Friday, August 06, 2010

Stories from the Clippings

Fight at the OK'd Corral

So, last week we learned that in 1954, there was much ado among the Oregon State Medical Society, the Multnomah County Medical Society and the State Board of Higher Education. The altercations, concerning the policies of the UOMS teaching hospital being erected on Marquam Hill, were heating up. Nothing new here, issues among the medical profession had been only moderately held in check for several years.

The policy of the hospital in question was OK'd by the Board in September of 1954, with the school slated to open in April of 1956. The hospital would be operated as a unit of the medical school and would augment the school's mission of teaching, research and healthcare. Patients would be chosen by the medical school staff and must be diagnosed with conditions that would contribute to the mission of the school. Indigents would be admitted and if patients were able to pay, they would be charged. But here's the rub: none of the fees would go to the attending physicians but would go to supplement the state's budget for the hospital. No physician, not on the hospital staff, would be able to treat a patient at the hospital.

The Oregon State Medical Society endorsed the policy with the provision that the hospital only admit the indigent. The Multnomah County Medical Society had no provision and embraced the policy wholeheartedly.

Besides other issues, the big issue at stake here was that the hospital could not afford to pay full-time faculty for full-time service, so needed to allow faculty at the school to conduct private practice. The opposition's point of view was that salaries should be enough for full-time faculty, so that they would not have to continue in private practice; the school, they argued, could and should be able to recruit for and demand full-time status for instructors. But it was that salary inequities existed. It was true that some physicians on staff had highly successful practices that provided a much larger income. Would it be, they offered, that in order to maintain that kind of income, those physicians would opt to attend to their private practice patients and possibly neglect their academic duties. And, remember from last week's blog post, that some physicians were also in favor of on-site private practice at the medical school hospital.

The controversy was so great and arguments so heated that, apparently, there was even a fist fight between two of the medical school faculty.

The Oregon Medical Society asserted that the board had asked them to form a committee to study this policy and to report their findings to the board. But the committee had not had time to formulate a report when they were informed that the policy had already received the rubber stamp of approval. The society fumed that the decision was not and could not be acceptable under these conditions and was deemed incredible, unbelievable and premature. But Dr. R. E. Kleinsorge, president of the board claimed that, "The board never asked the medical society to make studies. We asked them to appoint a committee to meet with us, and after a delay of three months with no appointment of a committee we went ahead and adopted our policy." Furthermore, the board stated that, "No policy is permanent. All policies are subject to change. We welcome any assistance anybody can give, but we cannot delay establishing policy forever, waiting for studies to be made which are only a repetition of those which we have."

Ouch!

So, the Oregon State Medical Society, the liaison group between the medical school and the state's private physicians, called a closed meeting at the Benson Hotel to discuss the complaints against the policy. But underlying the main purpose of the meeting was the widening chasm between the medical school and private practitioners.

Stay tuned, more to come…

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Smells like mercury spirit

A lovely and pristine mercury detection unit has come to us from the Oregon Academy of General Dentistry, complete with the kind of supporting documents a donee lays awake at night hoping for: what, when, who, why, how all happily answered.

The what is a Bacharach Mercury Sniffer Model MV2, which measures mercury vapor concentrations in milligrams per cubic meter. When? The instruction manual has a revision date of July 1977 and a separate, single-sheet instruction list refers to an article from the Journal of the Oregon Dental Association from Fall 1981. The last servicing date on the unit itself is 11-22-82.

Who? The single-page instruction sheet was prepared by the OAGD, and accompanied the unit which was intended to circulate throughout the state, with each dentist keeping it for no more than two days to complete a scan of the office before sending it on to the next practitioner on the list. We have a portion of the routing list, for Washington County, showing exactly which dentists had received the device.

The local connection continues closer to (our) home: the article referenced in the data sheet is by none other than John C. (Jack) Mitchem, then professor of dental materials at the OHSU School of Dentistry. "Mercury and dental practice" provides basic information on mercury hygiene and spill response procedures in the dental office.

Why is provided by a memo from the national Academy of General Dentistry to all chapter presidents, editors, and public information officers dated March 13, 1984, highlighting some recent news coverage of the issue and concluding "As you can see, mercury toxicity is indeed an issue!" [emphasis in original]

How it came back to the OAGD is a little story itself: new staff member Jessica Smith tells us that her successor, Bernie Taylor, received it as a retirement gift from Dr. Puffer. Who knows where it has been all this time? Two days, indeed! But a story that will seem very familiar to many librarians across the land....

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Programming note: electrical shutdown in Old Library

For those of you not among the very select group of people who have a vested interest in the Old Library/Auditorium Building on the OHSU Marquam Hill campus, a warning: tomorrow, there will be a complete electrical shutdown in the building starting at 6:30 a.m. This work includes "replacement of high voltage fuses to improve sustainable power reliability and personnel safety"--both darn good things, so we're happy to suspend operations for a while. If you had planned to come up and see us tomorrow, please defer your trip until Thursday August 5, when we plan to be back and well-lit.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Counting the minutes

"Sept. 27, 1939. Dean Fitzpatrick called the general assembly of all faculty members and instructors to order in the college library at 8:20 p.m." Thus begins a bound volume of manuscript and typescript minutes, by-laws, and other critically important documents detailing the history of the OHSU School of Dentistry, uncovered last Friday in the school's vault and now available in the Historical Collections & Archives.

The ruled pages, held between the standard stationery covers (half-bound red with black sides), are jammed with handwritten notes and the whole is fat with tipped-in documents and correspondence (291 of the 300 pages are filled). The last item is a memorial resolution, passed by the faculty on October 13, 1947, extending sympathy to the family of Henry G. Stoffel, DMD, on the occasion of his death on August 24, 1947. Even a cursory glance back into the volume reveals Stoffel's signature on numerous pages; he was secretary of the faculty from April 1941 until his death. Stoffel had succeeded Horace Miller, DMD, whose round cursive writing stands in sharp contrast to Stoffel's slanted style.

In this set of faculty minutes, consideration of students' work appears in plan English, unlike the minutes of the Willamette University Medical Department. One student, for example, was to be cautioned for "an over sympathetic attitude" (Nov. 18, 1940)--one wonders whether he was using up too much anesthetic from the school stores.

On May 22nd, 1941, the faculty heard a letter from "J.E. Purcell, dean of the school of dentistry at St. Louis University" pointing out "the large number of [military] selectee rejections due to dental defects" and suggesting "that dental practitioners and educators work out a more intimate system of meetings and conferences in an effort to overcome such dental neglect." I hope they didn't plan to meet in Hawaii in December.

The minutes of the Jan. 19, 1942, meeting include a report from school librarian Phyllis A. Rossi. Phyllis was conducting one of the first library surveys, asking each faculty member to indicate their area of specialty and other major interests. In a contrast to today's Zoomerang instant results, Phyllis asked only that they "place this information on a slip of paper and either put it in the Librarian's box, Number 16, or bring it to the Library."

On Feb. 15, 1943, the students got a little pat on the back when "the student affairs committee reported that 'The Datter,' annual publication of the student body, recently released, was the best of recent years from the standpoint of organization, pictorial value, and editorial writing."

Not until June 28, 1943, do we read that "President Miller reported upon a recent Navy & Army meeting held in San Francisco. President Miller indicated the nature of the anticipated association of the Armed Forces and our school." At the Sept. 20 meeting, Miller introduced Major Lawrence Patterson, commandant of the Army Specialized Training Unit #3933 and Lt. George Bliss of the V-12 program, but the minutes are disappointingly silent on their proposed activities. They may not have gotten far off the ground: on Feb. 21, 1944, the faculty heard an announcement indicating a general curtailment of the Army Specialized Program.

And on Aug. 20, 1945, without fanfare, the minutes begin "A meeting of the teaching staff of the University of Oregon Dental School was held"--thus marking the transition from private school to public school within the Oregon State System of Higher Education. Ernest Starr goes on record "express[ing] gratitude to the entire staff for the cooperation he has enjoyed as acting dean."

And there's more good stuff in there--I could go on for [more] pages. I'm hoping we find a second volume, picking up on Stoffel's excellent record-keeping after his demise. If not, at least we have this eight-year window into the inner workings of the school to share with researchers for years to come.