Staff Finds: Augustus White on Race in America

By , October 12, 2017
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Augustus A. White

In 1969, Augustus A. White was studying for his Ph.D. at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. At this time, Sweden was a vocal opponent of the American war in Vietnam (White served in Vietnam, 1966-1967). According to his memoir, Seeing Patients, while in Sweden White began to read about the black experience and hosted Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, at his apartment, when Seale was there to do public appearances. It was during this time that White wrote a letter to President-Elect Richard Nixon, describing his views on the state of race relations in America:

Let us pause to reflect with empathy on the millions of de-humanized fathers, mothers, and brothers — poor oppressed and without hope (that so very essential element for human motivation). Now there is of course considerable “tokenism” – a black face on a TV-commerical, a few conspicuous jobs and positions. But the reality of the situation is that the black man in the ghetto is still almost completely without potential or opportunity for upward mobility. He knows it too well, he lives the facts of oppression all his waking hours. He does not have work. He cannot get work. He sees no hope of getting work. He has just about reached the bottom. Many have reached the bottom. When a man reaches the bottom then no matter what he does, he can go no way but up. (That is why the small scrawny undernourished under-equipped Viet Cong fight with such vigor and resolve.) During the black man’s oppressed existence he is chronically, and acutely aware of the luxury and comforts of his “fellow Americans”. Does this not constitute a rather explosive potential?

Later, White describes the role medicine can play in helping to ease the troubles:

Medical care should be provided through good clinics especially for child guidance and health. Sincere concern and conscientious medical care programs are a marvelous entreé for establishing communications with an alienated people. This could be financed and operated by the government in conjunction with post-graduate medical training centers many of which are already in the ghetto.

Full text of the letter can be seen below.

The Center for the History of Medicine holds the Augustus A. White papers, 1951-2010 (inclusive), which are open to research. The finding aid for the White papers can be found here.

For information regarding access to this collection, please contact the Public Services staff.

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Staff Finds: Fish Odor Control in Gloucester

By , October 3, 2017
Leslie Silverman

Leslie Silverman

While processing the Leslie Silverman papers, Center staff came across records related to an effort to control fish odor in processing plants in Gloucester, MA. Silverman was retained as a consultant by the Gloucester Community Pier Association to inspect fish processing facilities and provide recommendations for odor abatement. The issue arose initially by way of complaints from local residents and grew to encompass health concerns regarding effluent. While using chemical analysis to determine the contaminants being released by the processing, Silverman also attempted to correlate the time and location of complaints with the wind direction and the operating times of the processing plants. Initial recommendations were made in 1952, but non-compliance issues necessitated Silverman’s involvement over the next several years. The records contain Silverman’s notes and reports on his analysis, correspondence with government, plant managers, and private citizens, and lists of complaints received by local authorities. Also included is his research on similar problems in other locations. Selected records from Silverman’s work in Gloucester can be seen below.

Leslie Silverman (1914-1966) was Professor of Engineering in Environmental Hygiene and Head of the Department of Industrial Hygiene at Harvard School of Public Health. He also worked as a consulting engineer on issues regarding air pollution control, industrial hygiene, and industrial ventilation. The Center holds the Leslie Silverman papers, 1920-1967, which are the product of his activities as a consultant, researcher, and Harvard School of Public Health faculty member.

For information regarding access to this collection, please contact the Public Services staff.

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Augustus White Papers Open To Research

By , October 3, 2017
Augustus A. White

Augustus A. White

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of the Augustus A. White papers, 1951-2010 (inclusive). White is the Ellen and Melvin Gordon Distinguished Professor of Medical Education and Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Harvard Medical School and a former Orthopaedic Surgeon-in-Chief at Beth Israel Hospital. White was the first African American medical student at Stanford University, surgical resident at Yale University, professor of medicine at Yale, and department head at a Harvard-affiliated hospital (Beth Israel Hospital). From 1966 to 1968, he served as Captain in the United States Army Medical Corps, serving as a combat surgeon at the 85th Evacuation Hospital in Qui Nhon, Vietnam from 1966 to 1967. Since retiring from surgery in 2001, White has researched and written about issues of diversity and cultural sensitivity in medicine.

The papers are the product of White’s activities as an orthopedic surgeon, Harvard Medical School faculty member, and author and researcher. The papers contain records from White’s work at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, the University of Maryland at Baltimore, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and Brown University. Also included is White’s professional correspondence, his medical writings, reminisces of his service in Vietnam, and records of his speeches and lectures. The collection also contains records from his outside legal consultations and clippings, photographs and other personal and biographical records.

The finding aid for the White papers can be found here.

For information regarding access to this collection, please contact the Public Services staff.

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Staff Finds: Augustus White in Vietnam

By , September 19, 2017
Augustus A. White

Augustus A. White

From 1966 to 1968, Augustus A. White served as a Captain in the United States Army Medical Corps and from August 1966 to August 1967, he was deployed as a combat surgeon at the 85th Evacuation Hospital in Qui Nhon, Vietnam. During his deployment, he volunteered during his off-duty time at the St. Francis Leprosarium, earning a Bronze Star for this work, as well as for a volunteer mission to help retrieve an injured soldier from a mountainside. Subject to a special physicians’ draft, White could have chosen service in the the National Guard, Navy Reserve, or Public Health Service, but instead chose active duty service, as he describes in Seeing Patients:

Here I was, fully trained, after so many years. I couldn’t wait to get out on my own and be what I had worked so hard to be. And where in the world could I do that instantaneously at the highest volume in the most needed place other than Vietnam? Besides, I thought, I’m not going over to kill people; I’m going over to save them. And besides that, how about what I owed? I had grown up during World War II … Our soldiers had protected me then. Shouldn’t I be giving something back?

While in Vietnam and caring for badly injured soldiers, White struggled with feelings of helplessness. Again, from Seeing Patients:

Finding a way to deal with all this emotionally was crucial. If you allowed yourself to get dragged into thinking too much, you’d simply be crushed to pieces. I mulled over the idea of sending a letter and photos to Lyndon Johnson. I composed the letter in my head a dozen times, thinking about what words might have the most dramatic effect. I tried to figure out how I might actually get it to him so he would read it. I imagined getting him and other world leaders down into a MASH unit operating room before they’d be allowed to start their wars. Grab them by the collar and force them to watch a terrified young man writhing in pain with his legs mangled or his belly ripped up. But of course that was just escapist fantasy. The reality was that there wasn’t the slightest thing I could do to stop what was going on.

The Augustus A. White papers, 1951-2010 (inclusive), contain records related to White’s service in Vietnam. This includes typed and annotated excerpts from White’s diary kept during his Vietnam service, detailing his day-to-day thoughts and activities, including his work at the leprosarium (see below for diary excerpts and a letters from his commanding officer John Feagin). The collection also contains copies of his articles “Vietnam Memoirs: River of Blood” and “Notes and Impressions at Vietnam Memorial”, drafts of a manuscript about his experiences in Vietnam, and an after action report (see below for excerpts) detailing the air transfer of a badly wounded soldier from Vietnam to Walter Reed Hospital, Washington D.C.

The finding aid for the White papers can be found here.

For information regarding access to this collection, please contact the Public Services staff.

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Staff Finds: Arthur Hertig and Carnegie #7699

By , July 18, 2017

While processing the papers of Arthur Hertig, Center staff came across drafts and notes from an article by Hertig and John Rock entitled “Two Human Ova of the Previllous Stage, Having an Ovulation Age of about Eleven and Twelve Days Respectively” (Contributions to Embryology 29 (1941): 127-56). The paper describes Carnegie embryos #7699 and #7700, with #7699 being at that point the youngest human ovum discovered by researchers. Hertig was working with Rock and the Carnegie Institution of Washington to conduct studies of early human embryos, research which enabled later advances in the birth control pill and in vitro fertilization.

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Arthur Hertig

The embryos were taken from women who were scheduled to undergo hysterectomies, who were married, under 45, and who had at least two children. Rock’s assistant Miriam Menkin recruited the eligible women, and guided them through the process of recording their body temperature in order to determine their time of ovulation. Loretta McLaughlin, in her book The Pill, John Rock, and the Church, describes the next step in the process:

At this point Rock and Hertig’s version of the instructions given the women differs somewhat from Miriam’s. But it was she, not they, who was dealing directly with the “candidates.” Rock and Hertig hold that the women were advised in the final month to continue their normal pattern of sexual intercourse – but this time without using any precautions to prevent conception. The women were asked to keep a record of the dates of any intercourse, and that was all. Miriam says there was a little more than that to it. Miriam would point out to the candidates “these other women sitting on the bench in the fertility clinic. They are women who would like to have a baby, who can’t. We want to find out more about how to help them by finding out more about the early stages of a baby. “ She would reassure the women that “even if you have intercourse you won’t have a baby because you have to have the operation anyway.” She would hint at least that it would be useful to the research if they had intercourse during the final fertile period. “After all,” she rationalized, “the practical fact of it was that there wasn’t much point in going to all the trouble of preparing the women for the study, if none were going to at least give their eggs a chance to be exposed to their husband’s sperm. There was a crude pregnancy test at the time but it couldn’t work until a woman was six to eight weeks pregnant. Neither we nor they could know whether they were pregnant at the time of the surgery.”

Below are scans from the above-mentioned article drafts. Included are drafts of text and tables demonstrating how Hertig and Rock were able to date the ovum.

For information regarding access to these collections, please contact the Public Services staff.

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Arthur Hertig Papers Open to Research

By , March 10, 2017
Arthur Hertig

Arthur Hertig

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the reopening of the Arthur Tremain Hertig papers, 1922-1987. Hertig (1904-1990) was a pathologist, human embryo researcher, and professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School. Hertig collaborated with John Rock to conduct studies of early human embryos, research which enabled later advances in the birth control pill and in vitro fertilization. Hertig was also Shattuck Professor of Pathological Anatomy and Chairman of the Department of Pathology at Harvard Medical School. After stepping down as Chairman in 1968, Hertig moved to the New England Regional Primate Research Center in the Division of Pathobiology.

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Arthur Hertig

The papers are the product of Hertig’s activities as a pathologist, embryology researcher, author, and Harvard Medical School faculty member. The papers contain: Hertig’s professional correspondence and research records, including those records related to his human embryo research with John Rock; Harvard Medical School records; records from professional meetings and conferences; notes and illustrations from his time as a student at the University of Minnesota, along with photographs and other personal records.

The finding aid for the Hertig papers can be found here.

For information regarding access to this collection, please contact the Public Services staff.

 

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Staff Finds: The Art of Robert Latou Dickinson

By , June 27, 2016
Dickinson Self-Portrait

Dickinson Self-Portrait

Robert Latou Dickinson is perhaps best known as a sex researcher, as well as for his collaborations with Margaret Sanger in promoting contraception and with Abram Belskie in developing anatomical models. However, in addition to being a medical illustrator, Dickinson was also engaged in art outside of the medical field. In a short paper from 1950, read in his absence at a meeting of the New York Physicians Art Club (of which he was president for two years), Dickinson had these words about the intersection of art and medicine:

Drawing or painting is important additional training for any doctor. It sharpens his observation of detail and proportion. Whenever you depict trees or whatever, you are developing speed in facility of eye-record. Then, as you were looking at a standing posture, chest action or the facial expressions that furnish diagnostic clues, you have, by your sketching, sharpened and quickened your powers of observation.

Dickinson maintained a studio in the New York Academy of Medicine building and authored several publications related to his nature sketches, including the New York Walk Book (1923), Palisades Interstate Park (1921) and the Washington Walkbook (circa 1918). Images of Dickinson’s drawings can be found in the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.

Series V of the Robert Latou Dickinson papers contains a subseries of Dickinson’s non-medical artwork. The finding aid for the Dickinson papers can be found here.

For information regarding access to this collection, please contact the Public Services staff.

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Robert Latou Dickinson Papers Open to Research

By , June 27, 2016
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Robert Latou Dickinson

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of the  Robert Latou Dickinson papers, 1881-1972 (inclusive), 1926-1951 (bulk). Dickinson (1861-1950, MD, 1882, Long Island College Hospital) was a gynecologist and obstetrician, sex researcher, anatomist, author, and artist. Dickinson worked with Margaret Sanger in promoting contraception and was also known for his medical illustrations and work with Abram Belskie developing anatomical models, in particular Norma and Normman.

The papers are the product of Dickinson’s activities as a sex researcher, obstetrician and gynecologist, author, and artist. The papers include: Dickinson’s professional and personal correspondence; case histories and subject files related to his research interests; writings for both books and articles, including records related to his unpublished book Doctor as Marriage Counselor; biographical records including diaries, obituaries and related correspondence, photographs, and an unpublished biography written by Dickinson’s son-in-law, George Barbour; and Dickinson’s medical and non-medical artwork.

The finding aid for the Dickinson papers can be found here.

For information regarding access to this collection, please contact the Public Services staff.

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Robert Latou Dickinson

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Curriculum Changes at Harvard Medical School

By , October 8, 2015

Harvard Medical School introduced a newly designed curriculum this fall, as the Harvard Crimson reports:

Medical professors who conceived the overhaul of the curriculum, which is called “Pathways” and has been in the works since 2012, say it will require medical students to learn more actively, rather than cram and memorize material, and that it seeks to reflect how medicine has changed over the last 30 years. It focuses on the first two years of medical school, termed “preclerkship,” and is now in effect for the school’s first-year students.

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Dean Daniel Tosteson

This is only the most recent reshaping of how medicine is taught at HMS. In 1985, under Dean Daniel Tosteson, HMS launched the “New Pathway” program, which utilized problem-based learning done in small groups, to foster life-long learning and de-emphasize memorization, texts, and lectures. Due in part to this work, Tosteson received the Abraham Flexner Award for Distinguished Service in 1991.

In 1928, Dean David Edsall introduced a version of the Oxford tutorial system. Edsall was concerned that medical education was focused on the average student and did not have allowances for the higher-achieving students to reach their full potential. Students showing promise were selected for the system and in their first year received support from tutors in specific subject areas which allowed them to pursue extra work and research outside of the normal course of study.

Major reforms to medical education at Harvard also took place in the late 19th century. Correspondence (shown below) from Harvard University President Charles Eliot to Medical School Dean Calvin Ellis details the reorganization of education at the Medical School in 1870-1871. Reforms designed to raise standards included a three-year course of study, examinations in each department, including a written portion, a requirement that every student perform dissection, attendance of at least two terms as a requirement for a degree, and the specification of fees.

The correspondence below can be found in the following collection: Harvard Medical School. Office of the Dean. Records, 1828-1904 (inclusive), 1869-1874 (bulk). The collection has been digitized and links to digital surrogates are available in the finding aid.

For information regarding access to this collection, please contact the Public Services staff.

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Page 1

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Pages 2 and 3

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Page 4

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