This is the first in a series of conversations with friends of the History of Medicine Collection both new and old. Featured below are two graduates of the UB Medical School who, last fall, came down to the History of Medicine Collection by chance. While looking around they noticed the ongoing “dollar a book” sale carts and spent some time browsing the contents. They ended up purchasing quite a few of the books and that is how Keith and I came to know Dr. Colleen Nugent and Dr. Peter Martin. They periodically return to see what “new” items might be available and it’s always a pleasure to talk with them. We wanted to learn a little more about Peter and Colleen and asked them to respond to several questions about themselves and their love of vintage medical books and history. We know you’ll enjoy reading their answers!
Tell us a little about yourselves. How did you find our Collection?
We are both grew up in Western New York and met while still attending Canisius College. We spent many hours in the Health Sciences Library as we each completed graduate and medical degrees through UB. It was while studying for our specialty board examinations in the HSL that we first learned about the Robert L. Brown History of Medicine Collection and realized that we found a hidden treasure.
You’ve purchased quite a few of our used books, made available during our ongoing book sale. What is it about vintage texts that appeals to you both?
The experience of touching a unique piece of history is always exciting. It is fascinating to see how much has changed in medicine and how much has remained the same over the past century. In an age of electronic medical records and an increasingly computerized lifestyle, we enjoy the experience of sitting with an actual book and looking at the world through the medical lens of several generations of physicians. These texts hold the stories and patient descriptions despite being over 100 years old that remain vivid and richly describe the patient as a whole person. We find ourselves easily able to conjure up an image of these century old encounters much easier and faster than modern EMR templated patients.
What place, if any, does history have in the practice of modern medicine?
There is so much to learn in modern medicine that it is difficult just to keep up-to-date on the newest breakthroughs. Still, having an appreciation for how things were thought of in the past helps give perspective as to the way that medicine is practiced today. The field of medicine is constantly reflecting on how to improve, and there are ample examples of how looking back at a previous way that something was thought of or done has been useful in the present.
Bonus Random Question!: If you were to be granted a trip to any location, during any time period, where and when would you choose?
Buffalo at the turn of the 20th century. 1901 was the time that the lights literally came on in Buffalo. It must have been an exciting time of rapid expansion industry, medicine and culture. It would have been dazzling and exciting to see the infant incubator on the Midway. We cannot help but find some similarities of the Pan- AM Expo with the current day progress with the new medical campus.