If you are curious about the mise en scène at Boston’s legendary Peter Bent Brigham Hospital during the war years of the 1940s, its transplant breakthroughs of the 1950s, its merger dreams of the 1960s, its spreading out and spreading up through the 1970s, or its post-merger incarnation as the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in the 1980s and 1990s, then click the links above or these (Brigham Bulletin, Inside AHC, Inside Brigham and Women’s, Inside BWH, BWH Bulletin) and have a poke around the historic staff newsletters.
Thanks to the support of the BWH Medical Library, the third and final phase of the BWH Archives Newsletter Digitization Project is complete. The Brigham and Women’s Hospital inside story—every year from 1943 through 1999*—is now online and fully searchable.
Exclusively for employees, the newsletters, produced by the Public Relations office about the people, projects, and accomplishments of the hospital, were written in a more intimate style than its other, official publications.
Found in the newsletters—some fun facts and firsts that you probably didn’t know:
- The original shop at the Brigham was opened by the Friends of the Brigham in 1944. They sold magazines, candy, toiletries—and tobacco.
- In May of 1954, a Biophysics Research Laboratory opened at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, the first of its kind in a hospital setting.
- Volunteers wheeled carts stocked with library books and magazines around the hospital for patients to freely choose from, throughout the 1950s. In 1958, the Institute for Contemporary Art added the “Art Cart” which supplied a choice of framed art prints for patients to use for personal enjoyment during their hospital stay.
- Dr. Victoria Maxwell Cass was the acting Director of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital from 1957-1958. She had been Associate Director since 1952.
- In 1960, televisions and radios were added to patients’ rooms.
- King Saud of Saudi Arabia came to the Brigham for treatment in 1961. His large entourage, including his wives, were given rooms at the hospital so they could stay close to his highness.
- In 1967 the annual stipend for interns was raised from $3200 to $6000.
- An architect’s early concept design for the hospital called for four short towers clustered around a core (1969) as opposed to the one tall tower that was finally built (1980).
- The Robert B. Brigham division of the newly merged hospitals started patient registration and billing with computers in 1979.
- Did you know that the separation of infectious waste for disposal from hospitals was a new idea in the mid-1980s? Before that all medical waste went into landfills.
- It was 1987 when the then new technology “Magnetic Resonance Imaging” was first put into clinical practice at BWH.
- The first lung transplant in Massachusetts was performed at BWH in 1990.
- A 1993 story reported that all babies born around the holidays were sent home from the hospital as little “stocking stuffers”—inside handmade Christmas stockings. This had been an OB tradition since 1980.
- Ten years ago, BWH began performing DNA-based genetic testing in-house instead of purchasing testing from external labs.
- BWH started bilingual phone answering in 1995.
- In 1996, BWH got its own helicopter landing pad.
- Astronaut and US senator John Glenn, then age 77, came to BWH’s sleep lab for tests prior to his return to space aboard the shuttle Discovery, in 1998.
What interesting things can you discover in the newsletter archive?
*The BWH Bulletin has been published online since 2000. The digitized paper collection, 1943–1999, will always be available via Hollis, the Harvard Library catalog and via links on the BWH Archives page on the Countway Library site.