Career Opportunities | Contact | Donate

Thursday, September 18, 2014   2:50 AM   |   80°F

This Month in History

This Month in History: Putting Mind over Matter

Ever been hypnotized? While it may not make you cluck like a chicken, as an alternative therapy, medical hypnosis might help you manage and overcome a number of physical and mental conditions. In the fall of 1959, a few brave medical students were willing to put their bodies and minds at the mercy of LSU Medical School Professor of psychiatry Dr. Carl L. Davis for the purpose of studying the viability of hypnotherapy. Later, the students would be given the opportunity to reverse the stakes and hypnotize Dr. Davis in the spirit of fairness.

The American Medical Association officially backed medical hypnosis for wide use in 1958, though they cautioned against using the method as a form of entertainment and in cases of severe psychological illness. At that time, medical and dental practices used hypnotherapy as a form of anesthesia and in the management of pain. Other fields of medicine that have found use for hypnotherapeutic procedure include dermatology, gastroenterology, cardiology, obstetrics, oncology, post-surgery recovery, and even in the treatment of smoking addiction, eating disorders, and psychosomatic illness through age regression.

While many remain skeptical about the efficacy of hypnotherapy, it is true that more research and standardization of practice will provide insight into the relative benefits and risks of its usage. Dangers to the patient and the doctor are a considerable cause for concern. The mind, being a vast and complex entity, requires a delicate but firm touch. Hypnotism provides the therapist with the ability to wield the power of suggestion over the patient, and so puts the receptive patient in a vulnerable position. For this reason, the move toward more holistic treatment of the individual is vital in addressing his or her needs.

A 1959 Times-Picayune article relates the case of a man who developed asthma every time his mother-in-law would announce her intention to visitÔÇöÔÇ£This man just cannot understand why this would happen since he honestly believes he is fond of [her].ÔÇØ This is an example of a symptom that could possibly benefit from hypnotherapy (or else a nice, long vacation).

Accounts of hypnotism can turn grim, however. In another instance, a patient suffering from self-destructive tendencies developed paralysis in one of her fingers. She was referred to a hypnotist, who alleviated the symptom without addressing the underlying psychological turmoil. Upon release, the woman promptly employed her newly-flexible trigger finger in one final act of self-harm. This is an extreme example, but speaks to the necessity of treating the patient as a whole and of recognizing links between physical and mental manifestations of illness.

The prominent physicians mentioned in these newspaper articles were Professors of psychiatry at LSU Medical School: Dr. Carl L. Davis, Dr. Lucio Gatto, and Dr. Charles Watkins, who also served as the Head of the department. All of them make a few appearances in our Digital Collections as subject and even creator. Dr. Davis appears for his addresses on teen drinking and middle-age rebellion. Dr. Gatto appears for his study on compulsive borrowing. Dr. Watkins is the most prolific figure for his interest in the history of the U. S. Army 64th General Hospital, which has its own Collection, as well as for his medical-cultural mission to Central America, and his role in the care (and commitment) of former Governor Earl K. Long.

Now a far cry from its historic roots in mesmerism and animal magnetism, the current practice of medical hypnosis can be aligned more closely with deep meditation and positive thinking, the power of which is widely acknowledged by doctors and patients alike.

Glimpse of the Past is an ongoing project to promote the Louisiana Digital Library effort. This Month in History will present for your reading pleasure a closer look into a newspaper clipping of note from our Digital Collections and articles relating to the LSU Medical School.

 

This Month in History: Don’t Just Grin and Bear It

“A woman’s first responsibility is to make an effort to do what she wants to do.” –sage advice?áfrom?áDr. Winston Weese, Emeritus Associate Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at LSU Medical School

You never know what you will chance upon when you browse the LibraryÔÇÖs Newspaper Clippings Collection. Trolling for this monthÔÇÖs topic took me on a journey through various strange perspectives on womenÔÇÖs health.

In 1959, convention speakers discussed ÔÇ£gyno-psychiatry,ÔÇØ ÔÇ£a very basic and superficial type of psychiatry [that] is primarily reassurance. Sometimes a woman is infertile because she believes her husband does not love her. Or vice versa. What we are trying to do today is to make the infertile woman realize that help is possible: that they donÔÇÖt have to just grin and bear it.ÔÇØ One article from 1961 blames men for womenÔÇÖs anxieties: ÔÇ£The American man isnÔÇÖt asserting his male dominance.ÔÇØ The piece is full of quotable gems like, ÔÇ£The wise woman of course, vocally credits her husband with leadership even when he does not have itÔÇØ and ÔÇ£boosts her husbandÔÇÖs ego even though she may be far superior to him in intelligence.ÔÇØ

Some answered the call for by entering the medical field.?áIn 1931, The Southern Medical Association fielded questions about the rise of women as doctors. At the time, women doctors still combated some suppositions about their patients: ÔÇ£Why should they be all women?ÔÇØ and about their personhood with ÔÇ£frequent assertions that such professions as social work and medicine destroy many of the gentler attributes of the feminine nature.ÔÇØ One of the doctors interviewed was the remarkable Dr. Moss of New Orleans, who said, ÔÇ£ThatÔÇÖs a lot of foolishness on the part of people who donÔÇÖt know us.ÔÇØ

Dr. Emma Sadler Moss rejected a teaching career because she was ÔÇ£not gentle enoughÔÇØ and stood as is a?áshining example?áof a woman doing what she wants. She brushed aside the hackneyed image of the young, gentle Southern woman, preferring the allure of the medical profession, where she excelled. After a stint as a medical technologist, Dr. Moss studied for her M. D., which she earned in 1935 from LSU. From there, she earned the title of Director of Pathology at Charity Hospital, clinical professor of pathology at LSU Medical School, and President of the American Society of Clinical Pathology (notably, the first woman President of the society).

Dr. MossÔÇÖ commitment to these institutions lasted for over thirty years until her death in 1970. She received numerous awards for her work in pathology including being recognized as the 1954 Medical Woman of the Year and as one of ÔÇ£The Six Most Successful Women of 1955.ÔÇØ The Library owns two editions of her lauded text, An Atlas of Medical Mycology, which she co-authored with Dr. Albert Louis McQuown. A full listing of her contributions to LSU Medical School and Charity Hospital can be viewed in A History of LSU School of Medicine New Orleans.

Glimpse of the Past is an ongoing project to promote the?áLouisiana Digital Library effort. This Month in History will present for your reading pleasure a closer look into a newspaper clipping of note from our Digital Collections and articles relating to the LSU Medical School.

This Month in History: The Body of Art

As soon as the human body became an object of study and curiosity, art attempted to render it, inside and out. The recreational artist may depict a scene of illness or portraiture, while the specially-commissioned medical artist records anatomical structure and surgical procedure for purposes of instruction, collaboration, and publishing. Well-known pioneers of the modern practice of medical illustration include Leonardo Da Vinci and Andreas Vesalius; their legacy continues well into contemporary culture in tandem with advances in photography and various other image-capturing technology to create a comprehensive visual understanding of medical practice.

LSU Medical School employed its own Medical Arts Department, headed by William Branks Stewart from 1933 until his death in 1950, to observe and document cases as needed. ÔÇ£Would You Like a Portrait of Your Appendix?ÔÇØ asks a Times-Picayune article from 1946–a memorable keepsake, indeed (though you might enjoy this plush version more). Mr. StewartÔÇÖs body of art includes drawings, paintings, photographs, plaster molds, and even animations for use as visual aids in demonstration, in print, and in the classroom. Our Library has made available a digitized collection, aptly named the William Branks Stewart Collection, as a sampling of his works.

Mr. StewartÔÇÖs services were often requested in order to document rare cases and new procedures for later study and review. According to the above article, he would often take the time to familiarize himself with the entire operation in as many as twelve separate instances. A firm understanding of the techniques involved in a procedure and how best to communicate those steps to a student, he found, are necessary skills for the successful medical illustrator. When asked to contextualize his work, Mr. Stewart related his duties to those of an archaeologist with one important difference:” none of them ever had to look down a gastroscope!”

In addition to his professional position as Head of Medical Arts and contributor of drawings to the LSU student-run newspaper, The Tiger, William Branks Stewart was a member of the New Orleans Arts League and the Association of Medical Illustrators. By 1946, he had illustrated eleven textbooks by LSU professors, made plastic prosthetic eyes to replace glass ones, taken moulages (plaster or wax casts) of skin lesions, and even painted names on office doors. He submitted artwork to the Delgado Museum (now the New Orleans Museum of Art), an example of which can be seen here (be sure to take a look at the inscription on the reverse side).

A graduate of the Glasgow School of Arts in Scotland, it appears Mr. Stewart was destined for great things. In a prompted address to readers of The Tiger (page two), he candidly states, “Why did I study art? To make big money? Am I making it? To dodge work? Am I dodging it? Have I failed? No, I am doing something I enjoy, among people I enjoy, and in what I consider to the be most interesting city in America. So what the h—.”

Medical illustrations continue to be of great importance to our students as often photographs alone cannot provide a clear picture of the field under observation. Or, if you are like me, you may appreciate less “icky” renderings of our vicera.

Interested in learning more about the history of medical illustration, art in medicine, or anatomy study? Be sure to take a look at our Library Catalog!

Glimpse of the Past is an ongoing project to promote the Louisiana Digital Library effort. This Month in History will present for your reading pleasure a closer look into a newspaper clipping of note from our Digital Collections and articles relating to the LSU Medical School.

This Month in History: The Hardened Artery Blues

ÔÇ£We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.ÔÇØÔÇöJohn Dryden

Integral to a discussion of health is a discussion of habit. This excerpt from Dryden points out the consequences of habit-forming. Health-wise, each personÔÇÖs habits contribute to that personÔÇÖs overall health including but not limited to how they eat, drink, smoke, and exercise. While this is now a well-known fact of life, bad habits persist.

The 1960s were no stranger to poor health and heart disease. A Times-Picayune article highlights the LSU Medical SchoolÔÇÖs pathology unit of the 1960s and their research into atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries due to plaque formation. Dr. Jack C. Geer and Dr. Henry C. McGill, Jr. sought to study the effects of exercise and diet habits, saturated fat intake, geographic and economic environment, genetic predisposition, and stress levels on arterial health. Scientists began to understand that a low-fat diet is not enough to ensure a strong heart, but is only one aspect of leading a healthy lifestyle.

Along with Dr. Jack P. Strong, Dr. Geer and Dr. McGill were known as “The Three Amigos.” Dr. Strong would become Chair of Pathology from 1966 to 2009 and receive numerous awards and honors. Dr. Geer graduated from LSU Medical School in 1956 and took on the role of Professor from 1956-1966, eventually serving as Chair and Professor of Pathology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. McGill served as Head and Professor of Pathology at LSU Medical School from 1960 to 1966 and became one of the founding faculty members at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio.

Research for this post lead me to a video interview of Dr. McGill on his lengthy career in pathology. He describes his ideal pathology department as comprehensive: with anatomy, laboratory, and surgery. Dr. McGill endearingly and vehemently promotes preventive care as opposed to treatment plans applied after the damage has been done.?á Unfortunately, he says, ÔÇ£There is no moneyÔÇØ in that game in a familiar trend of “No Pills, No Profit.”?á He mourns the fact that by middle age, it is often too late to prevent the type of lifelong damage done to your arteries as they form the fibrous plaque that leads to heart disease. Watching the video is worth the pearls of wisdom that he offers. One such instance is a life philosophy: “Everybody needs to get fired once in their life.” In describing his classroom experience, he tells that, “The style was to quiz a student until he admitted to absolute ignorance and that was the lesson for the day.”

According to the 2011 edition of The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, atherosclerosis ÔÇ£is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the US and in most developed countries.ÔÇØ A big thanks to the work of LSU Medical School’s “The Three Amigos” for doing their part along the line of pathology research to help combat our bad habits.

Glimpse of the Past is an ongoing project to promote the Louisiana Digital Library effort. This Month in History will present for your reading pleasure a closer look into a newspaper clipping of note from our Digital Collections and articles relating to the LSU Medical School.

 

This Month in History: The Truth and Community Water Fluoridation

We learned from childhood that if you give a mouse a cookie heÔÇÖs going to want a glass of milk. It is lesser known, however, whether an increase in milk consumption in the general rodent population is directly caused by rampant cookie consumption among mice. Correlation does not necessarily indicate causation.?á A similar logical fallacy comes from one member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster who claims that there exists ÔÇ£a statistically significant inverse relationship between pirates and global temperature;ÔÇØ therefore, according to him, more piracy will decrease global temperature and the number of natural disasters. These examples, though silly, illustrate the importance of scientific research in drawing causation in an uncontrolled environment and in distinguishing between folklore, coincidence, and the truth.

One such truth-seeking project involves public health and is the source of long-standing controversyÔÇöthe issue: community water fluoridation (CWF). Beginning in 1954 in New Orleans, a committee of health professionals convened to address CWF. The committee consisted of several area doctors including LSU Medical CenterÔÇÖs Dr. Russell Holman, who served as Professor and Head of the Pathology Department from 1946 until his death in 1960. An article from the New Orleans Item in 1955 describes the committee as divided and unsure with the exception of Dr. Holman, who planted his support firmly on the side of fluoridation. A final decision was made in 1957 to veto CWF due to a need for further study.

Articles within the past few years on nola.com address CWF in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina as being a lack of supply. Now it appears that fluoride has been returned to our water. A 2010 Sewage and Water Board of New Orleans report defines fluoridation as a way ÔÇ£to prevent tooth decay.ÔÇØ Later in the same report, fluoride is defined as a ÔÇ£contaminantÔÇØ: its presence on average .8ppm on the East Bank and .81ppm on the West Bank. Likely sources are listed as ÔÇ£erosion of natural deposits; water additive which promotes strong teeth; discharge from fertilizer and aluminum factories.ÔÇØ

Though the addition of fluoride to the nation’s drinking water has become common practice, the matter of its efficacy is still unresolved. In weighing the risks and benefits of CWF, the exact nature of correlation between improvements and harm to the publicÔÇÖs dental health remains unclear. Proponents of community health attempt to account for socioeconomic factors, access to dental care, pyorrhea and periodontal concerns in children and adults, as well as fluorosis, a cosmetic issue caused by over-fluoridation.

The CDC has called water fluoridation ÔÇ£one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century,ÔÇØ and in 2010, the center’s statistics show the percentage of the U.S. population receiving fluoridated water at 66.2%. Perhaps we ought to take a cue from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster: take to sea, forget dental care, and go marauding!

Glimpse of the Past is an ongoing project to promote the Louisiana Digital Library effort. This Month in History will present for your reading pleasure a closer look into a newspaper clipping of note from our Digital Collections and articles relating to the LSU Medical School.?á

This Month in History: Enjoy Rabbits Playing Piano

A brief interlude for your busy day: Harvey the virtuoso rabbit and her YouTube accompaniment, Elissa watch?v=0NzN8ksnJhA.

As you might have guessed, rabbits are not particularly adept at playing the piano (certainly not as well-attuned as a famous piano-playing cat, Nora: most-outrageous-piano-playing-cat.htm). In an attempt to challenge unfair bunny stereotypes, Dr. Waid H. Dean, Instructor of Physiology at LSU Medical School, chose Harvey to prove the musical worth of her species.

Though Dr. Dean openly admits “there is no scientific purpose to this demonstration”?á in a 1958 Times-Picayune article, he says the rabbit’s performance “is merely to demonstrate that animals can be trained to respond to signals.” As with many high-achieving parents, Dr. Dean is not easy to please and expects the best from his tiny Leporidaean maestro. Harvey cannot live up to expectations, however–quickly tiring out after a couple of notes and anxious for her next treat. Though she may not be 6 feet 3 inches tall like another famous Harvey, she is decidedly more cuddly.

On that note, Happy Spring from the staff at John P. Ische Library!

This Month in History: The Alligator Men

As a Louisiana native or even an adventurous visitor, youÔÇÖve probably fed an alligator a marshmallow or two. WhatÔÇÖs the allure of marshmallows to a wild swamp creature? We may never truly know, but for an animal that will scarf down turtle shells, rocks, lures, beer cans, and shoes, marshmallows are probably the least of its worries.

Profiled in the Times-Picayune for their project in 1951, the self-proclaimed LSU “alligator men” studied the production of acid gastric juice and self-induced hibernation in alligators, as compared to iguanas and chameleons. The stars of this ÔÇ£zooÔÇØ were Dr. Roland Coulson, LSUMC faculty (1944-2004), Dr. Thomas Hernandez, LSUMC faculty (1960-1977) and Chair of Pharmacology, Dr. Fred G. Brazda, LSUMC faculty (1939-1977) and Chair of Biochemistry, and their graduate student, Dr. Herbert C. Dessauer. In the preface of a later work, Alligator Metabolism, Coulson and Hernandez speak to the origin of their honorary titles”: “It is not possible to have done research on alligators for many years without having gained a reputation for eccentricity as a consequence of the choice of experimental animal. One accepts this and learns to live with it. [...] By some, an alligator man is tolerated (as a harmless eccentric should be), and by others he is admired for the fearless manner in which he confronts such a ‘terrifying’ beast.”

Though certainly fearless, these doctors chose smaller gators to reduce the risk of injury, and by the time the animals reached a rowdy 20 pounds, they were returned to the swamp. Because alligators produce a large amount of hydrochloric acid during digestion, they perform a more dramatic and more readily observable process of digestion. Alligators are also tougher physically and less prone to blood poisoning, making them easier to study. In addition to their excellent acid production, the test gators self-induced a sort of hibernation in winter despite the fact that researchers kept them in windowless rooms with automatic lights; by abstaining from food and decreasing sugar in the bloodstream, the test subjects did not grow.

The practical application of the research of the “alligator men” may not seem readily apparent, but as Dr. Coulson explains in the newspaper article, ÔÇ£The scientist doesnÔÇÖt have to be working toward the cure of any specific malady [ÔǪ] but often he stumbles upon it by accident, through just a study as ours.ÔÇØ They developed enough material to write numerous journal articles (PubMed author search results hyperlinked above) and monographs. Two books co-authored by Dr. Coulson and Dr. Hernandez are available in the Library: Alligator Metabolism: Studies on Chemical Reactions in Vivo and Biochemistry of the Alligator: A Study of Metabolism in Slow Motion.

Dr. Herbert Dessauer, who began as a humble graduate student and would go on to become Professor Emeritus of molecular biology at LSU Medical Center, passed away earlier this month after a brief illness. We would like to recognize his contributions to not only the scientific community, but also to LSU.?á For more information on the contributions of each of the renowned doctors mentioned in this post, please consult A History of LSU School of Medicine New Orleans, which is available in the Library. When you stop by, be sure to check out our display cases, which are home to various medical artifacts including an analytical balance used by Coulson, Hernandez, and Dessauer.

Glimpse of the Past is an ongoing project to promote the Louisiana Digital Library effort. This Month in History will present for your reading pleasure a closer look into a newspaper clipping of note from our Digital Collections and articles relating to the LSU Medical School.

This Month in History: A Nation of Neurotics

In America, methods of care for our mentally ill have become intertwined with the politics of universal healthcare, hospital administration, and prevention of violent crime, all of which suffer under an increasingly budget-cut government. This issue is not a new one, however. The Newspaper Clippings Digital Collection of the Isch?® Library shows an emerging pattern: a pattern of need. Hospitals and treatment centers need enough beds for psychiatric patients; hospitals need staff to treat those patients; police officers, clergy, and even the general public need training to assess and assist the mentally ill.

Linkages of mental illness and criminal tendencies also surface. In recent news, LSU psychiatrist Dr. Jose Calderon-Abbo joined the vice presidentÔÇÖs task force on gun violence; he has also partnered up with Tulane public health criminology expert Dr. Peter Scarf to present a paper of similar topic to the House Subcommittee on Crime, terrorism, and Homeland Security at a hearing on The Youth Promise act.

Not only do mental illness and crime sometimes occur simultaneously, but those charged with apprehending the mentally ill are often the same people who apprehend criminals.?á One of our newspaper clippings from 1961, entitled ÔÇ£How Police Can Help Mentally Ill,ÔÇØ addresses the need for officers of the law to be properly trained on how to interact with, assess urgency of treatment for, and detain suspects who appear to be suffering from illness, loss of competency, or loss of sanity.

The clergy are often called upon to assist the mentally ill; one article, ÔÇ£Help of Clergy Asked by Many: Role of Churchmen for Mentally Ill Cited,ÔÇØ explains how the clergy ought to be well versed in tactics to understand and aid their congregations. Examples of tactics used to interact with those in need in the include: a manual from 1954 ÔÇ£How to Recognize and Handle Abnormal PeopleÔÇØ by Robert A. Matthews and Loyd W. Rowland, former director of the Louisiana Association for mental health and former Head of the department of psychiatry and neurology, ?áin addition to a 1960 New Orleans officer training film, ÔÇ£Booked for Safekeeping,ÔÇØ produced by George C. Stoney.

In 1961, the name of the game was “expedite”: complex legislature required the approval of a hospital director, an order of commitment signed by the coroner, a psychiatrist, and a responsible party, and approval from a civil judge. Convoluted commitment laws and lack of funding for psychiatric facilities and staff were concerns at this time, but these concerns continue today as the Greater New Orleans area loses beds at Charity Hospital and MandevilleÔÇÖs Southeast Louisiana Hospital.

In the words of Dr. Robert A. Matthews, former head of the department of neuropsychiatry at LSUHSC from 1950-1957, ÔÇ£While we are passing the hat around for money to fight polio, heart disease, cancer, tuberculosis and other maladies, we ought also to be financing some exploration in to the cause and cure of emotional storms and mental defectiveness. We are fast becoming a nation of neurotic people.ÔÇØ

Glimpse of the Past is an ongoing project to promote the Louisiana Digital Library effort. This Month in History will present for your reading pleasure a closer look into a newspaper clipping of note from our Digital Collections and articles relating to the LSU Medical School.

This Month in History: The Remedies of Mr. William D. Postell

Do you ever drink water from the opposite side of the glass to cure hiccups or apply duct tape to a wart or spray Windex on a zit? These are just a few examples of therapeutic home remedies, but where do they originate? A collector of ÔÇ£weird-lookingÔÇØ medicinal gadgets and medical historian, Mr. William Dosite Postell, is the star of our highlighted article this month.

Former Librarian of the LSU Medical School, Mr. Postell was a Will of all trades: as he believed, ÔÇ£There is a little bit of the clinician, the research worker, the medical historian, the medical philosopher, the bibliophile, as well as the custodian and the library technician, in each successful librarian.ÔÇØ Though his career at LSUMS was principally one of librarianship, Postell was able to branch out from that role, becoming a scholar of wacky medical wares like cholera baths and mad dag stones.

One outdated cure is the ÔÇ£vapor bath,ÔÇØ invention of a Louisianan, Dr. Louis H. Lefebrve. Depicted in the drawing here, Postell found an early bath in the possession of the Prudhomme family of Natchitoches, Louisiana on one of his excursions to area antebellum plantations. The bath utilized sulphuric acid to assuage the effects of cholera. The story of the madstones or ÔÇ£bezoarsÔÇØ comes from the frontier. These stony hairball-like concretions were taken from the stomachs of deer, cows, or goats and placed on a bleeding wound to draw out poisons like those from the rabies virus or snake venom. In modern medicinal practice, the bezoar is considered a serious health risk in gastrointestinal tracts of humans and has lost its curative mythos (unless, of course, you live in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where the bezoar cure is alive and well).

Postell was quite the adventurous and successful librarian no stranger to going above and beyond his position in pursuit of knowledge. Having served as President of the Medical Library Association (MLA) in 1952 and 1959, he was awarded the prestigious Marcia C. Noyes award for his outstanding contributions to medical librarianship. In a memorable article of the Bulletin of the MLA, Postell wrote, ÔÇ£The best publicity a library can secure is by way of service given. The circulation and reference desk is the best place at which good will can best be cultivated. It is here that the public is met and served. It is the here that new patrons obtain their first impression of the library. If they are met graciously and served competently, they will return.ÔÇØ

Stop by the Isch?® Library sometime and let us graciously and competently show you the wonderful resources at your fingertips! If you are interested in reading PostellÔÇÖs work, the LibraryÔÇÖs holdings include: Applied Medical Bibliography for Students, The Development of Medical Literature, and The Health of Slaves on Southern Plantations.

Glimpse of the Past is an ongoing project to promote the Louisiana Digital Library effort. This Month in History will present for your reading pleasure a closer look into a newspaper clipping of note from our Digital Collections and articles relating to the LSU Medical School.

This Month in History: Dr. Rowena Spencer and Her Little Chickens

Despite the resemblance, Dr. Rowena Spencer explains, children are not tiny adults; indeed, ÔÇ£Children are like little chickens. They like to know their way around.ÔÇØ As one of the first women in the country to specialize in pediatric surgery as well as the first woman appointed to the surgical staff at the LSU Medical Center and the first female surgeon in the state of Louisiana, Dr. Spencer proved a wonderful asset to any hospital. Her bedside manner set her apart as a surgeon of unparalleled worth.

Dr. Spencer preferred to take a lighter approach to her smaller patientsÔÇöbeing a friend instead of a threat; as a 1960 Times-Picayune article describes, ÔÇ£She is not above bribing a youthful patient with a nickel or a piece of candy.ÔÇØ And when asked in a recent interview about the most satisfying part of her work, she answered, ÔÇ£Holding the babies. I love babies more that a mule can kick.ÔÇØ

A forerunner for females in the surgical arena, Dr. Spencer faced some adversity, though she did not appear to dwell on this issue. She persevered to become a respected member of the medical community at a point in history rife with tension over not only the presence of women in the medical field but also African-Americans. At Johns Hopkins University, where she earned her M.D. in 1947, Spencer was in good company. She studied under Dr. Alfred Blalock and his laboratory technician, Vivien Thomas. Thomas, an African-American with little formal education, played an integral role in helping save those suffering from ÔÇ£blue baby syndrome.ÔÇØ Another partner in this discovery was Helen Taussig, founder of the field of pediatric cardiology and first female president of the American Heart Association. The work of Blalock, Thomas, and Taussig on the heart is immortalized in a PBS production, ÔÇ£American Experience: Partners of the HeartÔÇØ(2002), and in a Hollywood production, Something the Lord Made (2004). Dr. Spencer would continue their work on infant patients, making a name for herself as an authority on conjoined twins.

Examples of her work include many articles such as: ÔÇ£Parasitic Conjoined Twins: External, Internal, and DetachedÔÇØ and ÔÇ£Congential Heart Defects in Conjoined Twins.ÔÇØ An autographed copy of her text, Conjoined Twins: Developmental Malformations and Clinical Implications, is available for checkout at the Library. Dr. Spencer has also had the honor of being featured in a publication entitled, Louisiana Women: Their Lives and Times. Her chapter, ÔÇ£A Study of Changing Gender Roles in Twentieth-Century Louisiana MedicineÔÇØ by Bambi L. Ray Cochran, appears alongside essays on Marie Therese Coincoin, Oretha Castle Haley, and many others in a fitting tribute to their contributions. Dr. Spencer recently celebrated her 90th birthday.

Glimpse of the Past is an ongoing project to promote the Louisiana Digital Library effort. This Month in History will present for your reading pleasure a closer look into a newspaper clipping of note from our Digital Collections and articles relating to the LSU Medical School.

This Month in History: Pay No Attention to the Doctor Behind the Iron Curtain

A young, bespectacled version of the Wizard of Oz, Dr. Frank N. Low, lived up to the great and powerful legacy as a member of LSUMCÔÇÖs anatomy faculty, venturing behind the Iron Curtain in 1958. His travels came at a time of international tension, but in the name of science, Dr. LowÔÇÖs survey of electron microscope usage in laboratories across Europe proved invaluable in transcending the iron divide and promoting cross-cultural cooperation.

Cover Art for “Klop” the Bedbug; http://tinyurl.com/8h3hycr

Remarking on the ÔÇ£exoticÔÇØ subway of Moscow, the ÔÇ£finely developedÔÇØ Russian sense of humor, and the popularity of the play, ÔÇ£Klop” the Bedbug, in his interview with the Times-Picayune, Dr. Low appears to have enjoyed his surroundings overseas. He even brought home an object known as the ÔÇ£Tartar MenaceÔÇØ that would turn out not only to be lucky for Low, but also for his research assistant, a previous ÔÇ£Glimpse of the PastÔÇØ honoree, Dr. Marilyn Zimny, who upon receipt of the figurine received news that she had been awarded a research grant for $28,000. The ÔÇ£Tartar MenaceÔÇØ appears to refer either to a group of indigenous Mongol peoples called the Tatars or Tartars, or the Greek myth of Tartarus, a section of the underworld. Despite its violent etymology, the figurine kept Dr. Low safe from even a stubbed toe on his journey.

And lucky we are that it did, for Dr. Frank N. LowÔÇÖs contributions to the scientific world were momentous. As of a 1953 article, ÔÇ£Dr. LowÔÇÖs study provide[d] proof of the existence of a complete covering of the tiny blood vessels in the lung. The presence of this covering, medically known as a pulmonary epithelium has long been in doubt. The significance of [his] discovery is that it is an explanation of how air is excluded from the lung tissue, a destructive process. This is why lung surgery is so cautiously practiced.ÔÇØ

His triumphs also include authoring a renowned text, Electron Microscope: Atlas of Normal and Leukemic Human Blood, acquiring an electron microscope for LSUMC, and pioneering scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and freeze-etch/freeze-fracture technology. His impressive career culminated in his later life with the establishment of the Annual Dr. Frank N. Low Research Day at the University of North Dakota. He returned to LSU at the end of his career to work under Dr. Zimny in the anatomy department until his death in 1998. This memorial article shows how truly respected and loved he was. Now, if only we could find his ÔÇ£Tartar Menace!ÔÇØ

 

Glimpse of the Past is an ongoing project to promote the Louisiana Digital Library effort. This Month in History will present for your reading pleasure a closer look into a newspaper clipping of note from our Digital Collections and articles relating to the LSU Medical School.

This Month in History: Trading the Mrs. for an M.D.

In honor of those nursing students plowing through history papers this week, here is a little piece of LSU Health Sciences Center history on the role of women in medicine.

Though the word ÔÇ£invasionÔÇØ might connote a hostile takeover or an alien attack, for those who witnessed a new trend in medical student populations post-World War II, ÔÇ£invasionÔÇØ spoke to the influx of females in the medical fieldÔÇönot a case for either the armed forces or Special Agents Mulder and Scully, but certainly an opportunity for marked advances in modern science. This article from the New Orleans States (a newspaper subsumed by the Picayune in 1980) from September 1946 marks an important milestone in our institutionÔÇÖs history as twenty female students enrolled in their first-year of medical school at LSU, surpassing the thirteen of the previous year.

The reasoning behind this onslaught of female M.D. candidates seems to follow on the wake of the recent war: ÔÇ£There is no telling what would have happened to their dreams of a profession if the right man had been attending classes at college with them instead of fighting a war, most of them agreed.ÔÇØ While the availability of Mr. Right may have been postponed, the drive of these women to pursue a medical career (perhaps a less intuitive path according to the social norms of the late 1940s) cannot be denied. Citing the greater freedom and social mobility of the times in addition to the general indifference of their professors and male peers on the growing female presence in the classroom, these women transcend the ÔÇ£vague motivesÔÇØ of the ÔÇ£feminine vogue for wearing a doctorÔÇÖs insigniaÔÇØ to participate within our history.

Perhaps bolstered by the popular figure of Rosie the Riveter, a new class of professional care-givers is subjected to the rigors of a medical education and the horrors of the cadaver lab. One such empowered and notable woman pictured in this piece is Ms. Jean Persons, who would go on to become one of AlaskaÔÇÖs best known pioneer doctors and who published a memoir in 2007: From Dog Sleds to Float Planes: Alaskan Adventures in Medicine. You can read the glowing Amazon reviews here. In a time of tuberculosis and remote citizenship, Dr. Persons ÔÇ£was a petite single woman tackling a job most men would run from,ÔÇØ and so she stands as a measure for all those who follow, a prime example of not only female physicians, but of all LSU Medical School graduates.

Glimpse of the Past is an ongoing project to promote the Louisiana Digital Library effort. This Month in History will present for your reading pleasure a closer look into a newspaper clipping of note from our Digital Collections and articles relating to the LSU Medical School.

This Month in History: Dr. Hamlett & Zoological Treasure Hunting

Ever wondered how to catch a lizard? You might think to consult wikiHow or you might look up an instructional video on YouTube. Consulting our Digital Collection of newspaper clippings, however, would reveal quite an interesting portrait of a rugged, LSU Indiana Jones in pursuit of a rare treasure: the live-birthing lizard.

In 1953, the Times-Picayune ran an article on one Dr. George W. D. Hamlett, faculty of the LSU Medical School Department of Anatomy, whose research practices involved catching his subjects in the American Southwest rather than in a lab. Nets are all well and good for the casual lizard hunter, but Dr. HamlettÔÇÖs methods included an elaborate system of hammer, chisel, stick noose, and rifle. In order to capture the illusive live-birthing female lizard, he donned the traditional gear: khakis, hiking boots, and traded a fedora for a sun hat; armoring himself thus, he chiseled lizards out of rock formations and sought the mammal-like desert lizard among the trees. His interest in these lizards lay in their ability to produce young not through external development in an egg, but within the female of the species, an oddity for the reptile. Though Dr. Hamlett lacked the Indiana Jones bullwhip and the characteristic fear of snakes, his adventures were nevertheless harrowing.

The character of Dr. Jones is perhaps based on Sir Arthur Conan DoyleÔÇÖs character, Professor Challenger (a figure in turn based on his own Professor Sir William Rutherford) who is famous for having combined several areas of study such as archaeology, anthropology, and zoology in the pursuit of a totalizing knowledgeÔÇöÔÇ£Science seeks knowledge. Let knowledge lead us where it will, we still must seek it. To know once for all what we are, why we are, where we are, is that not in itself the greatest of all human aspirations?ÔÇ£(When the World Screamed). In the same way, Dr. HamlettÔÇÖs study of embryology continued on many divergent paths as he explored the complexities of the long-tongued bat, the badger, the armadillo, the cat, the coyote, and the American monkey, finally culminating in his study of humans.?á Some of his published works, ÔÇ£Embryology of the Molossoid Bat,ÔÇØ ÔÇ£Some Notes on Embryological Technique,ÔÇØ and ÔÇ£Human Twinning in the United StatesÔÇØ can be accessed through PubMed.

Though the similarities between Dr. Hamlett and Dr. Jones may not be many, there is an air of adventure to every quest for knowledge. Why can the scientist not leap across cliff faces and come to the rescue every now and then? But please be aware that there are no catacombs beneath this libraryÔÇÖs floorÔÇöyouÔÇÖll have to go to Venice for that.

 

Glimpse of the Past is an ongoing project to promote the Louisiana Digital Library effort. This Month in History will present for your reading pleasure a closer look into a newspaper clipping of note from our Digital Collections and articles relating to the LSU Medical School.

This Month in History: Dr. Marilyn Zimny and the Great Squirrel-Stronaut

This month in 1960, the Times-Picayune ran an article entitled, ÔÇ£Ground Squirrel Called Ideal Space Traveler.ÔÇØ In the article, Dr. Marilyn Zimny, scientist at the LSU Medical School and avid squirrel-enthusiast, tells of the amazing potential for ground squirrels to travel in outer space and to serve as instruments of research on forced-hibernation scenarios and metabolism studies.

Being so adaptable to extreme conditions, the squirrels appear to be ideal candidates for researching regulated slowing of metabolism as they are able to hibernate for long periods of time without damaging their vital organs: heart, brain, and kidneys remain intact. Advancement in this area of reduced energy consummation would possibly provide some insight into the development of a drug that could force a lower metabolism and thus a decreased need for food, water, and oxygen, a state perhaps preferable for astronauts during prolonged space travel and servicemen in cold climates. ?áThis drug could also reduce blood flow during recovery periods after a heart attack or stroke.

Although I can find no evidence that ground squirrels have indeed been launched into space, a slew of animals pre-dated human travel. The list of adventuring animals includes rhesus and squirrel-monkeys as well as mice, rats, rabbits, fruit flies, a guinea pig, a cat, chimpanzees, dogs, etc. These brave animals helped determine the conditions necessary for humans to survive spaceflight.

Dr. Zimny’s fascination with squirrels penetrated her personal life as well as her professional developmentÔÇöprofessing to own over 160 at the time of this article and in search of more (an abundance can apparently be found in some Chicago golf courses). She authored ÔÇ£Metabolism of some carbohydrate and phosphate compounds during hibernation in the ground squirrel,ÔÇØ published in the Journal of Cellular and Comparative Physiology, ÔÇ£Carbohydrate metabolism in ground squirrels during the summer season,ÔÇØ published in Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, among many others. Zimny continued her study of the rodents in order to develop a field of research that would include them as test subjects.

Her career at LSU began in 1954, leading her to a full professorship approximately ten years later. According to one Faculty Vignette, her students ÔÇ£were affectionately known as her ÔÇÿground squirrels.ÔÇÖÔÇØ She went on to become the first female department head at the LSU School of Medicine in 1975, and although she passed away in January 2006, her legacy lives on in her renown. A recent article on POPSCI tells about the successful induction of hibernation in arctic ground squirrels. Dr. ZimnyÔÇÖs warm regard for the critters appears well-places as they continues to be relevant to the study of metabolism regulation.

You can further explore squirrel-related news and other intricacies of our Digital Collections by following this link.

 

Glimpse of the Past is an ongoing project to promote the Louisiana Digital Library. This Month in History will present for your reading pleasure a closer look into a newspaper clipping of note from our Digital Collections and articles relating to the LSU Medical School.