Thursday, February 26, 2009

2009 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the History of Medicine

Registration is now open for the annual meeting of the American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM), which will be held in Cleveland April 23-26, 2009. The AAHM web site has the full conference program and online registration. Membership dues are $85/year for individuals and $25/year for students.

AAHM is the leading organization for the history of medicine in the U.S., and affiliated groups also schedule their annual meetings to coincide with the AAHM conference. This year the American Osler Society, the Medical Museums Association, the Sigerist Circle, the Society for the History of Navy Medicine, the History of Psychiatry Discussion Group, as well as the Archivists and Librarians in the History of the Health Sciences will all be meeting in Cleveland (see AAHM program or organization web sites for further information).

Lastly it is worth noting that several UNC faculty and students will be presenting at the meetings of the AAHM and the American Osler Society; the titles of their respective presentations are listed below. Drs. Jeff Baker and Margaret Humphreys of Duke will be moderating panels at AAHM.


Michael McVaugh, Ph.D.
The Meaning of “Salernitan” in Thirteenth-Century Medicine

Katherine Keirns, College of Arts and Sciences
Lungs and Laces: Spirometry & the Quantification of Women’s Breathing in the 19th Century

American Osler Society:

H. Mike Jones, M.D.
Pellagra, Progress, and Public Polemics: Goldberger, E.J. Wood, and the Osler Connections

Jamie Fraser, 3rd-Year Medical Student
William B. Bean Student Research Award Lecture
Molding an Independent Specialty: Plastic Surgery in Postwar America

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Open Stacks" at UNC's Wilson Library

On February 17, 2009, curators and staff at Wilson Library sponsored "Open Stacks," giving the public the rare opportunity to go behind the scenes and view materials drawn from the Southern Historical Collections, the Southern Folklife Collection, and the University Archives and Records Service. The student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel, was on hand to record some of the tour, and this can be seen in the YouTube video below.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

New Wendy Moore Biography on Mary Eleanor Bowes

Wendy Moore, journalist and author of The Knife Man: The Extraordinary Life and Times of John Hunter, Father of Modern Surgery, has just published a new biography entitled: Wedlock: The True Story of the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore.*

Moore delivered a delightful and erudite Bullitt Club lecture on John Hunter on September 23, 2008 (see Bullitt web site for an MP3 recording), and her biography is equally so. The subject of her new book was born 260 years ago, on February 24, 1749, and was a friend and patient of Hunter's. Wedlock opens with a scene of swordplay, and is just as intriguing throughout; as described on her web site:

'Wedlock' tells the remarkable true story of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore, who became Britain's richest heiress on the death of her entrepreneur father when she was 11. After an unhappy first marriage to John Lyon, the 9th Earl of Strathmore, who left her a widow when he died of TB, she was lured into marrying an Irish fortune-hunter named Andrew Robinson Stoney. Squandering her money and laying waste her vast estate, Stoney--who adopted the surname Bowes on marriage--reduced Mary to a wretched, starved, petrified shadow of her former self. After suffering eight years of cruelty and torment, Mary Eleanor finally found help in the most unlikely of places. A barely credible tale of survival and triumph against overwhelming odds, 'Wedlock' reveals an eighteenth-century world of sexual intrigue, terrifying adventure and court room drama.

* As a bibliographical note, the American edition of Moore's Hunter biography is entitled: The Knife Man: Blood, Body Snatching, and the Birth of Modern Surgery. The UK edition of the Bowes biography is entitled: Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Edward Tufte on Presenting Data and Information

Edward Tufte, a leading authority on the design and use of data and information, will be offering his one-day workshop, Presenting Data and Information, on March 9th and 10th in Durham, NC. Courses fill quickly, so those interested in attending should register soon; further details can be found at his web site.

I attended one of Tufte's workshops a couple years ago in Phoenix, and would recommend it most favorably. His work is thoroughly grounded in the analysis of historical precedents, both good and bad, and he has also written on the presentation of information in medical contexts. His essay, The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within, is particularly incisive and should be required reading for all those who have come to rely on this software for conveying information. In short, Tufte is insightful and entertaining.

Participants receive copies of four of Tufte's books as part of the course fee: The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (second edition, 2001); Envisioning Information (1990); Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative (1997); and Beautiful Evidence (2006). All are well worth reading.

Topics covered in the course include:

-- fundamental strategies of analytical design
-- evaluating evidence used in presentations
-- statistical data: tables, graphics, and semi-graphics
-- business, scientific, research, and financial presentations
-- complexity and clarity
-- effective presentations: on paper and in person
-- interface design
-- use of PowerPoint, video, overheads, and handouts
-- multi-media, internet, and websites
-- credibility of presentations
-- animation and scientific visualizations
-- many practical examples

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Hearty Valentine's Greeting

This year's Valentine's message features a papier-mâché heart in Special Collections at the Health Sciences Library, which was purchased through the Dr. Benson Reid Wilcox Rare Book Endowment. Designed by Dr. Louis Thomas Jérôme Auzoux (1797-1880) and fabricated circa 1870, this and similar anatomical models were an important tool in the teaching of human anatomy in the nineteenth century. As cultural, legal, and environmental concerns limited the efficacy of using cadavers for instruction, Auzoux pioneered the development of papier-mâché anatomical models, which were employed to represent the structures of humans, as well as animals and plants. For those interested in learning more, the Smithsonian Institution's online exhibition, Artificial Anatomy: Papier-Mâché Anatomical Models, is highly recommended.

Other online resources on the anatomy and function of the heart are the Latin and English versions of William Harvey's Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus [On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals], in which he famously observed in 1628:

" . . . it is absolutely necessary to conclude that the blood in the animal body is impelled in a circle, and is in a state of ceaseless motion; that this is the act or function which the heart performs by means of its pulse; and that it is the sole and only end of the motion and contraction of the heart." -- Chapter 14, "Conclusion of the Demonstration of Circulation" (translated by Robert Willis).

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Black Medical History Resources

:: The Old North State Medical Society (Durham, NC)
The nation's oldest association of black physicians, the Society was founded in 1886 and has from that date until the present directed its energies to the objectives of equity in healthcare, equal opportunity for black professionals and equal care for black, other minorities, and very poor patients. Online exhibit at: Virtual Museum of African American Medical History in North Carolina

:: Black History Month: A Medical Perspective (Duke)
An online exhibition featuring sections on People, Medical Education, Hospitals, Folk Medicine, Chronology of Achievements, as well as a Selective Bibliography.

:: Opening Doors: Contemporary African American Academic Surgeons (National Library of Medicine)
African Americans have always practiced medicine, whether as physicians, healers, midwives, or “root doctors.” The journey of the African American physician from pre-Civil War to modern day America has been a challenging one. Early black pioneer physicians not only became skilled practitioners, they became trailblazers and educators paving the way for future physicians, surgeons, and nurses, and opening doors to better health care for the African American community.

:: Journal of the National Medical Association (1909 to present)
In celebration of Black History Month, the National Library of Medicine has announced an important addition to PubMed Central (PMC), its free digital archive of full-text journal articles: the complete archive of the Journal of the National Medical Association (JNMA), which observes its centennial this year.

The National Medical Association (NMA), established in 1895, is the largest and oldest national organization representing African American physicians and allied health professionals in the United States. The JNMA was published quarterly from 1909 to 1938, bimonthly from 1940 to 1977, and monthly since 1978. The archive currently represents over 77,000 digitized pages of issues through 2007. More recent content will be coming at a later date.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bullitt Lecture on Early Black Physicians

The next joint meeting of UNC’s Bullitt History of Medicine Club and Duke’s Trent History of Medicine Society will be Tuesday, February 10, 2009 at the UNC Health Sciences Library in the 5th Floor Conference Room (527). Please join us at 5:30pm for light refreshments followed by the lecture at 6pm. Meetings are free and open to the public.

Dr. Todd Savitt, Professor of Medical Humanities at East Carolina University, will be presenting a lecture entitled, "Entering a 'White' Profession: Black Physicians in 19th- and 20th-Century America."

Dr. Savitt is an historian of medicine. He received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University (1965), attended the University of Rochester School of Medicine (1965-1968), and earned his M.A. (1970) and Ph.D. (1975) in history from the University of Virginia. After teaching history of medicine and medical humanities at the University of Florida College of Medicine from 1976 to 1982 he joined the faculty of the Department of Medical Humanities at East Carolina University School of Medicine, where he presently teaches history of medicine, literature and medicine, social and cultural issues in medical practice, and medical ethics.

Dr. Savitt's primary research interests are African-American medical history and medical history of the American South and West. He has written or edited six books (Medicine and Slavery: The Diseases and Health Care of Blacks in Antebellum Virginia; The Dictionary of American Medical Biography; Science and Medicine in the Old South; Disease and Distinctiveness in the American South; Medical Readers’ Theater: A Guide and Scripts; and Race and Medicine in Nineteenth- and Early-Twentieth Century America) and a number of articles on such topics as the relationship of the AMA towards black physicians, history of sickle-cell anemia, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), use of African Americans for medical experimentation, the entry of black physicians into the American medical profession, and early African-American medical schools and medical journals.

For directions to the UNC Health Sciences Library, visit the HSL website. The Robertson Scholars Express Bus travels non-stop between UNC (Morehead Planetarium) and Duke (Chapel Circle).

For more information on the Bullitt Club and a schedule of meetings for spring 2009, please visit the Bullitt website. Bullitt lectures for 2008-9 are now available as mp3 downloads.