Thursday, April 24, 2008

The mysterious Dr. Hart

Among the wealth of materials in the J. Richard Raines Collection received last week (and discussed yesterday) is a small envelope of materials labeled "Dr. Alan Hart." I must confess that my heart skipped a little when I saw that notation; we have talked about Alan/Lucille Hart in the past and discussed the paucity of information in our own archives pertaining to his career.

While the amount of information included about Hart in the Raines Collection is small, it is significant. Collected, apparently, by Woolley and Raines in the course of their research into the history of radiology in Oregon, the materials shed light on Hart's standing in the medical community. An envelope tucked into a copy of Hart's book These mysterious rays, a non-technical discussion of the uses of X rays and radium, chiefly in medicine indicates that Woolley and Raines suspected Hart was the first Oregon physician to be educated as a radiologist. In fact, Hart had received an advanced degree in radiology at the University of Pennsylvania in 1930, writing a thesis on radiologic exams of the post-pneumotic lung. However, despite this evidence, Woolley opted not to include any mention of Hart in his history of radiology in Oregon.

Also included in the packet of information in the Raines Collection are two pieces of correspondence, one a typescript letter from S.W. Donaldson to Woolley, thanking him for sending a signed copy of his history. Donaldson writes: "Years ago I heard of a very particular old lady who would not put a book by a male author along side a book by a women [sic]. For that reason I will put your book on one end of the shelf and on the other end my books by Alan Hart ..." The other piece of correspondence is a short handwritten memo from Woolley to Raines, possibly referring to Hart's aforementioned Mysterious Rays:


Another fascinating piece of paper is a memo from Forest Amsden of the Medical Research Foundation to members of the MRF executive committee, detailing the recent donation of $125,000 to the Foundation from the estate of Edna Ruddick Hart in 1982. Amsden writes:
Mrs. Hart bequeathed MRF the residue of her estate "in loving memory of my late husband, Alan L. Hart, M.D., a graduate of the University of Oregon Medical School, whose mother died of leukemia, whose life was devoted to medicine and whose earnest wish was to someday give financial support to medical research in its efforts to conquer leukemia and other diseases."
The estate gift was legally restricted to leukemia research, and so Amsden recommended that the MRF create an endowment fund, income generated by which would be used to fund grant applications "in the field of leukemia and related blood disorders." While there may not be a direct causal link, it certainly is interesting to note that Dr. Brian Druker came to OHSU in 1993 and subsequently worked to develop Gleevec, now widely touted as a cure for leukemia.

Alan Hart died in 1962, but his legacy lives on.

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