Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy Don't FryDay

The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention celebrates the Friday before Memorial Day as national Don't FryDay, to remind people to protect their skin when out of doors. The theme for 2009 is "Slap on a Hat!" There are numerous examples of proper headgear in the Historical Image Collection (and yes, we're going to do this whole bit on hats without referring once to Esther Pohl Lovejoy's fabulous collection thereof... Ok, maybe we'll refer to her once.)

Classic, a la Dean Baird (devil-may-care Wren Gaines going hatless):

Tropical, modeled by E.S. West:

Western wear, epitomized by Hopalong Cassidy (shown here with nurse Shirley Thompson):

Eclectic, de riguer during the School of Dentistry's Tongue Depressor Contests:

We don't, however, recommend going overboard on coverage. 'Cause you might scare young children. Here, the circus comes to Doernbecher Memorial Hospital for Children:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Greed in medicine: a perspective from the borderlands of civilization

Volume 1, number 1 of the short-lived Oregon Medical Journal, a publication of the Marion County Medical Society, contains the Original Communication "The code of ethics -- shall it be enforced?" A response to a piece on the merits of the AMA code by one Y.S. Franklin in the Cincinnati Lancet and Observer, the unsigned comment is interesting reading for these modern times.

The writer, presumably one of the journal's editors (who were C.H. Hall, A. Sharples, and L.L. Rowland, all faculty at the Willamette University Medical Department) takes aim at the greed of some of his fellow physicians:
If a physician's office is like a pawn-broker's shop, a place solely to extort money from the unfortunate and necessitous, then it would be consistent and in keeping with the proper function of the profession for each doctor to do as he pleased, and make money the best he could, without regard to any rule of action, no matter from what source it may emanate. But if physicians are in reality a body of men who, actuated by high motives and noble impulses, making the relief of the suffering of their fellow-men the prime object being foremost in their estimation, then, indeed, is it proper for any member of the profession to speak out and expose any one who, claiming fellowship with it, would, Judas-like, sell his Master for thirty pieces of silver.
Further on, he proposes a course of action:
As a remedy for this evil, which seems to be a growing one, let each Society, State or County, rid itself of all irregular excresences, and then report them to their Alma Mater, to deal with them as abandoned, profligate and unworthy sons, who, like Pilot [sic] and Herod, have combined together to injure, and if possible destroy, the usefulness of the profession, in order that they may reap pecuniary benefit by imposing upon their community.
One wonders whether the mechanism by which the alma mater would "deal with" these greedy graduates would be the reduction of their personal fortune through a sizeable gift to the school. Just a thought...

The matter of medical ethics was a sensitive one in the Oregon of the 1870s, since, as the writer notes, "We have here in Oregon a new State; our State Society is just formed; we are upon the very borders of civilization, and it is a matter of paramount importance that, isolated as to a great extent we are, we should make a new beginning."

Ah, good stuff. But here's some even better stuff: one of our predecessors here at the library took the time to compile a list of the (eclectic) contents of the entire run of the Oregon Medical Journal (four issues, June 1876-March 1877). All hail librarians!

Vol. 1, no. 1:
Editorial: Salutatory ; Practical medicine as a science ; Physiological action of lobelia ; State Medical Society ; Medical witnesses in the courts ; Commencement, Department of Medicine, Willamette University
Original communications: The code of ethics--shall it be enforced? ; History of the Medical Department of Willamette University ; Extirpation of a stricture of the urethra
Book notices
Miscellaneous: Original prescriptions ; Carbolic acid as a local anesthetic ; Simple test for blood ; Method of arresting epistaxix ; Comedones ; Conium in dysmenorrhea

Vol. 1, no. 2:
Original communications: Quacks and doctors ; Report of Committee on Obstetrics to State Medical Society ; Suppression of urine relieved by Faradization
Editorial: Medical legislation ; Patheys and isms
Book notices
Miscellaneous: Castor oil ; Morphia in sea-sickness ; Poisoned meat ; Hydrophobia ; Death from chloroform ; Acute rheumatism treated by salicylic acid ; Salicylic acid as an antiseptic

Vol. 1, no. 3:
Original communications: Peri-nephritic abscess ; Entomology ; Apparatus for holding infants during surgical operations about the face
Editorial: Diphtheria ; Electricity as a therapeutic agent ; How are maternal impressions made on the foetus in utero?
Miscellaneous: Report of a case of poisoning by gelsemium ; A new mode of obtaining local anesthesia ; Wadding vs. sponges ; Treatment of diphtheria by clysters ; Gelseminum ; Prevention of miscarriage ; Preservation of ice ; Abortive treatment of erysipelas ; Surgery, on ainhum ; Antidote for carbolic acid ; Treatment of rheumatic fever ; Ozone observations in Paris ; Violent pain ; Intermittent diarrhea ; Respiratory movements

Vol. 1, no. 4:
Original communications: [On diphtheria] by Phillip Harvey ; [Case report, malnutrition] by W.A. Cuseck
Editorial: Diphtheria and its treatment ; Correct habits a preventive of disease
Miscellaneous: The bandage in thoracic diseases ; Treatment of acute dysentery by injections of hot water ; New test for albumen ; Homoeopathic soup ; Quackery ; Close of volume ; Medical Society of the State of Oregon ; Obituary [John Vite, M.D.]

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pacific Coast surgery, with a local note

A recent addition to the Pacific Northwest Archives Collection is The Early history and era of development of the Pacific Coast Surgical Association : the first twenty-five meetings (1982) and its companion volume, published six years later, The History of the Pacific Coast Surgical Association (1955-1979), both edited by Lyman Brewer III.

Established in April of 1925 by thirty-six of the "leading surgeons" of the West Coast, the PCSA spent the first 52 years of its existence in blissful neglect of its own history. The 1982 volume recognized that "early historical treasures of the association have been scattered far and wide and, in fact, the whereabouts of some of them will never be known," and hoped that "future generations of our society will recognize the important need to maintain an official repository for the archives" of the PCSA. (A search of the association web site provides no information about the current whereabouts of said archives, although the group does have an official historian. So, let us be the first to offer them an official home, should they be looking....)

The first volume contains a wealth of information on wartime surgery, covering both World War I and World War II, along with chapters on the development of surgical specialties. The 1988 volume continues the story, with perspectives on Viet Nam, government regulation of surgery, surgical ethics and liability, and the proliferation of even more surgical specialties.

An added local interest comes in the form of a presentation inscription: the first volume of the OHSU set is inscribed to Portland's second neurosurgeon, John Raaf, from Brewer, as seen in the image here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Why study history? (in 25 words or less)

This must be one of the most succinct rationales for historical awareness ever recorded. And it's specific to the history of medicine to boot! What better way to start a day?
That the modern doctor should be a cultured individual is a foregone conclusion. The basis of all culture is a knowledge of history. Therefore the cultured man of medicine can combine a professional necessity with his inherent desire for culture by studying medical history.
From the Preface to Bernard J. Ficarra's Essays on historical medicine (1948)

Resisting the nearly overwhelming desire to parse this assertion phrase by phrase, we will merely share the volume's table of contents:
  1. American pioneers in abdominal surgery
  2. Amputations and prostheses through the centuries
  3. Famous cripples of the past
  4. Surgical references in Shakespeare
  5. The evolution of blood transfusion
  6. Walter Reed at Kings County Hospital
  7. An historical view of pathology
  8. Famous autopsies in history

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mt. St. Helens Day

In honor of "Mount St. Helens Day" last year, we shared some of the print publications in the collections that date from the fateful day in 1980. This year, just a lovely shot of the mountain from the "Oregon Scenic Views" folder in the Historical Image Collection. And a reminder: it's better to get prepared before disaster strikes. Check out these May Day links for more information on protecting your loved ones--and your prized possessions--from natural disasters.