Friday, August 13, 2010

Stories from the Clippings

When Will Peace Reign?

For a couple of weeks we have been examining the State Board of Higher Education vs. the members of the Oregon State Medical Society. You will remember that the construction of the University of Oregon Medical School teaching hospital was in progress. The building was climbing heavenward atop Marquam Hill on the University of Oregon Medical School campus and would hopefully open in January of 1956.

In September 1954, the board announced an adversarial policy or two, regarding fees and full-time faculty that led to heated debates and even a fist fight. I have read in the clippings that other county medical societies, including the medical societies of Marion-Polk County, Multnomah County and Lane County, had no bone to pick with the policies. But of all 26 societies in Oregon, not all were in agreement. Some groups refrained from voicing a position, saying that they just didn't have enough information. A rather long and detailed editorial of sorts by Oregonian staff writer, Herman Edwards, summarizes the issues and offers an opinion or two, but as of yet in my clipping research, the daily news had not reported on a resolution.

Was it just a small group of physicians who were attempting to force change to the already established but "flexible" policies, or was there discontent among others, Edwards asked? The OSMS, we know, was spearheading the movement in opposition. Regardless, the breach between those physicians who wanted to maintain private practice and still remain on faculty, treat the indigent to avoid the pitfall of becoming simply another general hospital, was widening with the two factions firmly planted on either side of the breach. It appeared, opined our author, that the OSMS was not the spokesperson for the majority of Oregon physicians.

The board made three points that were well taken by most: #1, admissions should not be limited to indigents if the paying patient's condition had added training value; #2, fees will be collected from those who can pay; and #3, there will be no council of five to advise the board. On this, they would not budge! (A new point we have not yet encountered).

All the while, vicious accusations and recriminations were flying, reputations were at stake, the school doctors were under fire, but at the same time they were charging that the private physicians were consumed with greed, jealousy and selfishness. Edwards offered that it was a well known fact that the feud between the board and the Society over the policies was not the main issue; in fact, it was a fairly new concern. Rather, it was a war of long standing over sovereignty and criticisms by the Society over school practices. It was a war in which personal animosities wreaked havoc. What damage might this attack on the school cause? And, as well, how might public health suffer if the school reigned over private medical practice and surgery? Public confidence in the school and practitioners could be shaken by such revelations of personal acrimony and non-professionalism.

Speaking for the Oregonian, Edwards declares that with matters of such import, it is the right of the people to know what is going on. The articles printed in the Oregonian, some of which had been proposed by some of the principal parties in the controversy, were meant to keep the public up to date. And physicians not enmeshed suggested that a "good airing" was what was needed. On which side did all of the 1600 members of the Society stand? And an additional proposition by many was that the Society should liaison between the school and the other societies in the state. And, what's more, the Society felt that they were the torch bearers, imbued with the power to awaken apathetic physicians. An open fight is the only way to bring resolution, they avowed.

Arguments swelled. The voice of those who opposed cried, "… a few firecrackers don't make a Fourth of July". This is nothing more than a small vocal minority, a few zealots, and a malicious hard-core of malcontents. But the Society, the group of individuals accused of having no values or principles took it to the legislature, sending two bills to authorize an advisory council (the dental school had one, they argued) and another to prohibit the initiation of fee-collecting (but Doernbecher charged fees and served the indigent and paying patients, which provided for 15% of operations. There went their argument). They wanted a voice in school affairs. The board, they charged, is an organization of laymen with the exception of their current president, Kleinsorge. But no, said the board, what they really want is a supervisory role. But the Society president, O. A. Pitman denied that they had intent to control. Members of the board threatened to leave if authority became divided. The fear of divided authority was grounded in the wording of the bill stated thus: "to have access to all official records necessary for them to discharge their advisory duties".

The "downtown" doctors enjoyed the privilege and the prestige of teaching at the school and the opportunity to share their expertise with students but also took advantage of the latest in technologies and technique from leading practitioners, while still earning stupendous private salaries. Accusations of conflict of interest and personal gain at the school were denied by Dean W. E. Baird. Baird was targeted by the Society. For one, he was charged with trying to dominate private practice through the school's policies. But Baird laid the blame for the lack of cooperation between the school and the Society at the Society's door. He claimed that the members of the Society had been offered opportunities to visit the school and to discuss the policies but these invitations were essentially ignored. The Society countered that perhaps if Dean Baird were removed, the end of the controversy might be possible and that the sinking morale among the staff of the school was the reason that they were scraping the bottom of the barrel for qualified instructors.

The staff was loyal to Dean Baird. He knew that many physicians could earn more in private practice but chose to be educators. The proof that they were not scraping the bottom of the barrel was in the increase in grants to outstanding doctors for research. He did not deny that there had been violators, but that a perversion of funds was impossible since the monies were deposited and managed by the State.

The argument continued, but for how long? Edwards asked at the end of his near prospectus, "What will happen if the feud is not settled but breaks out in violent eruptions?" Would it end before a grand jury? Would Society members who serve at the medical school be forced to resign from the Society? Would there be a strike at the school? The Society denied that there was strike organization a foot, though one high standing Society member had been heard in a public meeting saying that perhaps it might be best if doctors just stay off the hill.

Complex and convoluted are terms that sufficiently describe our story. Time and patience it will take to uncover the answers to these questions.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

100 years of collaboration: the Dental School and its Japanese friends

In a recent batch of materials from the OHSU School of Dentistry vault, I came across two sheets of onion skin paper bearing a typescript copy of a rudimentary constitution and by-laws for the Japanese Student Association of North Pacific College. The document indicates that the group was formed on November 3, 1911--which means we're only 15 months shy of a centennial celebration of friendship between the dental school and Japanese dentistry.

Japanese students were welcomed at not only the dental college in Portland but also the medical school from the earliest days (regular readers might remember our highlights of one particular Japanese alumnus of the medical school, Oishi Seinosuke). We're not yet aware of any organization of Japanese medical students in town, but this thin gem from the dental school is evidence that there was a large and active group of young Japanese dentists eager to cement ties between their homeland and their alma mater.

The thread of collaboration between Japan and the dental school can also be picked up, for example, in the school catalogs for the years 1929-1932, when Korenori Anan, D.M.D., was on faculty as instructor in operative dentistry and "Advisor to Japanese Students" (note that there was no comparable position of Advisor to American Students, although Registrar Nellie Lehr probably filled that role). Anan was himself a 1918 graduate of NPC.

And the connection continues: In another set of boxes from the vault, we recently picked up a number of gifts given to the dental school from its Japanese sister school, the Hokkaido University School of Dentistry, including textiles, sculptures, and prints. The link with Hokkaido has been active since 1975, when it was established by Dean Louis G. Terkla.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Spirit of Medicine

Twice in a rather short period of time we've gotten questions about the large sculpture that graces the lobby of the OHSU Main Library, so we'll highlight that artwork today--and start building excitement for the Main Library's twentieth birthday next fall (wow! twenty years of the not-yet-paperless future in retrospective! Be there or be square. Aloha.)

The piece called "Medicine Man" is the work of Lakeview artist Billy Gerber. It was presented to OHSU President Peter O. Kohler, MD, and School of Medicine Senior Associate Dean Julian S. "Dutch" Reinschmidt in 1993 when the two physicians were named "Rural Health Educators of the Year" by the Oregon Rural Health Conference. Reinschmidt, who died in 1998, was truly the godfather of continuing medical education in Oregon and dedicated much of his career to improving health care services in rural areas. Upon Reinschmidt's death, former School of Medicine Dean John A. Benson, MD, said: "His impact upon the school and health care in general are far more profound than most people recognize. He had pioneering ideas about rural health and continuing education long before most of us."

Gerber was a natural choice to depict the spirit of healing. The sculptor offers a prayer to each new piece he sets out to create, noting that he tries "to concentrate on expressing beauty, serenity, and freedom." Although he often works in wood, Gerber has never destroyed a living tree, preferring to use dead snags that he has collected. "Medicine Man" is carved in juniper, a high desert tree characteristic of central and eastern Oregon. According to Gerber, the sculpture "represents an individual who is in tune with the spiritual and physical world, and who has devoted his life to helping others.... He is speaking with the great spirit, asking for guidance so that he can in return guide his people into a better way of life."

OHSU's "Medicine Man" has something of a younger cousin: In 1995, Bob Bomengen, MD, commissioned Gerber to create a sculpture called "Spirit of Healing" to be donated to Oklahoma City, OK. Bomengen, longtime Lakeview doctor and Family Physician of the Year in 1993, was one of the first responders after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, and presented the sculpture to express his deep sympathy with the victims of that tragedy.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Kohler Years

In two installments over two weeks in July, we received from the OHSU Office of the President twenty-nine boxes of pure, unalloyed gold. Well, not really gold, but when one has spent seven years lamenting the loss of administrative records from most of the early years of the university, one becomes easily excited by the prospect of securing high-level documents for posterity.

An overview of the as-yet unprocessed boxes shows that the materials cover the period 1991-2007, nearly all of the reign of Peter O. Kohler, M.D., who served as OHSU president from July 1, 1988, to September 2006. The collection includes correspondence, reports, media stories, speeches, research, audiovisual material, legal records and administrative records pertaining to just about every aspect of the university: infrastructure (e.g., buildings, tram), units (e.g., schools, hospitals), outreach (e.g., community relations, logo), and funding (e.g., philanthropy, OHSU Medical Group, state legislature).

As with all our record groups, the materials are now available to researchers, with exceptions on any information that might be protected by HIPAA or FERPA. Once an inventory is available, we'll post it online; in the interim, any questions about the contents can be directed to Archivist Karen Peterson.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Oh! Oyamada


The April 2010 issue of the NW Examiner carried an article by Portland historian Don Nelson titled "Japanese doctor loved America, died in WWII internment camp" (see p. 8-9 of the PDF). While not the type of catchy, feel-good article that might grab your attention on a Friday afternoon bus ride, the article is nevertheless important reading for historians of both dentistry and medicine in Oregon: Masahiro Oyamada, D.M.D., was a 1911 graduate of the North Pacific College of Dentistry (now the OHSU School of Dentistry); his sons Paul and Abe both went into practice, Paul (UODS Class of 1950) as a dentist and Abe (UOMD Class of 1947) as a physician. As with many Japanese Americans from the Pacific Northwest, the Oyamada family was interned at the start of World War II. Our Biographical File on Abe includes a letter he wrote while at Heart Mountain; addressed to medical school dean David Baird, the letter was the basis of one of our older posts.

Nelson's article on patriarch Masahiro was greatly welcomed by us, since the archives held little information on the early dental pioneer (best known as the inventor of a universal root elevator). Now, thanks to the seemingly limitless largesse of the School of Dentistry vault, we have this new photograph of Masahiro, taken in Fukushima, Japan, probably in the period 1900-1905. I nearly squealed when I saw it, but I believe I emitted an "oh!" instead...