specimen slides, but hundreds of 35mm slides of patients; original drawings by Swan and the Medical School's medical illustrator Clarice Ashworth Francone; framed portraits of Swan; certificates, awards, and licenses; correspondence; case studies, reprints, presentations, and exhibits; and news clippings--lots and lots of news clippings. There is information on the Medical School, the Dept. of Ophthalmology, Casey Eye Institute, and the Elks Children's Eye Clinic, as well as Swan's career, his research, and his work with local and national organizations.

Interesting information in visually stunning documents--what more could we ask for? Fun to play with and fun for future researchers!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Catching up on the basics

On Friday, I was out of the office and in the lovely woods of the central Willamette Valley at Silver Falls, OR, to attend a training session on Anatomy and Physiology for Medical Librarians. Presented by the Medical Library Association, the class was designed for librarians in a medical setting who need a little brushing-up on the basics. Yes, believe it or not, many of us medical librarians don't come from science backgrounds: I have a degree in medieval studies, and my colleague's area of expertise is Cuban folklore and spirituality. And while that knowledge does come in handy more times than you might imagine in a medical-historical setting, it's really no substitute for the nitty-gritty facts about human structure and function.

The class, taught ably by University of Oregon doctoral researcher Britta Torgrimson (whose background includes anthropology and primate studies) was truly targeted for beginners. While much of the information was not new to me, one thing I did learn was how, exactly, stress can lead to heart attacks and other "cardiovascular incidents," if you will. As it turns out, the body produces adrenaline during stress (as anyone who's confronted a work crisis with pounding heart knows), and this adrenaline stimulates the heart to respond with increased activity. That increase in heart function acts on the cardiac and vascular muscles just like bench presses act on your pecs: the muscle gets bigger. Only in the blood vessels, the new muscle starts lining the interior walls of the vessel itself, making it smaller and smaller and constricting the blood flow until your blood pressure starts climbing through the roof. The good news is that, as with any exercise, if you stop working the muscle it will atrophy: so, all we need to do is calm down and let those muscle cells shrink back down to normal size. Whew! I feel more relaxed already.

As this class, and its popularity, make very clear, librarians (and archivists) need to be life-long learners. As we move from job to job, from academic settings to public ones, from general collections to specialized repositories, we need to adapt to serve our patrons, curate our materials, and stay abreast of new data. Lifelong learning is the bane and the boon of our profession; sometimes it seems tiring, but it keeps every day fresh and interesting! And at least I didn't have to eviscerate a dead frog!