Friday, February 20, 2009

Women in dentistry

An interesting thread wound through some of the last materials to be processed from the School of Dentistry Alumni Association donation:

A class at the North Pacific College, circa 1907. If you look right past the scary center chair, you can see two women sitting together, smack in the middle of the theater. While they may have been instructed by the photographer to sit together thus, I prefer to think of them as a band of two ("doodle, something like a two-man gang") against the legions of male students.
By 1937, NPC was advertising itself as "A Coeducational Institution" (which caption you cannot read in the scan because the catalogs are bound so tightly together). OK, so they reused this same photo numerous times over the next several years, but it's the thought that counts.

And in 1990, School of Dentistry Honorary Alumna Geraldine Morrow wins election as the president of the American Dental Association--the first woman to hold the post.
Today, the School of Dentistry is committed to increasing and celebrating the diversity of its students, faculty and staff--as is OHSU as a whole. In fact, the Old Library building is positively aswarm today with participants in a multicultural "Health and Science Career Conference"--and while it's difficult to navigate the Great Hall with boxes for our fourth floor storage area when the place is packed with people, it's heartening to see the great turnout. Another wonderful program from OHSU's Center for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs! Perhaps we'll be featuring some of today's attendees in a post 50 years hence. (I surely hope I personally am not the one writing it, but you get the idea.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Doctor Procter

Isn't the internet a wonderful thing? Don't you just love Google search? Librarians are often discouraged from saying that, but it's true that an entire world of, perhaps not scholarship, but certainly obscure pieces of information, has opened up to researchers everywhere.

Case in point: a 35mm slide, one of many in a recent donation from the OHSU School of Dentistry Alumni Association. Labeled only "Dr. Proctor." Clothes and furniture styles indicate that the photo was taken circa 1950s-1960s. "Dr. Proctor" appears to be in his 50s or 60s. Question: What is the doctor's first name?

No dentist called Proctor is listed in the 1991 OHSU alumni directory, so we move on to the next-lowest-hanging fruit, W. Claude Adams' History of dentistry in Oregon (1956). There is no entry for Proctor in the index, but in Appendix E, "Honor roll, Oregon dentists in the Armed Forces", we see a listing for "Proctor, Auburn F." This is the only Proctor listed. A quick check of the Social Security Death Index unfortunately reveals no record for an Auburn Proctor. So, to Google!

But, no results for Auburn Proctor (except for a few of what we call "false drops" for Proctor & Gamble in Auburn, Alabama (or California, or your-state-of-choice). Back to the drawing board.

Nothing for it now but to go through the yearly lists of alumni in the old catalogs from the School of Dentistry's predecessor institution, North Pacific College. And there, in 1923, we see a listing for a graduate called "Proctor, Alburn Frankland". Alburn! Well, that makes a good deal of difference--and being an unusual name, it should be easier to find. Back to Google!

And here's where I must admit that the searching algorithms really did come to the rescue. "Alburn Proctor" gets nothing. "Alburn F. Proctor" gets nothing, but Google suggests the very helpful "Results for Alburn F. Proctor (without quotes)". Jackpot!

Alburn Frankland Procter, DMD, applied to the Washington State Department of Licenses in September of 1925 for a license to practice dentistry. And the State of Washington has helpfully digitized the application and offered it for free download. Alburn was born April 30, 1897 in Settle, Yorkshire, England, and became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. on February 19, 1925. The application also supplies us with his current address, information on his schooling, and a precis of his training in dentistry.

A bit more searching locates his death record at, where we learn that Alburn died in July 1985 in The Dalles, OR, a fact now confirmed by the SSDI. No more information has been forthcoming from either the Oregonian Index from the University of Oregon (pre-1987) or the full-text archives of the Oregonian (post-1987), but perhaps some sharp-eyed descendent out there will see this post and contact us with more information. We'd sure love to hear from you!

The photo has been labeled and inventoried. On to the next slide!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What is an iron lung?

The answer: a negative pressure ventilator, requests for pictures of which we get on a regular basis. Since we recently received a couple of photos of the old iron lung in use here at Doernbecher Memorial Hospital for Children in the 1950s, it seems like a good idea to get them out there. So, here they are.

Rumors of the continuing existence of said machine on this campus, say, in one of the capacious storage areas scattered around the hill, are unsubstantiated. We'll let you know if someone offers to donate one.

In the meantime, you can get more information on iron lungs (and the polio that most frequently required their use) from the University of Virginia's very cool online exhibit. Other good sites have been created by the National Museum of American History and the Kansas State Historical Society.

The resurgent interest in the iron lung parallels renewed efforts to eradicate polio by groups like the Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization. On an editorial note: it seems like anyone who lived through the polio epidemics of the first half of the century, or anyone who knows a little about medical history, understands the risk polio poses--a risk greater, most think, than that posed by the potential complications of inoculation. One can only hope that contemporary efforts to wipe out polio are equipped with as much sociological awareness as medical data and syringes.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In memoriam: John J. Ulwelling

We were saddened to hear about the death, this weekend, of another member of the Portland medical community: John J. Ulwelling, president emeritus of The Foundation for Medical Excellence, succumbed to a long illness.

In 1974, Mr. Ulwelling first joined the state's medical community as Director of Public Affairs at the Oregon Medical Association. In 1977, he moved to the Oregon State Board of Medical Examiners as Executive Director, a position he held until 1994. He also held a position as clinical professor with the Department of Public Health & Preventive Medicine at OHSU.

Mr. Ulwelling was one of the founders of TFME and served as its president from its inception in 1984 until his retirement in May of last year. Of Ulwelling's tenure at TFME, former OHSU School of Medicine dean Joseph Bloom, MD, said: "I consider much of the success due to his ability to bring people together, and blend them into a harmonious group. He's been able to bridge potential rivalries and meld that through the force of his personality, to get people to help each other in a positive manner."

Anyone encountering John Ulwelling was immediately aware of that force, and his early training and success as a teacher and coach. He was one of those rare souls who inspire everyone around him to be better than they are, to do more, to help, to try to understand what was happening in the world and to make changes to improve whatever situation they encountered. He will be greatly missed, but his spirit will live on in the people he touched.