Friday, April 11, 2008

Howard S. Mason Papers

We are proud and honored to announce that we received today the papers of Howard S. Mason, Ph.D., renowned biochemist and former professor of biochemistry in the OHSU School of Medicine.

The collection includes more than ten linear feet of research notebooks, correspondence, diaries, photographic materials, and publications, with materials dating from 1938 (the year before Mason received his Ph.D. from MIT) to the late 1990s. Mason died almost exactly five years ago, in 2003.

At the time of his death, the obituary in the Oregonian (Apr. 22, 2003) noted that Mason, internationally known for his work on oxygen metabolism,
was at the forefront of work to understand aging, and his collaborations with other OHSU researchers led to new knowledge about the cause of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer...

Dr. Mason's work upset a previously held theory of oxygen converting to water in the body. He found that oxygen affects body cells in many different forms. In the 1960s, Dr. Mason's study involved free radicals -- an oxidizing chemical type whose imbalance in the body is thought to cause tissue damage. His work furthered an understanding of chemical causes of some diseases, including cancer and heart disease and conditions found in aging.

He also looked into how oxygen is used in pigment cells, hoping that his contribution could help end racism. He thought if people understood that we all share the same pigment-forming system, that this would make a difference. He came to understand that emotions and other issues beyond research were more daunting.
The collection includes information on his melanin research, as well as information on P450, metalloproteins, and microwave radiation. An avid gardener, Mason was a founding member of the Berry Botanic Garden Board. The collection also includes a notebook containing many photographs of Mason's prized gentian plants.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Could this be...?

Processing the photographic materials in the Leonard Laster file, I came across this section of contact sheet, with negatives stapled to the back (sigh). None of the individuals pictured is identified on the sheet. Laster, OHSU's second president, is easily recognizable (to me). The gentleman in plaid suit and paisley tie looks a little bit like Boris Yeltsin, doesn't he?

I'll grant you that the images are small and I probably need glasses, but...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Koop lecture now available online

As promised, the link to the streaming video of the C. Everett Koop, MD, lecture on the history of pediatric surgery is now available. (Run time: 1 hour, 25 minutes. RealPlayer required for viewing.)

See Koop talk about his medical education, and how he managed to become the nation's premier pediatric surgeon with almost no training in pediatrics (medical school class skipped in favor of clinical research; internship rotation cancelled by the outbreak of WWII). Hear about the extreme hostility he faced from other surgeons as he worked to elevate pediatric surgery to a board-certified specialty. Listen as Koop describes heartrending encounters with parents of "less-than-perfect" children.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Role of the Reference Archivist, or, Do you have any information on [your ancestor here]?

We have been happily processing away in new and legacy (unprocessed) collections, adding donated materials, (and, you know me) sleeving photographs. This sort of physical and intellectual work of making information accessible is what makes many archivists and librarians happy and contented on a regular basis.

The other activity that make many archivists and librarians happy and contented on a regular basis is putting researchers together with that accessible information.

Bad days are often created from a clash of these two driving forces, when you get one call--or several, or just the one that finally makes you stop and take stock--from a researcher who isn't interested in finding about what collections you might have pertaining to their question. They aren't even interested in finding out about other repositories that might have the information, if you don't. They really, fundamentally, just want to speak into the phone, or write up the email, and have results come back to them in the form of a Google set.

What is the reference archivist to do? Charge for research time? Perhaps, but that has always seemed a bit too discriminatory for me--sticks in the craw a bit, as it were. Guide the researcher to sources and then just let go, watch them walk away uninterested? Or, suggest to the processing archivist that what you really need is a name index to every collection in the repository? (Pity the lone arranger who winds up having this conversation with herself!)

When researchers contact you with a single piece of information--a name, usually--and hope or expect you to weave something concrete out of it, seemingly effortlessly (or, at least with no effort on their part), is it fair to expect them, in turn, to really understand what it is they're asking? In this day and age, when the ease and success of Google searching contributes to the need for instant gratification and when electronic information literacy begins to replace print information literacy--can we really expect all patrons to understand what an archives is, what it does, how it works?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Today: History of pediatric surgery lecture

A reminder to all our local readers that this afternoon the first annual John R. Campbell, MD, Pediatric Surgery Lecture will be delivered by C. Everett Koop, MD, at 5:00 pm in the OHSU Old Library Auditorium.

The lecture is free and open to the public. Late last week, I did receive word that the lecture will be videotaped; as I get it, I'll pass along information on the availability of this video to those who cannot attend the lecture in person.

Koop, former Surgeon General of the U.S., Emeritus Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and Emeritus Surgeon-in-Chief of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, will speak on Pediatric Surgery: a 62-year perspective from the nation's oldest children's hospital.

Established in 1855, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia predates OHSU's own Doernbecher Children's Hospital by a cool 70 years; it wasn't until the arrival of lecture series honoree Jack Campbell, MD, in 1967 that DCH even had a Surgeon-in-Chief. But, pediatric surgery was alive and well here in Portland well before Campbell's arrival: Dr. Harold M. Erickson was the first graduate of the pediatric surgery residency at the University of Oregon Medical School back in 1935. In 1990, he contributed his reminiscences of that time to the Pacific Northwest Archives Collection.

After 15 months as resident, Erickson reports, he set out to engage in professional practice: "The future of a Pediatric Surgeon at that time was somewhat uncertain. Dr. Herbert Coe [Seattle, WA] was the only full time children's surgeon in the Pacific Northwest." Finding no employment in his specialty in the Portland area, Erickson went on to serve as health officer in Multnomah, Sherman, and Wasco counties; as a private practitioner in The Dalles; and as assistant state health officer, before leaving the state of Oregon to seek employment outside of the Pacific Northwest.

Since the 1930s, pediatric surgery in Oregon has continued to grow and flourish: see the web site for the Division of Pediatric Surgery in the OHSU School of Medicine's Department of Surgery for more information on current research and training programs.