The Marrow of Tragedy: Disease and Diversity in Civil War Medicine

Today’s guest post is written by Dr. Margaret Humphreys, Josiah Charles Trent Professor in the History of Medicine at Duke University. She is the author of Yellow Fever and the South (Rutgers, 1992) and Malaria: Poverty, Race and Public Health in the United States (Johns Hopkins, 2001), Intensely Human: The Health of the Black Soldier in American Civil War (2008) and Marrow of Tragedy: The Health Crisis of the American Civil War (2013). On Tuesday, February 21 at 6pm, Humphreys will give The John K. Lattimer Lecture: “The Marrow of Tragedy: Disease and Diversity in Civil War Medicine.” To read more about this lecture and to register, go HERE.

In a memorable scene from the movie Gone with the Wind, Southern belle, Scarlett O’Hara, picks her way through the battle-wounded men lying on the ground near the train station in Atlanta, frantically seeking Dr. Meade to help her with her sister-in-law Melanie’s imminent delivery.  Meade brushes her off and turns to a screaming soldier, telling him that his leg would have to come off, and without anesthesia.  The man’s screams echo as Scarlett heads back to Melanie’s bedside.  This cinematic portrayal of Civil War medicine reflects a wide belief that there was no anesthesia at that time.  Indeed, it was said that the war occurred “at the end of the medical middle ages.”  (This quotation is widely attributed to Union Surgeon General William Hammond, but without citation).

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Scene from Gone with the Wind (1939).

In my book, Marrow of Tragedy: The Health Crisis of the American Civil War, I begin from a different perspective, recognizing that there was such a thing as “good medicine” and “bad medicine” during the War.  Medical care could be effective, and it could make a difference in disease and injury outcomes.  For example, chloroform and ether anesthesia meant most surgery occurred with the patient unconscious (although Confederate surgeons did run out of these supplies in desperate circumstances, such as the siege of Atlanta near the end of the war).

Alarming as the notion of amputation completely without anesthesia, are the revealing mortality rates from disease at this point in the war. Put simply, for every one white Union soldier who died of disease during the War, a little over two black Union soldiers died, and almost three Confederates succumbed.[i]

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Image source: Getty Images.

How can we account for these differences?  A major factor was the quality and quantity of food, a core ingredient of the modern concept of “social determinants of health.”  White Union troops also received better hospital care, calling on part of the strong social networks of the folks back home and their political impact.  The Union hospital system was much better funded, with full access to important medicines, such as quinine, opiates, and anesthetics; and the technology of cleanliness, which included clothing, soap, and disinfectants.  Nursing care was key, as well, with northern hospitals staffed by volunteer nurses, while those in the south were often civilians or slaves challenged by lack of formal training as well as lack of resources.

To learn more about Civil War medicine, join us on Tuesday, February 21 at 6pm. Register HERE.

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Image source: Harper’s Weekly, April 9, 1864.

 

Note:

[i] Actual numbers, per 1000, were 63, 143, and 167, respectively.

Aldrovandi’s Quadrupeds, and #ColorOurCollections: Day 4

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It’s the fourth day of #ColorOurCollections, a week-long special collections coloring fest we’ve organized on social media. Check out all the coloring books at colorourcollections.org.

A set of charming four-footed beasts from the quadrupeds volume of Ulisse Aldrovandi’s (1522-1605) multi-volume  natural history encyclopedia is our choice for today’s coloring sheets.

Aldrovandi grew up in Bologna as the privileged son of a noble family.  His father, Teseo Aldrovandi, served as secretary for the Senate of Bologna and his mother was a first cousin of Pope Gregory XIII.  From an early age, Aldrovandi displayed a restless intelligence, studying mathematics, law and philosophy before finally earning a degree in medicine and philosophy from the University of Padua in 1553.

By the time he earned his degree, Aldrovandi had already developed a passionate interest in natural history.  A popular teacher, he taught philosophy and other subjects at the University of Bologna before he was appointed the first professor of natural sciences in 1561.  Aldrovandi’s interest was sparked by personal encounters with other major figures in the world of 16th century natural history, including the ichthyologist Guillaume Rondelet and the botanist Luca Ghini. While Ghini failed in his attempts to garner support for the establishment of a botanical garden in Bologna, Aldrovandi was successful, founding the garden with the support of the Senate in 1568 and serving as its director for almost 40 years.  He also travelled widely, often with students, to collect plants  and natural history specimens.

Over the course of his lifetime, Aldrovandi assembled a natural history museum of 18,000 specimens, as well as an extensive herbarium.  Only four of the thirteen volumes of his magisterial Storia Naturale were published during his lifetime; the others appeared posthumously over a period of decades.  He left the museum collections, his library, his unpublished manuscripts, drawings, water colors and the wood blocks that were meant to be used to illustrate the encyclopedia volumes to the city of Bologna when he died.  A portion of the specimen collections can be visited today in the Istituto delle scienze at the Palazzo Poggi, while the manuscripts, watercolors, and wood blocks are available for study in the library at the University of Bologna.

If you like Aldrovandi’s majestic beasts, you’ll love the following coloring pages from our participating institutions.

We’re mesmerized by Dittrick Medical History Center‘s beautiful Anatomy of an Horse (1683) by Andrew Snape.

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Enjoy coloring the many details of University of Strathclyde Glasgow‘s regal lion from Michael Maire’s Atalanta Fugiens (1618).

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Finally, here is the legendary manticore for your coloring delight. The Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer Library of Chemical History adds a bit of whimsy with Historie of foure-footed beastes(1658) by Edward Topsell.

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Check back in tomorrow for the last day of #ColorOurCollections!

 

Elizabeth Blackwell’s A Curious Herbal, and #ColorOurCollections: Day 2

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Elizabeth Blackwell’s A Curious Herbal has quite a curious publication story.  We’ve transformed six images from this stunning eighteenth-century botanical first published in 1737 in London into coloring sheets.

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Blackwell’s melon, colored by library staff member, Emily Miranker.

Aberdeen-born Elizabeth Blackwell (1700-1758), the daughter of a successful merchant, married her cousin Alexander Blackwell at age 28.  Though trained in reading Greek and Latin, Alexander practiced as a physician in Aberdeen, without appropriate permissions. The couple relocated to London when his right to practice medicine in Aberdeen was challenged.  In London, Blackwell opened a printing shop—again without the proper credentials, and again with less than stellar results.  When he couldn’t pay his business debts, he was installed at the city’s Highgate Prison.

Elizabeth, by then a mother, needed to find a way to support her family.  The printer’s shop she operated with her husband had made her a savvy observer of the book marketplace.  She realized that a new high quality herbal including New World species didn’t yet exist.  She took a room next to the Chelsea Physic Gardens, which exhibited some of the new American plants.  Later, she ferried the finished drawings to the prison at Highgate, where her husband supplied the Latin and Greek names of the plants and their uses. Some American plants, like sassafras, native to Virginia, were given only the English and Latin names.

Alexander also offered counsel on the plants’ medicinal uses.  The text accompanying sweet gum, here, “sweet cistus of candy” attests that it “Stays Vomiting” and that “the Fume of it Comforts the Brain” (we’re hoping that these same effects can be said about the practice of coloring these images).

blackwell_watermarkblackwell3Elizabeth was not only responsible for the drawings themselves, but did the engravings of the drawings on copper plates for printing.  In many copies, she hand-colored every single plate.  The images were first published at a rate of four a week, beginning in 1737, but through her own connections and market-savvy, she soon secured a book deal.  With the profits, Elizabeth was able to secure Alexander’s release from Highgate Prison, though their reunion was temporary (later he was put to death in Sweden for treason, though that is another story).

This week, we’re grateful that our own copy of Blackwell’s Curious Herbal is gloriously pristine so that we could transform them into a bouquet of coloring sheets.

In need of color specifics?  Blackwell’s text gives vivid, precise descriptions of the hues of her selected plants.  Great Bindweed (v.1, plate 38), which blooms in the late summer, has leaves that are “a willow green” with “Flowers white,” while her Female Piony possesses “leaves a grass green and flowers a fire crimson.”

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We leave it to you imaginative colorists to fill in these pages in any range of glorious hues you like!

While we’re on a plant theme, let’s take a look at some beautiful coloring pages from participating institutions.

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New York Botanical Garden includes this lovely sunflower in their coloring book. Source: Basillius Besler, Hortus Eystettensis (1613).

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Williams College Libraries includes this ready-to-color image from Leonhart Fuchs’ De historia stirpium (1542).

Don’t forget to check out more coloring books at colorourcollections.org!

#ColorOurCollections: February 6-10, 2017

Get your crayons and colored pencils ready, we’re gearing up to #ColorOurCollections again! This year’s library social media coloring extravaganza will happen February 6th-10th. During that week, libraries, archives, special collections, and other cultural institutions around the world will share coloring sheets based on materials in their collections.  You will find these posts on social media with the hashtag #ColorOurCollections, as well as on our new website, colorourcollections.org.

Last year, more than 210 libraries and cultural institutions participated, representing 7 countries (United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Australia, and New Zealand). Institutions, let’s make it even bigger this year. If you work in a library or special collection, join us in this fun initiative! Find out how to participate here.

If you can’t wait and want to sharpen those coloring skills, try your hand at one of our new coloring sheets. This illustration of 26 notable women comes from the pamphlet Famous women of the world published by the Pepsin Syrup Company, circa 1920.

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Winter/Spring 2017 Catalog: Events with a Unique Perspective

library-programming-winter-spring-2017-thumbWelcome to The New York Academy of Medicine Library’s Winter/Spring 2017 cultural programming.  Today we launch a new season of events with a unique perspective on the history and culture of medicine and health, and what they mean for the future.

The upcoming season includes talks by prominent authors, historians and artists. Highlights include science writer Harriet Washington on the role of microbes in mental health (March 15), historian Lisa Rosner on the controversial history of vaccine advocacy starting in the 1700s (April 6), food journalist Sarah Lohman on garlic’s journey from a tuberculosis remedy to a food seasoning (June 5), and science writer Mary Roach on her new book GRUNT: The Curious Science of Humans at War (June 12).

Legacies of War: Medical Innovations and Impacts,” our special 2017 event series commemorating the 100th anniversary of the American entry into WWI, will explore how the experience of war has prompted medical innovation, including surgical techniques, prosthetics, ambulances, and trauma care. Speakers will also address the impact of conflict on the minds and bodies of soldiers and civilian populations, past and present. This series commences On February 21, with Prof. Margaret Humphreys (Duke University) speaking on “The Marrow of Tragedy: Disease and Diversity in Civil War Medicine.”

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To ensure the sustainability of our programs, we have added a nominal fee for our events. A number of events throughout the year remain free due to the generosity of our sponsors. Discounts continue to be available to our valued Friends of the Rare Book Room and Academy Fellows and Members, and we welcome students to attend for free.

Download the Winter/Spring 2017 programming catalog for more details. To register, click the names of events in the catalog, or visit www.NYAM.org/events.

We look forward to seeing you throughout the year.

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Event Announcement: The Roles of Physicians in 19th Century Polar Exploration

Our Friends of the Rare Book Room have traveled from Louis XIV’s Paris to early twentieth century Ellis Island.  On Wednesday, February 1, we invite you to join us for the Arctic.  In this special Friends event, Dr. Douglas Kondziolka will discuss his collection of Arctic and Antarctic polar exploration books, maps, and letters from the era of the late eighteenth century through the early twentieth century. Dr. Kondziolka is a member of the neurosurgery faculty at New York University as Professor and Vice-Chair for Clinical Research.

Dr. Kondziolka’s focus on the Arctic was stimulated first by his Canadian father’s tenure with the US Air Force at their Canadian base in the Arctic in the 1950s, and later by the popular historian Pierre Berton and his book “The Arctic Grail.” Dr. Kondziolka’s collection, which began in 1994, was fostered by several trips to the arctic to visit important exploration sites. The collection documents the important steps in Arctic discovery, both for a Northwest Passage to Asia, and to the North Pole itself.

Dr. Kondziolka’s collection tells the story of a cast of unique characters, and among them many physicians, who dared to venture into lands unknown.  A few of these individuals are highlighted below:

Alexander Mackenzie
Alexander Mackenzie was the first European to travel overland to the Pacific Ocean, proving that there was no way to get there entirely by water.  His publication was received by Thomas Jefferson, who spurred him to send Lewis and Clark to “solve the American West.”

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Elisha Kent Kane
A few decades later, the Americans joined in the search for the North Pole. A bored physician, Elisha Kent Kane, was the first successful American polar explorer. His book became the #2 best seller during the Civil War, just behind The Bible.

Charles Francis Hall
Spurred by Kane’s adventures, a Cincinnati newspaperman, Charles Francis Hall, ventured up to the Arctic.  He was the first to go native, and brought Inuit back to New York to rave reviews. On his last voyage, despite being able to reach far up the coast of Greenland, his men mutinied and poisoned him, preferring to make their way back home.

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We hope you will join us on February 1 for this special event. Click here to register.

Friends of the Rare Book Room are invited to come at 6:00pm to look at selected books with the speaker in the Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room prior to the talk. This event is part of our series for Friends. To join the Friends please click here.

Become a Friend of the Rare Book Room

Auld Lang Syne, traditionally played at the start of a new year, begins with a question: “Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?”  The song that follows is generally thought to be a call to remember long-standing friendships.

As we begin 2017, please consider joining the Friends of the Rare Book Room. Whether you have come to the Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room to use some of our 550,000 books and manuscripts, have stopped by for a tour or speaker event, or enjoy our digital offerings, we consider you part of the New York Academy of Medicine Library community.

Friends’ support ensures the ongoing vitality of the Library and its collections. Friends help underwrite the Library’s public programs and outreach activities; the acquisition, conservation, and cataloging of remarkable historical materials; and digitization of our key Library treasures.

As thanks for being a Friend, you will be entitled to discounted prices to special lectures, programs, excursions, and receptions, including private viewings of the collections. Below are a few of the many exciting events we have planned in 2017.

1/11:      Private tour of the Morgan Library Literary Collections

Open to all Friends of the Rare Book Room members; advance registration required.  Just a few spaces left so act quickly!

A special behind-the-scenes exclusive visit to Morgan Library & Museum for a guided tour of the museum’s literary collection and meeting with John Bidwell, Curator of Printed Books and Bindings.

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1/28:      “How a Colonial Family Read: The Winthrops and Their Books”

Speaker: Anthony Grafton, Henry Putnam University Professor of European History, Princeton University

When John Winthrop and his family left England for Massachusetts, they brought books, in quantity, and they went on buying more. This lecture will use evidence in the Winthrops’ copies of their books to show how four generations of male and female Winthrops read, and track the story of an early American family over time.

2/1:        “The Role of Physicians in 19th Century Polar Exploration”

Speaker: Douglas Kondziolka, NYU Vice-Chair for Clinical Research

Douglas Kondziolka collects arctic and antarctic polar exploration materials; this talk will focus on the story of the many physicians, who dared to venture into lands unknown.

3/30:      “Anomaly and Imagination”

Speaker: Rosamond Purcell, artist and photographer

Acclaimed photographer Purcell has been interested in fantastical imagery from early modern books for much of her career. Descriptions and images of conjoined twins, one-eyed giant cyclops, and dog-headed cannibals appear in manuscripts and books. In medical collections, their biological counterparts are preserved as effigies in wax and as skeletons of conjoined twins, giants and dwarfs. This talk will cover ideas about hybrid beings, the illusion of the monstrous and the fluidity of natural forms.

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4/13:      The Annual Friends of the Rare Book Room Lecture: “Art in the Service of Medical Education”

Speaker: Rose Holz, historian of medicine and sexuality at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln where she serves as the Associate Director of the Women’s & Gender Studies Program and Director of Humanities in Medicine.

Professor Rose Holz examines the life of Dr. Robert L. Dickinson, gynecologist, investigating the hugely influential Birth Series sculptures he created in 1939 with fellow artist Abram Belskie. The Birth Series both shaped modern gynecological education for aspiring practitioners and educated lay individuals in matters of pregnancy and reproduction and gave rise to new understandings of pregnancy radically different from those that held sway in the 1800s.

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For more details about Friends programs throughout the year contact frbr@nyam.org.

Happy New Year from the New York Academy of Medicine Library!

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Getting to Know GreyLit: National Network of Libraries of Medicine Grant Recipients

T229_logo_gl18he New York Academy of Medicine hosted the 18th International Conference on Grey Literature: Leveraging Diversity in Grey Literature (GL18) on November 28 – 29, 2016.  The Academy received a professional development grant from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) to help support attendance at the conference.  Five grant awardees, students and information professionals, were chosen to attend the conference for one or both days.  Post-event, the awardees stated that the conference had a remarkable impact on their understanding of grey literature.

In their own words, awardees describe their experience at the GL18 conference:

Jennifer Kaari
Library Manager | Mount Sinai

I was interested in attending the 18th International Conference on Grey Literature because like so many librarians, I often find that grey literature is a missing piece of the research process. I was struck during the conference by how apt diversity was a theme for a grey literature conference. Grey literature is a wildly diverse arena, from the many formats and publication types that fall under the umbrella to the wide range of fields that generate and use grey literature. Many of these were represented in the conference, from the law to nuclear science to community initiatives.

As highlighted by the presentations on the Indigenous Law Portal and LGBT communities, grey literature can also give a voice to communities that may be left out of traditional scholarly publishing. I came away with the understanding that leveraging grey literature is essential to ensuring that these voices are included in research and the policy decisions that result.

Perhaps most importantly for my personal development, I left the conference with a bright new idea about a topic in grey literature to research in the upcoming year. I’m looking forward to attending future conferences- hopefully as a speaker! Thanks to the NN/LM for this wonderful opportunity.

Sharon Whitfield
Emerging Technologies Librarian | Cooper Medical School of Rowan University

The 2016 Grey Literature conference, titled Leveraging Diversity, had at least one presentation of interest to everyone.  The presentation topics ranged from open access to LGBT+.

As this was my first GreyLit conference, I was surprised to find a very welcoming community of researchers, librarians and professionals who all were invested in researching, reporting and making grey literature accessible.  During the first day, I found the presentations inspiring. The presentation showed how grey literature impacted the various constituencies at each institution and the importance of making the literature available to the populations.

On the second day, the conference had more of a practical application by addressing open access and researchers’ needs. An example was the Data Science Panel. The Data Science panel, which included two librarians and a researcher, addressed research needs that are occurring at my own institution.  The panel provided new technologies that I am currently exploring for institutional adoption.  Yet, it was hearing the importance of access to grey literature and datasets by the researcher, which really help me to understand the role the library should be playing to support researchers at my own institution.

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Poster session at GL18. Photo by Danielle Aloia.

Cheryl Branche, MD, MLS
P/T Adjunct Reference Librarian | Health Professions Library Hunter College, CUNY Brookdale Campus

On Tuesday, November 29, I viewed the engaging poster presentations and discussed the posters with the presenters, who hailed from France, Italy, Japan, Korea, The Netherlands, and the United States. Three posters interested me:

  • Policy Development for Grey Literature Resources: An Assessment of the Pisa Declaration
  • Grey Literature in Transfer Pricing: Japan and Korea
  • WorldWideScience.org: An International Partnership to Improve Access to Scientific and Technical Information and Research Data.

During the Tuesday afternoon session, Debbie Rabina presented an ongoing long-term study, which identified the information needs of incarcerated people and demonstrated their willingness to write to agencies for information. The late afternoon session included a presentation entitled: The GreyLit Report: Understanding the Challenges of Finding Grey Literature.

On Wednesday, November 30, I joined the GreyLit: Intro and Search Strategies session. It was a hands-on learning session focused on finding grey literature. It was very interesting.

The conference was quite stimulating, informative and useful and I look forward to adding the new techniques to my armamentarium to seek, find…and explore more grey literature.

Alyssa Grimshaw | Drexel University
Library Services Assistant IV / MSLIS Student | Cushing/Whitney Medical Library / Drexel University

The 18th International Conference on Grey Literature was an exceptionally eye-opening experience. In regards to grey literature I consider myself a novice, but found this conference enlightening, as it clearly illustrated the benefits of promoting and utilizing grey literature within the library system.

The conference started out strong with the Keynote Address by Taryn Rucinski. Rucinski was very energetic and informative, discussing all of the literature found within the law grey literature. I was truly flabbergasted to discover that one can find expert testimony on a large wide array of different subjects in the legislative proceedings on government websites. This is just one example of the many exceptional ways to utilize grey literature.

The conference also helped me uncover a great resource – The Grey Literature Report! The New York Academy of Medicine publishes this report bi-monthly and takes all of the obscure grey literature and makes it easily searchable!  I particularly enjoyed the international aspect of the conference because it allowed me to learn a little more about how other countries use and preserve grey literature. I believe this to be incredibly important because in order for libraries to grow and develop they should be able to learn from, and interconnect with, one another. Each day of the conference was filled with valuable information and great tips that I intend to bring back to my library and apply in order to help our patrons!

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Joachim Schöpfel at GL18. Photo by Danielle Aloia.

Kate Nyhan, MLS
Research and education librarian for public health | Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, Yale University

Attending one day of #GL18 at #GreyLitWeek at the New York Academy of Medicine – thanks to generous professional development funding from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine – I learned a great deal about what I don’t know. Of course, when it comes to grey literature, ignorance is a common state indeed.

  • Students and even a few eminent researchers I’ve spoken with aren’t quite sure what “grey literature” is.
  • Information professionals don’t always know the information ecosystem of grey literature’s producers and aggregators.
  • Medical librarians might not even be aware of the diverse types of grey literature that could be relevant to biomedical and public health questions – such as the governmental administrative materials that are generated by legislative, litigation, and regulatory processes. (Read “The Elephant in the Room” by excellent speaker Taryn Rucinski of Pace University Law School for more details)
  • Finally, organizations that generate grey literature sometimes seem not to know the first thing about the preservation and discovery of information – even when they are desperately trying to disseminate their high-quality, free, information products.

Thanks to the excellent talks, posters, and discussions at GL18, the unknown unknowns of grey literature are starting to become known unknowns for me. I choose that phrase to acknowledge that I’m still a novice at, say, retrieving government administrative materials, or even hard-to-find theses and dissertations – but now I’m a novice with better tools!

Today is #GivingTuesday

After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two whirlwind days for getting deals, #GivingTuesday is a day for giving back.  Through this campaign, millions of people have come together to support and champion the organizations and causes they value. On this day, please consider donating to the New York Academy of Medicine Library.

Open to the public since 1878, the library is home to a collection that spans 12 centuries of learning.  It is a place where world-renowned historians and students alike come to learn, to be inspired, and to form the foundation of knowledge that opens the door to a future discovery.  With your generous contribution, we can foster this discovery for years to come.

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As we look to the future, please enjoy this look back at the past year through the eyes of our library staff.

“From Dr. Dorothy Boulding Ferebee, the African American physician leading the Mississippi Health Project during the Great Depression; Mexican physicians marching on the street for reform in the 1960s; to the doctors and nurses at the Lincoln Hospital creating a model for medical activism in the 1970s; this year’s “Changemakers” series was an important reminder that creating social and political change requires energy, engagement, and commitment, at any time in history.”  –Lisa O’Sullivan, Director

archivespanel“On October 26th, the Academy Library convened  ‘Archives, Advocacy and Change:  Tales from Four New York City Collections.’  I moderated a lively conversation with all-star panelists Jenna Freedman (Barnard College), Steven Fullwood (In the Life Archive), Timothy Johnson (Tamiment Library, New York University) and Rich Wandel (The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center).  The discussion hit on a lot of fascinating issues, including how archivists shape the historical record with the selection and acquisition choices they make, issues of privilege, and access for communities.”  –Anne Garner, Curator

edwardjenner“I was excited to learn in 2016 that the Library holds autograph letters from Edward Jenner in which he discusses the smallpox vaccine that he helped pioneer. These fascinating letters are available to the public for consultation. They demonstrate how strongly Jenner believed that inoculation with cowpox would protect people from the scourge of smallpox.”  –Rebecca Filner, Head of Cataloging

“As a new staff member, I really enjoyed the Rare Book Room tour that Arlene Shaner gave me during my first few weeks at the Academy. I got to see some absolutely incredible items and learned so much about the building’s history. As a little aside, these tours are free and open to the public! They happen from 12-1 on the first Monday of each month.”  –Audrey Lorberfeld, Digital Technical Assistant

pendleton_bugsandnuts_1924_cover_watermark“Most of my works has a lot to do with satisfaction—satisfactions from cleaning dusted books, from placing crumbled health pamphlets into clean, acid-free envelopes, from making fitted enclosures for damaged books, from putting torn pieces together, and so much more. But all of these satisfactions is ultimately coming from that I’m contributing in preservation of the library materials to be more accessible and usable for the future! One of the most memorable item I worked through in Health Pamphlet Rehousing Project this year is this “Bugs and Nuts” pamphlet by Andrew Lenis Pendleton, with so many absurd and eerie illustrations.”  –Yungjin Shin, Collections Care Assistant

 

color-our-collections“A recent highlight for me would be our first #ColorOurCollections week, held February 1-5, 2016. Over 200 libraries, archives, and cultural institutions around the world participated by creating collections-based coloring sheets and sharing them freely online. It was exciting to connect with other institutions and new followers, and it was especially rewarding to share our collection and see people engage with it in new and creative ways. I can’t wait for the next #ColorOurCollections, coming up on February 6-10, 2017!”  –Rebecca Pou, Archivist

 

 

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“One thing I particularly enjoyed this year was developing an online store featuring images from our collections on a variety of products. It allowed me to delve into and share the collections in a new and often very quirky ways. A 1910 health pamphlet on a beer koozie, a 17th century microscopic slice of rock as your party clutch, a poster of vintage stethoscopes to adorn your walls, a refrigerator magnet with a an octopus, or beautifully calligraphic roman numerals from a 9th century Roman cookbook decorating a bookmark – these truly breathe new life into elements of the collection.”  –Emily Miranker, Team Administrator/Project Coordinator

“In sitting down to go through the William J. Morton Papers in connection with my residency as The Helfand Fellow, I was just stunned to find a 7-in thick stack of newspaper cuttings curated by Morton himself and preserved in their original order. The subject of my research is the history of the X-ray, and the difficulty is dealing with the voluminous print matter that appeared almost instantly. Yet Morton essentially curated some of that for me, by clipping articles that reflected his view of what was relevant to the New York metropolitan area and the networks of physicians and scientists in which he traveled. The collection is a gift for the historian, not just for its content, but because of its window into what one prominent NYC physician deemed worth noting about X-ray fever.”  –Daniel Goldberg, Audrey and William H. Helfand Fellow

columbia-dermatology“Dr. Paul Schneiderman brought his Columbia dermatology residents to visit the rare book room on August 26th so that we could explore the history of dermatology. Looking at highlights from the dermatology collection from the 16th through the 20th centuries gave the residents a chance to think about the many ways in which their specialty has changed over time, especially since dermatology relies so heavily on visual representation. We looked at hand colored engravings, chromolithographs, photographs and stereoscopic images and the residents and their mentor engaged in lively debates about whether the descriptions and images matched with current information about some of the diseases that were shown. Not only did the residents have the opportunity to see these wonderful materials, but I had the pleasure of learning more about how to interpret the images from them.”  –Arlene Shaner, Historical Collections Librarian

When Mexican Physicians Take to the Streets and to Villages

Today’s guest post is written by Dr. Gabriela Soto Laveaga, Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University. Her book Jungle Laboratories: Mexican Peasants, National Projects and the Making of the Pill (Duke University Press, 2009) won the 2010 Robert K. Merton Best Book prize in Science, Knowledge, and Technology Studies from the American Sociological Association. On Thursday, November 17th at 6pm, Soto Laveaga will give The Iago Galdston Lecture: “When Mexican Physicians Take to the Streets and to Villages.” There is no charge, but please register in advance here.

In late November of 1964 more than two hundred residents and interns from one of Mexico City’s leading public hospitals threatened to strike because they were denied a Christmas bonus. Their unexpected response revealed the financially precarious situation of junior doctors and the worrisome state of many of the nation’s public hospitals. The subsequent walk-out launched ten months of unprecedented actions in hospitals, clinics, and, surprisingly, Mexico City streets.

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Physician demonstration demanding “a solution to the medical problem in the country.”

As the movement gained momentum, physicians’ demands for living wages and better working conditions shifted to incorporate a call for social justice for peasants and blue-collar workers. The shift away from hospital-based labor demands alarmed an increasingly repressive regime that set out to discredit physicians through media manipulation, intimidation, and incarceration. By March 1965 many young physicians, once heralded as the future of the nation, were portrayed in the government-controlled media as traitors of the state.

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Coded message requesting state governors send information about tension in hospitals. Source: National Archives, Mexico City.

Declassified material offers an extraordinary opportunity to learn —via decoded messages, transcribed wire-tapped conversations, and memos to the president— how the government sought to deal with unruly doctors. It is especially interesting to learn how the government used media – television and newspapers – to distort claims and dismiss doctors’ demands as the actions of a “greedy” profession. Especially revealing is, for example, how secret service agents infiltrated hospitals to gain first-hand knowledge of a movement that quickly became national in scope.

Throughout the multiple walk-outs, hospital emergency rooms remained opened but newspapers created a sense of growing dread among the population. In news stories doctors were often labeled “lazy,” “traitorous,” “murderous,” and, most often, as elites disconnected from the rest of society.

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Secret Service picture of physicians protesting in May 1965. Source: National Archives, Mexico City.

Days before the 1965 State of the Union address, President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz sent military personnel to oust doctors from key hospitals. In his address the president spent more than thirty minutes speaking about the irresponsible “homicidal actions” of striking physicians. In the aftermath of the movement, more than five hundred physicians lost their license to practice medicine (most were able to practice again in the next presidential administration) and for the following fifty years, until summer 2015, there were no national, doctor-led movements in Mexico.

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Doctors taking over downtown streets in silent protest, May 1965. Source: Página 24.

Of note is that after the social movement was unceremoniously truncated a handful of striking doctors joined an urban guerrilla Movimiento Revolucionario del Pueblo (People’s Revolutionary Movement) intent on destroying the government through violence. These doctors were, in turn, captured and together with other members of the guerrilla spent nearly a decade in Lecumberri prison for acts of treason.

The “medical” movement, as it came to be known, was really about two (often at odds) issues: the role of physicians in a rapidly changing society and the country’s need to provide proper healthcare to all working Mexicans, a right established in the 1917 Constitution. In fact young doctors’ reactions may be rooted not in 1960s urban discontent but, curiously, in experiences of city doctors in rural Mexico.

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Nurses forming a  human barrier to protect striking physicians, 1965.

Starting in 1936, all Mexican medical students were required to spend time in remote, poor, and/or indigenous areas provided much-needed primary care. This mandatory social service was later written into the Mexican Constitution. For many city physicians their social service time was a transformative experience. For example, treating patients in extreme poverty while living with them as neighbors and facing similar hardships (such as lack of electricity or running water) sensitized many physicians to the complexity of providing care in Mexico. In addition, these doctors experienced, often for the first time, the deep socio-economic divisions in the country. It was young doctors most moved by their social service year who, oral histories reveal, were more likely to join a social movement.

Currently Mexico’s public healthcare system is going through dramatic shifts, and the 1965 movement is a reminder of the powerful and evolving role that physicians have played in transforming care in the country.