Friday, September 21, 2007

Lasker Award to Albert Starr, M.D.

About a week ago, the Lasker Foundation named Dr. Albert Starr, M.D., co-winner of this year's award for clinical medical research. About three days ago, we uncovered the accompanying images--along with several others--in a box with items from our Medical Museum Collection. We already have a small but wonderful collection of materials relating to the development of the Starr-Edwards heart valve here at the Medical School, but these new items will be a nice supplement. I especially like the fact that step 6 in The Story of the Starr-Edwards Heart Valve provides some textual evidence for our oral anecdotes about the groups of "little women" who would sit and knit the individual valve sewing rings by hand. Craft at its finest--and most life-saving!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Gathering the stories

As some of you already know, we're gearing up for the arrival of the National Library of Medicine traveling exhibit, Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating America's Women Physicians, in June 2008. We've started to poke around, in the way of those beginning research, working on a little kernel of resources here, wading through a big pile of names over there, and generally getting the lay of the land--both archival and bibliographic--in our own backyard.

And so it was that I found myself paging through the book This Side of Doctoring: reflections from women in medicine, edited by Eliza Lo Chin. It's an absolutely enthralling collection of short pieces (essays, poems, anecdotes, excerpts from longer works) by and about women physicians. My original intention was just to skim through the anthology and identify Oregon physicians, but I found myself stopping every few pages, captivated by the stories. From Jennifer Best's poem "Freckles" ("I noticed the freckles on your shoulders this afternoon, // as a black plastic bag was pulled from your arm") to the short anecdote by "Dr. W." (in which his 7-year-old daughter tells a guest, "In our house, daddy makes the bread and butter and mommy makes the jelly"), the pieces reflect the joys and hardships, the rewards and disappointments faced by women physicians every day.

I did find two Oregon representatives, by the by: Bethenia Owens-Adair's autobiography, Dr. Owens-Adair: some of her life experiences is excerpted on page 14, and Dr. Linda Ganzini's essay, "An independent scientist," is included in the section on "Balancing" (p. 286). Whether you're interested in women in medicine or a woman physician yourself--in fact whether you're interested in women at all or even in really good prose and poetry, you'll find something to delight you in this collection.

The OHSU Library has just received and cataloged another good resource for those interested in the history of women in medicine: Steven J. Peitzman's A new and untried course: Woman's Medical College and Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1850-1998 is now available for checkout from the Main Library. The cover of the paperback must have been designed by someone after my own heart: there's a great picture of women students dissecting a cadaver, dated 1891. We love those old anatomy lab shots!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hot off the presses

Literally, I think, although the package wasn't physically warm when I opened it (it's a chilly day here in the Rose City).

I just received a copy of the latest issue of the Oregon Historical Quarterly (Fall 2007). The first two articles explain my excitement:

"Neither head nor tail to the campaign": Esther Pohl Lovejoy and the Oregon Woman Suffrage Victory of 1912 / by Kimberly Jensen

Portland to the rescue: the Rose City's response to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire / by Michael Helquist

Devoted fans of our lecture series will recognize both of these authors as past speakers. Both of them also conducted some of the research for their papers here in Historical Collections & Archives, and you'll see images from our collections accompanying the texts. Both of those earlier lecture presentations (on the same topics being discussed in this issue) can be viewed via the streaming video links on our lecture series page (where you will also, incidentally, see the information about our upcoming season opener being given by renowned pathologist Dr. J. Bruce Beckwith).

One of the most gratifying aspects of this job is being able to see the publication of original research that was conducted in our collections, using the unique assemblage of materials located here. These researchers are the ones who bring the past to life for so many outside our walls.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Black day

The History of Dentistry Collection, which was transferred to our control in 2003 after the consolidation of the Dental Library into the main OHSU Library collections, is currently housed in the History of Dentistry Room in the Library Administration area of the BICC. Because it is such a lovely conference room, and because it is located in Lib Admin, the HOD Room can be darn tough to schedule for patrons interested in using the dental books in that collection. So, I recently pulled about 15 titles for transport to the History of Medicine Room across the street--also a lovely room, but (blissfully) under our complete control for use as a researcher reading room.

Since I don't have a chance to get a lot of "face time" with these books, I took the opportunity to examine the requested titles for provenance information, copy-specific details, and other anomalies that would best be noted in the bibliographic record. I never really expect to find much when I do this with our existing collections, so I usually get a big charge out of it when I do come across something interesting. I am a librarian, after all.

Two items excited me in this batch of books. The first, which you can see in the accompanying image, is a presentation inscription from the great G.V. Black to Dr. F.B. Noyes. The inscription is scrawled on the front free endpaper of Operative dentistry, bacteriology, and pathology of dental caries (1903), which has unfortunately cracked and become detached from the binding (this paper is well below the single fold threshold). This is the first instance of Black's signature that I have seen in our collection.

The other exciting thing was finding that our copy of Black's Lectures on bacteriology, special pathology, and operative dentistry (1900) was bound with three other titles that had not been recorded in the bibliographic record. One of these three is unrecorded in OCLC's WorldCat: Lectures on general and local anesthesia delivered by D. Willard Craig, also from the 1899-1900 session at Northwestern's Dental School. Also discovered in this bound-with, A.H. Peck's A course of lectures on special pathology, materia medica and therapeutics is a new addition to our catalog, and this 1900 edition of Thomas Gilmer's Lectures on oral surgery joins the third edition already cataloged as part of the HOD Collection.

Isn't it great to be rewarded just for paging through old books?

Monday, September 17, 2007

First Annual W.W. Krippaehne Lecture

This morning's surgical grand rounds saw the presentation of the first annual William Krippaehne Lecture in Surgical Education delivered by guest speakers Gunnar Ahlberg, M.D., and Stig Ramel, M.D., of the Karolinska Institute.

Kicking off the event, Dr. Richard Mullins began with a short biographical sketch of William Wonn Krippaehne, M.D., alumnus and former chair of surgery here at the Medical School. Krippaehne was born in Douglas, AK, to a mining engineer and a nurse. Shortly after the mine flooded four years later, the family relocated to Puyallup, WA, and the young William rarely strayed far from the Pacific Northwest after that. As the lecture brochure concludes, "Teaching was an integral part of Dr. Krippaehne's entire professional life. His life long vocation was to provide the best environment possible at Oregon's Medical School for education." To honor and recognize Krippaehne's contributions to surgical education at the school, the Dept. of Surgery has created this yearly lecture on the topic of surgical education.

The inaugural lecture speakers, Ahlberg and Ramel, both hail from Sweden, recognized as the birthplace of virtual reality simulation and its use in surgical education. Their talk, "Integrating Skills Training in Formal Surgical Education," discussed their research on the use of simulation programs in training surgeons to perform common, but challenging, surgical procedures. Replacing the century-old Halsted model of surgical education (See one, do one, teach one), training programs predicated on the achievement of proficiency levels in simulated programs do seem to affect the learning curve for some procedures. After conducting controlled studies with students in Sweden, Ahlberg and his colleagues still came to the conclusion the teaching surgeon has the greatest impact on student proficiency. It still matters what your teacher is like--whether s/he is technically proficient, whether s/he can convey key points, whether s/he can connect with students in the learning environment. That is, we still need our William Krippaehnes.

In the Q&A following the talk, a few of the surgeons in the audience brought up issues concerning the intangible aspects of surgery: surgical decision-making, gut feeling, patient-specific complications. When residents are trained on idealized patients in a virtual environment, where do those issues fit in? How can we pass on the knowledge that goes with the skill? Again, Krippaehne had it right: he expected students to know what was in the textbooks; he wanted to teach them how to reason, how to solve problems. The trainer remains the critical source of this education in analysis and synthesis.

I was put in mind of the new book Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-By-Numbers is the New Way to be Smart, by Ian Ayres. A review of it that I recently glanced at noted the coming divide between "super crunchers" and "intuitivists," those who make decisions based not on raw data but on a gut feeling. Will we ever have enough data to model all possible factors affecting any given outcome? Will computers ever be smart enough to teach us wisdom and restraint? Only time will tell. In the meanwhile, make sure your surgeon has done at least 200 colonoscopies before you go in for yours. Trust me--you'll thank yourself later.