Friday, August 17, 2007

War and romance: a tragedy

The Oregon Historical Society here in town is starting to prepare for a new exhibit on "The GI Dream: Family, Home, Peace, and Prosperity" opening November 9, 2007. Curious about what we might have here in the OHSU collections to complement the exhibit themes, I've been looking around for material related to World War II veterans associated with our schools of medicine, nursing, and dentistry.

A fantastic intersection of medical students, nursing students, the war, and post-war Portland--including Vanport--can be found in one of our smaller collections, the Robert Leon Rose Papers (Accession 2005-026). The Biographical History on the finding aid tells the tale of Robert, son of Leon and Rose Rose (current winner of the award for most feminine name), a tale filled with danger, romance and, of course, medicine:
Robert Leon Rose was born March 29, 1915 in Hood River, Oregon to Leon and Rose (Schweigert) Rose. He lived, along with his sister Lois, in Parkdale, Oregon, a small community outside of Hood River, where his parents owned a fruit farm. He graduated from Parkdale High School in 1933 and started college as a pre-med student the same year at Oregon State University.

Lois attended two years at OUS and transferred to the University of Oregon Medical School’s registered nurse program. She was in the first group of nurses in Oregon to earn both a college degree and RN.

Bob received his Bachelor of Arts in Zoology in 1938. He started medical school but quit after two years. He worked as an ambulance driver for a time and later became a medical technician at VanPort Hospital.

Bob met Borgny Christofferson, a nurse, at the first aid station in the Portland Shipyards. Bob and Borgney married in March of 1942.

In July 1942, Bob enlisted in the Army, becoming part of the 46th General Hospital. He received training as a medical technician at Ft. Riley, Kansas, and later was promoted to a Technical Sergeant 4/3. On August 10, 1943, Bob traveled by train with the 46th to Camp Shanks, New York. Eleven days later, protected by a convoy of Navy destroyers, the 46th General Hospital personnel set sail across the Atlantic. After a 13 day voyage, they sailed into the Mediterranean Sea, this time escorted by a British aircraft carrier. They disembarked in North Africa. After two months of visiting and becoming familiar with Oran and surrounding villages in North Africa, the doctors and the nurses of the 46th set to work in the hospital. Italy had surrendered and the injured were being transported 500 miles for treatment. Bob worked in surgery with Dr. V. D. Sneeden, Bob’s former pathology instructor at UOMS. By Christmas, the 46th was treating 2000 patients from the Italian front. Major Sneeden took special interest in Bob and offered to help get him reinstated in medical school when they returned to the States after the war. Bob continued to work in surgery, to take classes in anatomy and to meet with Major Sneeden. His interest in medicine grew and he became increasingly interested in returning to UOMS.

In September 1944, the 46th General Hospital suddenly pulled up stakes in Northern Africa and left for France in small flat bottomed barges called LCIs [landing craft infantry]. Upon arrival in Besançon, Bob had time to rest, shop and explore the region. But soon the Hospital moved closer to the front lines where the sounds of war could be heard and the men and women of the 46th had little time to spend except in work and sleep. Fatigued and discouraged, Bob was demoted by recommendation of an inspecting officer. He was relieved to be away from the exacting and stressful work of surgery. His new job was to open and run a 110 bed surgical ward. But without warning, Bob was moved from the surgical ward to the laboratory. Both of these moves, though surprising, were a great relief. However, work did not let up and the hospital staff worked from 7 am to 10 pm daily.

As the war drew to an end, Bob looked forward to ending his military service, but the hospital was still half full of patients. The 194th General Hospital came to relieve them and Bob and the other members of the hospital staff had time to rest and travel. In the fall of 1945 he was sent to Rheims, France to join the 178th Hospital with others from the 46th. Soon after, he was sent to Chalone, France to be a part of the 93rd Medical Gas Treatment Battalion and later to Camp Baltimore with only rumors of moving to go home to buoy his spirits. But by the 19th of November 1945 they were ready to leave port aboard the Pittston Victory. Bob reached Boston
the 28th of November 1945, over two years after leaving his new bride. He arrived home in time to spend Christmas in Portland.

Their first child, Clara Christell, was born, in 1946. Clifton Leon Rose was born a year later. In 1949, another daughter, Kathleen Marie, was born.

After the war, Bob took a job at a laboratory in Portland but in 1951 the family moved so he could take a position in a lab in Silverton, Oregon.

Robert Leon Rose contracted Polio in the Summer of 1952. Spending months in Isolation Hospital in Portland, he was later moved to the Veteran’s Administration Hospital. While in the hospital Bob’s second son David was born.

Bob was paralyzed from the chest down. Borgney gave up nursing to help Bob start a small answering service business in the corner of a stationary store. As more store space became available, Bob and Borgney bought more merchandise.

In late August 1961, Borgney and Bob were traveling to Portland to buy merchandise for the store. They collided with another car. Bob died later that night of internal injuries.

Robert Leon Rose died at the age of 46.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


I've had a couple of interesting conversations over the past two days about physicality: that certain something about objects that simply cannot be captured in virtual worlds or electronic files. What is it about the physical thing, my companions and I asked ourselves, that makes us smile? Why is it that the paper copy of Science or Dental Cosmos is so much more satisfying, so much more gratifying, than the digital surrogate? The touch? The smell? The colors, whether vivid or faded; the knowledge that great thinkers long dead touched the same pages?

When patrons see that some of our volumes (which appraisers would generously call "working copies") have been repaired with duct tape, or surgical sutures, they almost invariably smile. And it's not just condescension, or bemusement. I think it's partly empathy, maybe admiration, some bit of wonder at the practitioner who so carefully maintained the "workability" of his treasured trove of information.

What about photographs? They seem good candidates for digitization, and indeed they are. But isn't there some small additional joy at seeing a print, holding a glass lantern slide to the light? On a screen, the resolution is limited (or amplified) by the technology--the view is never unmediated. The view seems untrue in some way, does it not?--with all the photo software available out there and all the reported cases of image manipulation, whether malicious or well intended (a la O.J. on the cover of Time).

Certainly, photos and beautiful books often make us smile because they are works of art in and of themselves. But do we smile at great art, or is "art" anything that makes us smile? Given the prominence accorded to "found art," or art installations that are essentially interior plumbing, I sort of wonder at the chicken-and-egg aspect of the question "what is art?"

Philosophy of art is clearly not my forte, and I'm sure there are learned scholars out there who could explain to me exactly what art is. What I do know is that the collections we have here in Historical Collections & Archives make people smile, for whatever reasons; both form and content make them smile; and we like it when people connect with the past in such a visceral way. So, we need to make sure we continue to provide access to those materials, to foster that small joy.

And it has been one of those whirlwind days, collections being processed, collections being accessed, calls from patrons, calls from colleagues--the kind that makes us feel reassuringly loved and needed. So, our clean well-lighted corner remains for tonight. And we'll get up tomorrow and make sure it stays that way.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Policies, virtual and otherwise

I've been blogging for most of a year now and have not yet publicly stated my policy on comments. Let me do that now, since I had to exercise my right of deletion this morning: if your comment is blatantly commercial and has no bearing on the post to which it is attached, it will be deleted. If your comment is blue, discriminatory, or otherwise offensive, it will be deleted. If your comment contains a link to a site that will infect a user's computer with spyware, adware, or other malicious programming, it will be deleted. Other than that--comment away!

And, since I was asked about this just today: yes, we do have an archival collection development policy, and it's even up on the web! The policy was created several years ago, but still serves us fairly well--it was crafted with a good deal of wiggle room which, as every repository knows, can help justify bringing in marginally related acquisitions or turning down collections for which there simply aren't enough resources. We all hate to turn away donors, but most archives I know lack the necessary funding or staffing to take in everything that is offered. What about collaborative collection development for special collections? I so glad you asked! It looks like something might be brewing on that front here in Oregon, and we're excited about the possibilities. Stay tuned for more information!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tom Fogarty in Oregon

Not many people realize that Dr. Thomas J. Fogarty, of Fogarty catheter fame, actually has a strong connection to the Medical School here at OHSU. The fact is simply presented on this version of his curriculum vitae, but there is a pivotal event hidden under the brief rubric.

Our catalogs show that Fogarty was actually a general surgical resident here from 1962-64, and again in 1967-68 (interesting contradiction that bears future research at a later date). In any case, it's clear that he was here during the period of time when Dr. Albert Starr and Lowell Edwards were doing some of their most important work on the heart valves. Fogarty had shown an engineering bent even in his early years; he actually developed the Fogarty embolectomy catheter when he was in medical school in Cincinnati. He had tried to interest some of the medical device manufacturers in his invention, but no one took the fresh-faced med student seriously. It wasn't until Al Starr personally used one of Fogarty's catheters that things took off. Starr was so impressed with the device that he encouraged Edwards to manufacture it at Edwards Labs. The rest, as they say, is history: Fogarty now holds over 60 patents, and is regularly profiled by the likes of In Vivo and MIT.

One thing I have learned about Fogarty this past week: he even owns his own vineyard now. I find this especially compelling, since I have just recently finished reading John Pickstone's Ways of Knowing: a New History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, in which Pickstone likens some clinicians to wine enthusiasts: they are connoisseurs of disease in much the same way as oenophiles are connoisseurs of grapes, understanding that terroir is as important in therapeutics as in viticulture. I have overheard physicians commenting that their fascination with the disease surpasses their interest in the patient--and I doubt wine growers care much about consumers' tastes either. Certainly an interesting--and dare I say, fruitful--comparison!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Wellcome Images: Come on in

News of the launch of the new Wellcome Images site from the Wellcome Library has been slowly percolating through the blogosphere, and has just seeped under our doors here at OHSU. While digital images available from the Wellcome Library are nothing new, what is new is the slick interface and the invitation to use all the images freely under the Creative Commons License. This means that web surfers can search for, download, and use the Wellcome Images files for use in educational and non-profit displays and presentations--always, of course, giving the proper source attribution.

So, what all is in there? For starters, the images have been broken into large, easily-browsable chunks: Wellcome, War, Wonderful, Witchcraft, Wellness, and World. While I admire the alliteration, I'm not sure that the chosen terms are necessarily user-friendly: "Witchcraft" does retrieve pictures of witches and devils, it also brings back some very interesting modern artwork. Likewise, the "Wonderful" category includes some that are paintings that I'd call good, but not necessarily wonderful. Perhaps 'wonderful' is to 'miscellaneous' what 'bumbershoot' is to 'umbrella'? Sophisticated users may prefer to use the search function, which is very fast, but limited to the small amount of metadata included for each image.

But all criticism of terms aside, there are some fantastic things to see here. Above are two of my favorites from my short searching session. One is a "scold's bridle," used to publicly punish women for speaking out against authority (this one from Brussels) and the other is what looks like an illustration of a really bad day at battle, from a mid-15th century manuscript on military surgery. As with all medical image websites, viewers beware!