Category: Public Health

New Acquisitions: Thomas J. Smith Papers

By , September 16, 2019

Image courtesy of Harvard University Center for the Environment.

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the acquisition of the personal and professional papers of Dr. Thomas Jay Smith, Professor of Industrial Hygiene Emeritus at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, formerly known as the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).

Dr. Smith was Professor of Environmental Health at HSPH from 1977 to 1985 and 1993 to 2012; he directed the Industrial Hygiene Program at HSPH from 1993 to 2011. He also taught at University of Massachusetts Medical School from 1980 to 1985 and directed their Division of Environmental Health from 1989 to 1993. Dr. Smith’s research focuses on how to best characterize environmental exposures for studies of health effects. He collaborated with epidemiologists and toxicologists to analyze exposures to several agents, including sulfur dioxide, silicon carbide dust, gasoline vapors, glass and mineral fibers, arsenic, and diesel exhaust.

The Thomas Jay Smith papers, 1972-2017 (inclusive), which are not yet available for research, consist of notebooks, project files, reports, research, conference records, lectures, and manuscripts related to occupational health.

For more information about the collection, contact Public Services at chm@hms.harvard.edu.

New Acquisitions: Nancy M. Kane Papers

By , September 9, 2019

Image courtesy of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the acquisition of the personal and professional papers of Dr. Nancy M. Kane, who recently retired from her role as a Professor of Management in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Dr. Kane has won numerous teaching awards, and supports case writing and advocates for teaching via the case method. She also directs the Master in Health Care Management Program, an executive leadership program created for mid-career physicians leading healthcare organizations, and teaches in Executive and Masters Degree programs in the areas of health care financial accounting and analysis, payment systems, and competitive strategy. Her research interests have included measuring hospital financial performance, quantifying community benefits and the value of tax exemption, the competitive structure and performance of hospital and insurance industries, nonprofit hospital governance, and the viability of safety-net providers.

The Nancy M. Kane papers, 1970-2018 (inclusive), which are not yet available for research, consist of teaching records, course records, case records, research in hospital finances and financial transparency, records relating to charity care and tax exemptions, US and state health reform records, health care regulation records, Safety Net records, and departmental administrative files.

For more information about the collection, contact Public Services at chm@hms.harvard.edu.

Dr. Eleanor Mason and Early Research on Basal Metabolic Rate of Indian Women

By , March 5, 2019

Portrait of Eleanor Dewey Mason, circa 1956. Image courtesy of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.

As we prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day, it has been a pleasure to research and highlight Dr. Eleanor Mason, a student and visiting scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health, now known as the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Dr. Eleanor Dewey Mason was born in Tura, Assam, India in 1898 to American Baptist missionary parents. After graduating from Newton High School, she earned her BA from Mt. Holyoke College (1919) and an MA from Wellesley College (1921). Her early interest was in zoology as well as missionary work, and after spending a year as a research assistant in genetics with the Carnegie Institute in New York City, she took advantage of an opportunity to become a zoology lecturer in India at Madras University.

On her first furlough from Madras, she came to Boston to pursue an MA (1928) from Radcliffe College. Later, she returned to Radcliffe and earned her PhD (1934). These degrees from Radcliffe involved vital statistic courses taken at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), as well as courses taken at Harvard Medical School (HMS).

It is important to note that at this particular time, women took courses but could not receive degrees from HSPH or HMS. While the Harvard-MIT School for Health Officers (1913-1921) credentialed women on the same basis as men (with certificates in public health), this practice ended in 1921 with the withdrawal of MIT and an establishment of a Harvard degree-granting school of public health. Therefore, it isn’t surprising to see Dr. Mason listed in the 1927 HSPH course catalog as a vital statistics student, even though she is not considered a graduate of the program.

The time Dr. Mason spent at Harvard was seminal to her professional career. Her early interest in studying systemic zoology expanded to an interest in human physiology or, more specifically, how race and climate influenced metabolism. Dr. Mason also met Dr. F.G. Benedict, Director of the Carnegie Nutrition Laboratory, while studying at Harvard. Dr. Benedict had recently become interested in the possibility of racial differences in metabolism, and his lab provided Dr. Mason with financing and equipment for her research project. With this backing secured, Dr. Mason returned to Madras to resume teaching at the Women’s Christian College and complete her thesis–the first to establish basal metabolic norms for Indian women. This research was exceptional for its time, as Dr. Mason focused on non-traditional subjects. Two copies of Dr. Mason’s 1934 thesis, The metabolism of women in South India, with a note on the vital capacity of the lungs in South Indian women, are available at Harvard from the Center for the History of Medicine and the Harvard University Archives

In 1934 and 1940, Dr. Mason published on the basal metabolic rate of South Indian women in comparison to British and American women who travel from temperate to tropical climates. Her Western research subjects were colleagues who had also come to Madras to teach at the Women’s Christian College. Some of the women experienced a 10% drop in their metabolism as a result of the tropical climate, while others experienced no change at all. Dr. Mason’s results did show consistently that weight decreased and pulse rates fell in warmer climates, and that the basal metabolic rate of South Indian women was decidedly lower than that of British and American women.

In 1942, her research focused more on nutrition in rat models, with the intention of demonstrating the inadequacies of the rice diet common among the poor in South India. A 1945 paper examined the supplementary effects of casein, calcium lactate and butter, singularly or combined, on the growth of young rats. Casein and calcium lactate were found to have a highly significant effect in promoting growth, while butter affected both growth and general condition adversely. Casein, when added to butter, counteracted the negative effect of butter and converted it into a positive effect (Mason 1945). In a 1946 paper, she and her team experimented further with ragi (a cereal crop also known as Eleusine coracana, or “finger millet”) and found that, when substituted for rice, it had a marked stimulating effect on growth directly proportional to the amount given.

In addition to her physiological research in basal metabolism, and after years of teaching, in 1948 Dr. Mason became the third principal of the Women’s Christian College. In this role, she pioneered a home science courses for the students. In 1951, Mt. Holyoke College awarded her a honorary doctorate of science. In 1956, Dr. Mason retired from her role at Women’s Christian College and was invited by the University of Bombay to continue her research in the laboratory of Dr. A. Sreenivasan in the Department of Chemical Technology.

She moved into the Missionary Settlement for University Women, an interdenominational hostel comprised of fifty-eight British and Indian colleagues. Dr. Mason’s laboratory was modest: a room with two beds and measuring equipment, and connected to her own bedroom. Research subjects would be asked to fast for twelve hours. Once they arrived at the lab, they were instructed to lie quietly on one of the research beds and breathe into a spirometer for three eight-minute stretches while Dr. Mason and her assistant Mary Jacob, from Travancore, measured pulse, blood pressure, and temperature. After a day’s work, Dr. Mason would spend her evenings at the missionary leading prayers with the other hostel residents. She stayed in the settlement until 1964, then spent several years as a member of the ecumenical Farncombe Community in England before returning permanently to the United States in 1970.

It is clear from newspaper articles and from personal accounts that Dr. Mason returned to Boston to continue her involvement at the Harvard School of Public Health, likely as a researcher but also potentially as an educator. The Radcliffe Quarterly confirms that Dr. Mason was a visiting scientist at HSPH from 1963-1964. Contemporary faculty such as Joseph Brain and James Butler reflect fondly on their brief overlap with her at the school, including her involvement with physiology research and teaching, now considered part of the Department of Environmental Health.

In addition to her career at Harvard, Dr. Mason was a member of the tertiary Anglican Franciscan group, Christa Prema Seva Sangha, of the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross. In later life, she served as a communicant and a parish receptionist for the Church of the Advent. She was also part of Windham House, the Graduate Training Center for Women of the Episcopal Church, which was a center for women studying theology and other disciplines.

Dr. Mason passed away in 1995 at the age of 97. Her body was donated to Harvard Medical School before being buried at Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain.

Although the Center for the History of Medicine does not hold any unpublished records from Dr. Mason besides her thesis, records of her professional career can be found scattered across multiple repositories, including:

I wish to thank Jim Butler, Senior Lecturer on Physiology, for sharing stories and resources about Dr. Eleanor Mason, and for connecting me to the archives at the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, whose secondary source materials served as the backbone of this post. Dr. Mason was a colleague as well as a dear friend of his family, and without his persistence her story likely would have remained dormant in the archives. I also would like to thank Dr. Joe Brain, Cecil K. and Philip Drinker Professor of Environmental Physiology, and Yechaan (Eric) Joo, a graduate student at the Harvard Chan School, for their research on Dr. Mason’s publications and her connection to the Department of Environmental Health.

For a complete list of Dr. Mason’s publications, please visit the History of Public Health at Harvard LibGuide.

Harvard Six Cities Study Oral History Project Receives Funding

By , March 1, 2019

Doug Dockery collecting outdoor air samples for the Harvard Six Cities Study. Image courtesy of the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

Heather Mumford, Archivist for the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has received funding from the Dean’s Office and the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard Chan School to immediately begin a Harvard Six Cities Study Oral History Project. In the coming months, Mumford will work closely with those closest to the study, such as Douglas Dockery, Frank Speizer, Francine Laden, John Spengler, and Petros Koutrakis, to identify key topics and narratives for inclusion in the project. The resulting oral history interviews will be recorded, transcribed, and preserved for posterity at the Center for the History of Medicine.

For more information about the project, please contact Heather Mumford.

Center Acquires Midcentury Funding Appeals to Arab Countries

By , January 28, 2019

The Center for the History of Medicine recently acquired donor prospect records of the Office for External Relations at the Harvard School of Public Health, now known as the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Six booklets appealing to Arab companies and governments for funding new buildings at the Harvard School of Public Health, 1966. Image courtesy of Caroline Littlewood.

These donor prospect records document the school’s appeal to secure funding for research, including a 1966 appeal to Arab companies and governments. Among research files and correspondence are six spiral bound booklets. Five booklets address shaikhs of Persian Gulf states; a sixth addresses the government of Libya.

The contents of each book are near-identical. They request funds to complete construction on the new Health Sciences Laboratories in service of the fight against trachoma, bilharzia, and other infectious diseases that afflict populations in those countries.

Each contains an appeal from Dean John C. Snyder and a written presentation, complete with photographs pasted to the page and architectural drawings. The presentation is repeated in two mirrored halves: one in English, one in Arabic.

These booklets and other collection materials are now open to researchers. For more information about the collection, contact Public Services at chm@hms.harvard.edu.

An illustration of a prospective new HSPH research building on Huntington avenue, which seems to eliminate the presence of the MBTA Green Line. Photo courtesy of Caroline Littlewood.

The Health Sciences Laboratories, which would be built after receiving adequate funding, would be used to research and prevent trachoma, bilharzia, and other infectious diseases. Photo courtesy of Caroline Littlewood.

Re-Centering the Narrative: A Brief History of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic

By , December 4, 2018

 

On June 5, 1981, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on cases of Pneumocystis pneumonia that afflicted “5 young men, all active homosexuals,” in Los Angeles.This report marked the beginning of public knowledge about the AIDS epidemic. What the report didn’t include was two other cases of the mysterious pneumonia – the first afflicting a gay African-American man, the other, a heterosexual Haitian man. This early omission of race was reflected throughout reporting during the HIV/AIDS crisis; historically the narrative focus has been on how the HIV/AIDS epidemic affected gay white men, while the experiences of American black and brown people with HIV/AIDS have been under documented, ignored, or written out of history.

In fact, the first case of HIV/AIDS discovered in the United States was Robert Rayford, a 16 year old black teenager from St. Louis, Missouri who died in 1969. The story of his sickness and  death, reported on in 1987, was eclipsed by the now disproven “Patient Zero” narrative that French-Canadian flight attendant, Gaëtan Dugas was the first person to bring HIV into the United States.

The time of mass HIV/AIDS deaths in the United States is largely behind us. A combination drug treatment, known as the AIDS cocktail, was discovered, leading to dramatic improvement in managing in HIV infection. After the introduction of the cocktail, the number of new AIDS-related deaths began to drop, starting in 1997. Today, HIV is a chronic condition for those with access to highly active antiretroviral therapy.

Quinn, Robert John, “Robert John Quinn’s Memorial Books, Volume A,” Documented | Digital Collections of The History Project

Despite the discovery of the cocktail more than 20 years ago, HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately affect African American and Latino men. According to the CDC, in 2016, African Americans accounted for 44% of HIV diagnoses, while Latinx people accounted for 26% of HIV diagnoses. Among Latino men, 85% of diagnosed HIV infections were attributed to male-to-male sexual contact, while more than half of African Americans (58%) who received an HIV diagnoses identified as gay or bisexual. The higher levels of HIV infection in black and brown communities of color is attributable to systemic bias, discrimination, structural racism, and lack of access to education and care. To face this ongoing crisis, we must acknowledge history and stories that have been hidden, and discuss how these histories can inform our current responses.

One of those stories is of Wilfred Colon Augusto, a Countway Library employee who died on September 17, 1991. Wilfred was a graduate of the State University of New York at Oswego, employed at Harvard Medical School, and by telephone company Nynex. He was active in the Latino Health Network. Wilfred’s obituary details:

Diagnosed with AIDS in 1985, Wilfred continued to live his life to its fullest. His great sense of humor and admiration for living allowed Wilfred to deal with the many challenges and the changing circumstances precipitated by AIDS. He enjoyed traveling, especially to his native Puerto Rico, and spending summers in Provincetown as well as dining out.

Today we remember Wilfred Colon Augusto, a member of the Harvard Medical School community, and a person whose story and experience should not be lost to history.


 

The Center for the History of Medicine in the Countway Library holds several collections related to the history of HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts and around the world, including the papers of:

  • Max Essex, Mary Woodard Lasker Professor of Health Sciences in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Steven L. Gortmaker, Professor of the Practice of Health Sociology in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Stephen Lagakos, Professor of Biostatistics, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Richard G. Marlink, Bruce A. Beal, Robert L. Beal, and Alexander S. Beal Professor of the Practice of Public Health in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • 13 series of the Records of the Harvard AIDS Institute

The Center also holds oral history interviews and transcripts with hemophiliac men who were patients at the Boston Hemophilia Center, available on OnView.

From Riding Breeches to Harvard: Stories of the First Female Harvard Chan School Graduate

By , September 27, 2017
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Bernice Ende, lady long rider and great-nice of Linda James Benitt, the first woman to graduate from the Harvard Chan School (then known as the Harvard-MIT School for Health Officers) shared photographs of Linda’s parents, as well as anecdotes on her early life.

The Center for the History of Medicine was delighted to host the event, “From Riding Breeches to Harvard” on Wednesday, September 20th at the Countway Library. Bernice Ende, great niece of Linda James Benitt, who was the first woman to graduate from the Harvard T.H. Chan School (then the Harvard-MIT School for Health Officers), presented findings, photos, documents, and stories from her research on, and relationship with, her “Aunt Linda.” Ende, a lady long rider for over thirteen years, has credited both her mother and her aunt for inspiring her life-long desire to encourage female leadership through long riding.  Dr. Joe Brain, Cecil K. and Philip Drinker Professor of Environmental Physiology, Department of Environmental Health, and Chair of the Harvard Chan School Archives Advisory Committee, welcomed the intimate crowd and shared his experiences working with the committee and the Harvard Chan School Archivist, Heather Mumford, in uncovering the early history of the school.

Heather Mumford, Archivist for the Harvard Chan School, presented on her 2013 "discovery" of Linda James, the first woman to graduate from the Harvard-MIT School for Health Officers.

Heather Mumford, Archivist for the Harvard Chan School, presented on her 2013 “discovery” of Linda James Benitt, the first woman to graduate from the Harvard-MIT School for Health Officers (precursor to the Harvard Chan School).

Prior to Ende’s presentation, Joan Ilacqua, Project Archivist for the Archives for Women in Medicine, provided background information on the first women on the Harvard Longwood campus, with a nod to Linda James Benitt’s being the first woman to be credentialed on the same basis as men in 1917 by the Harvard-MIT School for Health Officers.

Following Ilacqua’s presentation, Mumford spoke on her discovery of Linda James Benitt in 2013 during the school’s centennial. The results of her early research, primarily conducted through the Minnesota Historical Society, resulted in a two-part blog series, available here. Ultimately these blog posts were what connected Mumford and Ende, and sparked their correspondence over the next three years.

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The James family, circa 1920. Photograph courtesy of Bernice Ende.

During her presentation at the Countway, Ende shared family photographs, letters, clippings, and anecdotes which helped paint a more well-rounded perspective of Linda James Benitt, and followed her throughout her life at Harvard and beyond. Common threads, such as a love of horses, a dedication to fighting for women’s rights and highlighting the accomplishments of women, as well as cultivating opportunities for adventure, were also discovered for the first time during the course of her research, and have led Ende to a much deeper appreciation for her great aunt. Ende has written a book on these topics, which is anticipated to be released in 2018. As a very special treat, Bernice Ende’s older sister brought and displayed family photos and artifacts for the audience to enjoy.

For more information on Ende, visit her website: www.endeofthetrail.com

Marie C. McCormick Papers Open to Research

By , June 29, 2017
Marie C. McCormick.

Marie C. McCormick.

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce that the papers of Marie C. McCormick, 1956-2016 (inclusive), 1968-2009 (bulk), are now open to research. McCormick is the Sumner and Esther Feldberg Professor of Maternal and Child Health in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School; and Senior Associate for Academic Affairs in the Department of Neonatology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Her research has primarily focused on epidemiology and health services, particularly in relation to infant mortality and the outcomes of high-risk and very low birth weight neonates.

She served on all four phases of the Infant Health and Development Program (IHDP), the largest longitudinal multisite randomized trials of early childhood educational intervention for low birth weight and high-risk infants, and was the Principal Investigator of Phase IV of the program. She was also a senior investigator on both the federal Healthy Start Program and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation National Perinatal Regionalization Program. She served as Chair of the Institute of Medicine’s (now National Academy of Medicine) Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana, and its Immunization Safety Review Committee, for which she testified twice before the U.S. House of Representatives on the lack of evidence linking vaccinations with autism (2001 and 2004). In 1996, she also testified before the U.S. Senate on the National Healthy Start Initiative. She has published 12 books and monographs, as well as over 280 scientific papers, reviews, editorials, reports, and abstracts.

The papers include research, teaching, administrative, and publishing records, generated by McCormick over the course of her career, such as:

  • Infant Health and Development Program (Phases I-IV) administrative records;
  • Evaluation of Regionalized Networks for High Risk Pregnancy Care study administrative records;
  • Long Term Outcomes of Very Low Birthweight Infants study administrative records;
  • Occasional research data from the previous three studies;
  • Teaching records for courses related to maternal and child health, taught by McCormick at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health;
  • Grant records for graduate training grants related to maternal and child health; and
  • Writings and publications related to maternal and child health, epidemiology, regionalization of care, and other topics in public health.

The collection was processed as part of the Bridging the Research Data Divide project, funded by a Hidden Collections grant administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources. For more information on the project, please contact the project’s principal investigator, Emily R. Novak Gustainis, Deputy Director of the Center for the History of Medicine.

For more information on McCormick’s collection, please view the online finding aid: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HMS.Count:med00244.

Harvard Prevention Research Center and Steven L. Gortmaker Collections Open to Research

By , June 29, 2017
Fitness Folder, from the Harvard Prevention Research Center's Planet Health Curriculum.

Fitness Folder, from the Harvard Prevention Research Center’s Planet Health Curriculum. P-DT08.01, Series 00598. From the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the opening of two collections: the records of the Harvard Prevention Research Center (HPRC) and the papers of the HPRC’s Director, Steven L. Gortmaker.

The Harvard Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity was founded in 1998 at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, to work with community and governmental organizations in the research, development, and implementation of school- and community-based youth intervention programs to encourage better health habits. The HPRC has conducted a number of intervention research projects, including: the randomized control trial of the Planet Health curriculum, which is used in middle schools to teach healthy decision making about nutrition, exercise, and leisure activities; and the Play Across Boston project, which surveyed and evaluated the availability of afterschool fitness programs for Boston-area youth, and studied how access and individual family characteristics influence youth physical activity.

The HPRC records include administrative records and research data for both Planet Health and Play Across Boston. Planet Health records include student fitness questionnaires, television viewing worksheets and graphs, financial records, Wellness Workshops administrative records, and student participation records. Play Across Boston records include: student surveys (concerning health and exercise habits, demographics, access to fitness programs, and other topics); and fitness program provider surveys (concerning program details, cost and accessibility, and participant numbers and demographics).

Steven L. Gortmaker.

Steven L. Gortmaker, M-AD06. From the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

In addition to directing the HPRC, Steven L. Gortmaker is Professor of the Practice of Health Sociology in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His research focuses primarily on the health and mortality risks affecting children and adolescents (particularly low-income and minority), and interventions for mitigating those risks. He served as Principal Investigator on a number of HPRC initiatives, including Planet Health, Play Across Boston, the Out of School Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative (OSNAP), and is also Co-Director of the Childhood Obesity Intervention Cost-Effectiveness Study (CHOICES). In 1997, he was awarded the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy Research.

Gortmaker’s papers comprise his research and teaching records generated during his career. The collection includes research data and administrative records from a number of projects, including: an obesity research project using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey; the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Rural Infant Care Program; and organ donation research for the Partnership for Organ Donation. The papers also include Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health teaching records for courses related to HIV, social behavior, and statistics.

The collections were processed as part of the Bridging the Research Data Divide project, funded by a Hidden Collections grant administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources. For more information on the project, please contact the project’s principal investigator, Emily R. Novak Gustainis, Deputy Director of the Center for the History of Medicine.

More information on the collections may be found in their online finding aids: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HMS.Count:med00242 (Harvard Prevention Research Center Records); and http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HMS.Count:med00243  (Steven L. Gortmaker papers).

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