Friday, April 30, 2010

Stories from the Clippings

Mary Bowerman Purvine and Esther Clayson Pohl Lovejoy
Honored for a Half Century of Medical Service

While working on the folios, I came across some articles that highlighted a remarkable figure in the history of medicine in Oregon: we just call her Esther. It's always a good day around here when we have the opportunity to talk about "our" Esther Pohl Lovejoy. It was noted that at the 39th Annual Alumni Banquet, being held at the Multnomah Hotel on April 23, 1954, Esther and Mary Bowerman Purvine were honored along with three others for having graduated from the University of Oregon Medical School 50 or more years since. They were given an award of meritorious achievement and a lifetime membership in the Alumni Association. Mary and Esther were standouts among George Ainslie (1896), James C. Hayes (1904) and George E. Houck (1900) because of the simple fact that they were women. Perhaps this is not such big news, since our graduating classes now are nearly an equal split between men and women. Oops! The women are edging out the men; enrollment in the MD program for 2009 was 53.3% (F) to 46.7% (M).

Esther graduated 116 years ago in 1894 and Mary, 107 years ago, in 1903. These were the early days of formalized medical education in Oregon when women were hard to find among the ranks of male medical students. While Esther was the only woman graduate in a class of 14, she was the second woman graduate at UOMS, but was the first to practice medicine in Oregon. At Willamette Medical Department, Mary was the lone woman in a class of 5 and as a graduate of UOMS, she was one of 5 women graduates in a class of 21(WUMD was eventually absorbed by UOMS). Dr. Merl L. Margason, president of the Association, praised them for "dedicating more than half a century of service to the alleviation of human suffering." At the time, Ainslie, Hayes and Houck had retired, while Mary was still in practice in Salem and Esther was still serving as the chairman of the American Women's Hospitals in New York. Ainslie was unable to attend the ceremony and Lovejoy was also not in attendance.

Of Mary: It was a deciding moment for Mary, on a particular day in 1898, when she witnessed a woman doctor manipulate the broken bones of a woman's arm and secured them in a splint so that they would mend. The die was cast; Mary would become a doctor. The few things that Mary knew for sure were that one should never lie, that one should work to live and that one should never become a drunkard. The final word from her mother, as she went off to the Willamette University Medical Department, was that she must never marry. Being the lone female at school, Mary was the target of many "rather vulgar jokes" and it was told that she didn't have a boyfriend either.

In spite of her mother's warnings, after graduation, Mary moved to Condon, Oregon where she started her first obstetrical practice, got married to Ellis Purvine and had two daughters and a son, Ralph, who also became a doctor. Ellis, Mary and family moved to Salem where Mary continued to practice.

She was active in church, in the Salvation Army and in the Salem Business and Professional Women's Club and was on the staff of both Salem General and Memorial Hospitals in Salem. Mary didn't retire until 1962, and it was true that she was still in possession of a wonderful sense of humor.

Of Esther:

In her lifetime, Dr. Esther Clayson Pohl Lovejoy transformed the Portland Board of Health in Oregon by regulating the milk supply, providing funds for school nurses, and earning Portland a national reputation for its high standards of sanitation. She also helped to establish the Medical Women's International Association and the American Women's Hospitals which, under her leadership, grew from an emergency committee for war-relief into an international service organization operating in thirty countries.

Esther Clayson was born in 1869, in a logging camp near Seabeck, Washington Territory, and grew up in Portland, Oregon. Her father was an English seaman who had jumped ship in 1864 and brought his family to join him three years later. His attempts to support his family as a lumber merchant, hotel manager, newspaper editor, and farmer were not entirely successful. After such unsteady beginnings, young Esther Clayson decided that she had no desire to be the helpmate of an Oregon farmer or pioneer hotel keeper. For awhile, she could not decide between a career in theater or medicine. While theater seemed unreal to her, medicine was "drama in its highest form."

The woman doctor who delivered Esther Clayson's youngest sister became an inspiration for her to enter the University of Oregon's Medical School in 1894. Taking a year off to earn money, she finished in four years and graduated with a medal for her strong academic achievement.

Shortly after graduation Dr. Esther Clayson married her classmate, Emil Pohl, and the two set up a private practice in Portland, where she worked as an obstetrician and her husband as surgeon. Dr. Esther Pohl spent most of 1896 at the West-Side Postgraduate School in Chicago but two years later, she and her husband had relocated to Skagway, Alaska, where her brothers were suppliers to gold prospectors. The Pohls spent almost two years in Alaska, visiting patients by dog sled and helping establish the Union Hospital. After her brother Frederick's mysterious death in 1899, she moved back to Portland, visiting her husband, who remained in Alaska, only during the summer. The couple had a son in 1901 and left him in the care of Esther's mother, allowing Esther to pursue her interests in women's suffrage, public health, and obstetrics and gynecology.

After spending most of 1904 attending an obstetrics clinic in Vienna, Austria, Dr. Pohl returned and became the first woman to direct the Portland Board of Health. Tragically, her own son died in 1908 from septic peritonitis attributed to contaminated milk. Dr. Esther Pohl set up a private practice in 1908 and wentto Berlin for further training in 1909. On her return in 1911, she learned that her husband had died in Alaska during an encephalitis epidemic. Despite this second tragedy, she continued her medical practice and her political work during the next few years. She married Portland businessman George Lovejoy in 1912, a marriage that lasted only seven years.

From 1911 to 1920, Esther Pohl Lovejoy continued her support of women's suffrage, the League of Nations, and Prohibition, even running for a seat in Congress. She was an outspoken campaigner, publicizing the plight of poor farmers in the Northwest and calling local bankers "bandits" who charged ruinous interest rates in order to profit from the farmers' misfortunes.

With the outbreak of World War I in Europe in 1914, Dr. Lovejoy moved east to work with the American Medical Women'sAssociation, and in the fall of 1917 she traveled to France under its auspices. During the day she worked in a Red Cross Hospital, and in the evenings she visited charity hospitals, hoping to create a string of such institutions throughout Europe.

After she returned to the United States, she spent the next year and a half lecturing about her experiences in France and described the trip in her first book, The House of the Good Neighbor, published in 1919. Her lectures helped fund the establishment of the American Women's Hospitals, an outgrowth of the American Medical Women's Association, to serve displaced and injured war victims. She led the organization for forty-seven years, from 1919 to 1965, and in 1919 helped found the Medical Women's International Association.

During the years that she ran American Women's Hospitals, the group established their first hospital near Paris in 1918, created outpatient clinics and orphanages, and provided public health services.

After World War I the organization focused on other crises and with the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the American Women's Hospitals provided medical care in Britain, Greece, and the Far East, expanding into thirty countries. Later in life, Lovejoy continued to encourage women to enter the field of medicine. She wrote three books to record women physicians' achievements and endowed medical scholarships at her alma mater, stipulating that one third of them should go to women.

*This was a rather long post but there is so much more to say of these amazing women. If interested either in Mary or Esther, or in a plethora of men and women in the healing arts, there is a good deal more to be discovered in the OHSU Historical Collections & Archives.
Articles referenced: f1 p36 a25-26; p35; p37a2

Thursday, April 29, 2010

New display going up in the main library

At long last, the exhibit "Music of the Heart: Rhythms and Murmurs" (originally programmed to obsolesce in January, but like Hubble, still going strong long after its due) is being taken down and a new display is going up this afternoon. If you hurry, you can see Archivist Karen Peterson and library student Ian Terrell at work putting it in!

Below is some information from the exhibit brochure. The materials will be on display in the main lobby of the OHSU Library through May; an online component will be available shortly and will remain up indefinitely (check our exhibits page).

"A Persistent Vision:
Notes on the Origin of Medical Education in the Pacific Northwest"

The exhibit consists of materials held in the Historical Collections & Archives of the Oregon Health & Science University. On display are handwritten class, lecture and clinical notes dated from as early as 1880 from Harvard Medical School, Willamette University Medical Department, Cincinnati Medical College and the University of Oregon Medical School. Included are notes and study cards on courses given in chemistry, dermatology, obstetrics, medicine, surgery, psychiatry, pharmacology materia medica, obstetrics, otolaryngology, surgery: bone fractures, diseases and their treatments: venereal disease, diseases of the joints, diseases of the veins and arteries and general public health issues. Also exhibited is a portion of the First Class Collection: A collection of monographs developed from a list of the textbooks used by students in the first session of the University of Oregon Medical School (1887-1888). The collection includes the then-current edition of Gray’s Anatomy. Also on display are various diplomas, certificates and licenses dating from as early as 1863.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Weigh in: Oregon Encyclopedia coming to North Bend

Another opportunity for medical history enthusiasts around the state to weigh in on topics for the Oregon Encyclopedia is fast approaching: the North Bend Public Library will be hosting a meeting on Saturday May 8, from 10:00 am-1:00 pm. OE staff will provide an introduction to the project and solicit feedback; librarians will also be on hand to provide information on accessing and utilizing local history resources.

So, what do we know about the history of medicine in and around North Bend? Coos County rates a respectable seven pages in Olof Larsell's The Doctor in Oregon (p. 271-278). Writing in 1947, Larsell knew Coos Bay as Marshfield, and would have associated the town with its most notable medical product, Howard P. Lewis. Nevertheless, he begins his narrative of Coos County medicine in 1853 with the arrival of Dr. Andrew B. Overbeck in Empire City. Overbeck didn't stay long before heading back to Jacksonville, but he was quickly replaced by three physicians--V.M. Coffin, J.H. Foster, and A.N. Foley--who were drawn to the booming gold field. Once accustomed to easily accessible health care, the area's citizens continued to attract and retain qualified (or at least pretty well qualified) medical men.

The county got its first truly local doc in 1870, when physician Charles W. Tower arrived in Marshfield. A graduate of the Willamette University Medical Department, Tower had learned his surgical skills in the Civil War, serving with the Massacusetts Volunteers before heading West. He was a key member of the community for fifty years before passing his practice on to I.R. Tower--which we know not from Larsell, but from the charred copy of Barbette's Thesaurus chirurgiae which we received from University of Oregon Medical School alumnus Jack Flanagan, MD, last fall (see posts here for more on that item). Now, that's local history we can really sink our teeth into!

Who do you know who contributed to Coos County medicine? Tell the OE folks about it at the meeting, or contribute your suggestions online.

To check on upcoming events, and to see when the OE folks will be in your neck of the woods, check the online calendar here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

School of Nursing and Charles Grossman: two great collections that go great together

We were visited yesterday by our weekly donor Dr. Charles Grossman (off his Tuesday schedule due to an out-of-town trip), who happily brought us a small pile of materials to add to the collection of his papers, including this tidbit:

Appearing in the November-December 1985 US-China Review (9:6), the small write-up is evidence of the connection between the US-China People's Friendship Association and the international exchange program of the OHSU School of Nursing. By 1985, several SON faculty had traveled to China, but the arrival of Li Hong and Fan Li-Ping marked the first visit of Chinese nurses to Oregon in an educational exchange. The national board of UCPFA had granted $2700 for the visit, while the SON pitched in several thousand more dollars in kind. Li Hong was a specialist in medical-surgical nursing, while Fan Li-Ping was interested in nursing process. By all accounts, the visit was a great success.

The School has been very active in international exchange programs with a number of countries. Information on later exchanges between SON and Chinese institutions can be found in the School of Nursing Records (2005-002), as well as in the oral history interview with Professor Emerita Mary Brambilla McFarland, PhD.

While we often see connections between closely related archival collections, this rather unlikely coming together of institutional records from the nursing school and the personal papers of a physician (and "professional rabble-rouser") positively cheered our rainy day!

Monday, April 26, 2010

In memoriam: Donald E. Devlin (1914-2010)

The Sunday Oregonian carried the obituary for Donald Eugene Devlin, Oregon State University alumnus and longtime court reporter in both Portland and Bend. While the notice includes mention of Devlin's World War II service with the 88th Infantry Division, it fails to point out that Devlin first enlisted with the 46th General Hospital, the unit organized out of the University of Oregon Medical School in 1939.

As a member of the original 46th group, Devlin sat down with OHSU faculty member Joan Ash for an oral history interview in 1998. He talked about his early life and education, his enlistment with the 46th, and his work overseas as a stenographer and court reporter. We include here some outtakes from the interview, which is available in its entirety in the main library.

ASH: So the war started, and you were both working. How did it happen that you were - you got into the Forty-sixth?
DEVLIN: Oh. Well, one day, as I say, we were living in Salem, and we wanted to go to Portland, to my folks up in the hotel, and we stopped to see Tommy Matthews - here's a picture down here - and his wife Helga, who lived in, not Oregon City, but on the west side of the Willamette, just a little town right near by. Can't think of it. At dinner time, Tommy said, "Well, what are you going to do, what service? What are you?" I said, "Well, I'm just waiting to be called." And he said, "Well, how would you like to be in a home-grown outfit?" And I said, "Well, it might be all right. What do you mean?" So then he explained about it. It was being organized by this Colonel Strohm, and it would be, basically, a cadre of GIs from Portland, and also nurses and doctors, so you'd be kind of among people that you had some knowledge of. I said, "Well, that sounds pretty good." So that's how I got in.
At Fort Riley:
ASH: Was there training going on?
DEVLIN: Evidently - oh yes. The doctors would go away, hither and yon, and take courses in foreign diseases, how to not have them happen, you know, in other words.
ASH: Prevent them.
DEVLIN: Preventive medicine, and so forth. And then they would come back and lecture to a bunch of doctors, and I would sit there and take it all down and type it up. In fact - oh, if you want to take that with you, I'll go out and get it. I've got a little book of the different speeches they made that different doctors would go hear here and there. I've forgotten now where they'd go, but they'd come back and talk about various things to the other doctors. That's one thing I did.
ASH: You kept a record of that, a written record of it?
DEVLIN: Yeah, some of those speeches, if you'd like to have that.
Leaving Oran:
DEVLIN: When we folded, I hoped that we'd split up. One or two of the reporters went to Casablanca, which I think I would like to have gone to, but instead a reporter from New York and I were shipped to Florence, Italy. We landed at Rome first, and then I think we stopped momentarily at Pisa, and then Florence. That's where the Fifth Army was, and I didn't have any idea where I was going. It turned out that the fellow that was flown up there with me, he was sent to the Eighty-ninth Division, up in the Apennines someplace, and all of a sudden, low and behold, here came a guy looking for Sergeant Devlin, and he was the driver for the colonel who was the officer in charge of the JAG section of the Eighty-eighth Infantry Division. So he hauled me up to the Eighty-eighth Infantry Division, and this was in early January. And, of course, in Africa we were wearing suntans, and things like that, and that's what I had on, and, gee, I got up in there, and it was cold and miserable until I got some warm clothes.
The materials that Devlin donated to the collections at the end of the interview were accessioned as the Donald Devlin Collection, 1998-005; the guide is available online in PDF.