Friday, March 07, 2008

Women in World War I

In honor of International Women's Day tomorrow -- and the arrival of the newly cataloged copy of Mobilizing Minerva for the PNW Archives Collection -- I share with you here another excerpt from Esther Pohl Lovejoy's Certain Samaritans:
How did the American women in our service happen to be in the immediate field at the time of this epochal call? How did I happen to be on the railroad pier at Smyrna when the Christian population of that old city left the land of their fathers to take refuge in the only country which would receive them? The answer to these questions might involve the history of the feminist movement since Eve moved out of Eden, or it might be covered by the universal answer to difficult questions, employed in France between 1914 and 1918, to wit, "C'est la Guerre."...

Our Government provided for the enlistment of nurses, but not for women physicians. This was a mistake. It is utterly impossible to leave a large number of well-trained women out of a service in which they belong, for the reason that they won't stay out.

The men of the medical profession were called to the colors.... The women of the medical profession were not called to the colors, but they decided to go anyway.
And the rest, as they say, is history -- ably and engagingly told by Lovejoy in this and other of her writings.

For information on International Women's Day events here in Portland, check out the Portland State University web site.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

New collection: some processing required

[Identity of donor withheld to protect the congenitally disorganized.]

Yesterday, we took in 28 storage cartons of materials from a single source. The materials, highly valuable, widely diverse, and of great interest to us and (inevitably) future researchers, is also in complete disarray. Papers from four decades of a career, documents spanning a century, materials in all formats. Any given box may hold sheets of paper from multiple decades relating to numerous activities, entities, or subject areas.

How is the archives to approach such a collection, if it is trying to maximize efficiency, control backlogs, and preserve materials effectively? In this day of more product, less process, can such a collection ever become useful without a major investment of time and effort to arrange items into series?

Surely, we cannot be the only repository to have received such a legacy. In recent years here, this is the second such chaotic collection. Often the collector is at fault: no matter how much librarians and archivists might deny it, the truth is that some people are simply not organizers--and never will be, no matter how much you lecture them about records management. Often the collector is not at fault: death may have cut short a long-delayed attempt at file cleanup; hasty departure from a position may have left colleagues no other recourse than emptying file drawers into boxes.

The old adage equating a messy desk with genius is sometimes true. Should the papers of geniuses, in wild disarray, remain unavailable to researchers because of some artificial benchmark of the amount of processing time that "should" be spent on any given box? Or should we make exceptions for these collections, give them the time and care they require to make them usable?

You know our answer. We'll be spending some quality time with this new collection, and from time to time you'll be hearing about the gems as we uncover them.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Lecture on the History of Pediatric Surgery

The first annual John R. Campbell, MD, Lecture in Pediatric Surgery will be held on April 7, 2008. Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D., will provide an overview of sixty-two years of pediatric surgery history during this evening talk. The lecture will start at 5:00 p.m. in the OHSU Auditorium on the Marquam Hill campus of OHSU.

Dr. Jack Campbell was the first full-time pediatric surgeon in the state of Oregon. A long time faculty member here at OHSU, Campbell sat down with Dr. Richard Mullins to share his thoughts on medicine, pediatric surgery, and the history of OHSU for our Oral History Project. Tapes and transcript are available for checkout from the Main Library.

Campbell has a long history with speaker Koop; in his oral history he talks about how "Chick" got him into pediatric surgery:
MULLINS: How is it that you ended up being a pediatric surgeon?

CAMPBELL: Well, I had always been interested in embryology. One of the things I had done in college is that I had serially sectioned chick embryos at their various stages of development and made slides and studied them in a very good comparative anatomy course. And also I wanted to do the most general of surgery that I could do, be in all the body cavities, and since pediatric surgery is a specialty of an age group and not an organ system, that met my bill.

I had a very good friend who was in the residency in Philadelphia at the Children’s Hospital with Dr. Koop, and so I wrote Dr. Koop and told him I’d like to come for an interview. In those days, you didn’t enter a match; if he liked the cut of your jib he would offer you a job. So I was in Philadelphia for two years at the Children’s Hospital.

MULLINS: Do you remember some of the questions Dr. Koop asked you? Did he have that big beard when you interviewed him?

CAMPBELL: He didn’t have that big beard in those days, no.

The questions were not medical questions. We tell our residents now, you know, after you’ve finished general surgery and you’re applying for a residency beyond that, you’ve already proven that you know the facts. The American Pediatric Surgical Association did a survey of pediatric surgical training directors. It has shown that people are chosen on their personalities and on their commitment and on the human factors. That’s the way that “Chick”, as we learned to call him, did it.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Three Cheers for American Dentistry

Far from a humiliation, the reputation of American dentistry abroad during the early part of the 20th century was positively stellar.

In her book Certain Samaritans, Esther Pohl Lovejoy, M.D., notes the high esteem in which some Europeans held American dentists:
The dental service of the American Women's Hospitals will be a joy forever in France -- at least as long as our fillings last. The fair fame of American dentists in European capitals antedated the World War [I] by several decades. The rich and powerful had employed American dentists for years, and the doings of the rich and powerful are emulated, if possible, by the poor. Doctors, midwives and undertakers were recognized necessities, but dentists were luxuries, and American dentists could be afforded by the opulent only. These favored beings kept bodyservants of all kinds -- maids, valets, frisseurs, masseurs -- but the last word, the ultimate expression of physical and cosmetic conservation, was the employment of an American dentist.
The gratuitous service of American women dentists was a war privilege of real value. A woman dentist had never been seen in that section of France [Marne]. They were rare creatures, far more interesting than men dentists, their work just as good, and they seemed to have a conscience regarding people's teeth. ...
(Chapter II, p. 22)

Interested in more information on military dentistry in America? Check out some of these titles.

Monday, March 03, 2008

More on the history of neurosciences in Oregon

In an update to last week's post on the windfall we received from the closure of the library at the OHSU Neurological Sciences Institute, we can now report that sixteen boxes of books and an additional load of institutional records have been deposited with the OHSU Library and Historical Collections & Archives.

NSI's Interim Director, Jeri Janowsky, PhD, has graciously deeded over three document cases of records pertaining to the history of the institute, including committee records, meeting minutes, long-range planning documents, operational policy documents, annual reports, and videocassettes of programs about Robert S. Dow and NSI. This collection (Accession 2008-004) and the related collection of Dow's personal papers (Accession 2008-003) will be an invaluable source of information on the history of neuroscience research in Oregon.