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Robert L. Brown History of Medicine

History of Medicine News

Chart the future by exploring the past

Dr Simon Flexner and Polio

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Although here in the Western world it is commonly believed that polio has been eradicated, the World Health Organization has confirmed an outbreak of polio in Syria. The 2.5 year-long conflict in that country has created optimal conditions for the spread of communicable diseases and has disrupted routine immunization programs. Health workers have warned that the unsanitary conditions in which many of the millions of displaced Syrians live are breeding grounds for diseases such as polio, which is transmitted through contaminated food or water supplies. With as many as 4,000 refugees fleeing the country every day, the risk of the disease spreading is particularly serious. (1) Public health officials have speculated that a possible source may have been jihadi fighters traveling to Syria from Pakistan which, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, are the only countries where the disease is still endemic. (2)  With its reemergence then, the question comes to mind: will polio ever be completely wiped out? If we look to history, Dr. Simon Flexner, then Director of Research in the Rockefeller Institute, in his address to the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences in 1916 stated his opinion that “infantile paralysis [or polio] will continue to reappear in sporadic cases because it has become too firmly entrenched to ever to be eradicated.” (3) Indeed, with this most current reemergence in Syria, Flexner’s words seem as sage as ever.

Polio Map: Washington Post, Oct 29, 2013

Simon Flexner:  Isolated the polio vaccine for laboratory study

Simon Flexner:
Isolated the polio vaccine for laboratory study














Works Consulted:

(1)   World Health Organization confirms polio outbreak in Syria, Loveday Morris and Karen DeYoungThe Washington Post. October 29, 2013

(2)   U.N. Confirms an Outbreak of Polio in Syria. Nick Cumming-Bruce, The New York Times, October 29, 2013

(3)   Polio may reappear.  Editorial. Buffalo Sanitary Bulletin.  New Series Vol. XI (11) 1916. P. 124

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History and the Future Meet

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History of Medicine Exhibit

History of Medicine Exhibit

On Thursday October 10, 2013, the Robert L. Brown History of Medicine Collection was honored to be a part of the Special Celebration to commemorate the new Medical School Groundbreaking on Thursday, The event was held at the gleaming new UB Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC) on Ellicott Street where guests were treated to an impressive view of the city.  The 2013 Distinguished Medical and Biomedical Awards Ceremony was preceded by cocktails and hors d’oeuvres as well as a musical presentation by a choral group known as the “Docapellas”.  Dr. Joseph Chazan received the Distinguished Medical Alumnus Award and Dr. Kenneth Jacobson received the Distinguished Biomedical Alumnus Award.  The James Platt White Society also held its Donor Recognition program.


History of Medicine Exhibit

History of Medicine Exhibit

The History of Medicine Collection’s exhibit, which displayed an assortment of print materials, photographs and artifacts documenting the Medical School’s history, attracted the interest of faculty, alumni and students.  One of the key items was a building block from the School’s second building located at Main and Virginia in the city.  This was the first building constructed and owned by the School.  Our sincere thanks go out to Eric Alcott, Senior Associate Dean of Medical Development and Alumni Relations, Jennifer Britton, Lani Jandreau and all those involved in this wonderful event, for making a place for the History of Medicine!


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36th Annual Buffalo Niagara Dental Meeting!

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Keith Mages and Linda Lohr at the HSL/HOM table!

Keith Mages and Linda Lohr at the HSL/HOM table!

Once again the School of Dental Medicine Alumni Association graciously allowed the Health Sciences Library and the Robert L. Brown History of Medicine Collection to have a presence at the annual Buffalo Niagara Dental Meeting, held this year on September 25-27, 2013 at the Buffalo Convention Center.  Keith Mages, Liz Stellrecht and Linda Lohr manned a table displaying a variety of dental books, instruments and ephemera as well as informational handouts about the library and the History of Medicine.  The exhibit attracted dentists and dental students, dental hygienists and dental hygiene students, dental assistants and other office staff and faculty and staff from the School of Dental Medicine.  It was most enjoyable to meet new people and get reacquainted with individuals from previous meetings, in particular the folks from the School of Dental Medicine and its George W. Ferry Dental Museum who set up a wonderful display of their historical dental materials.  We look forward to participating in this wonderful event next year!

G.W. Ferry Dental Museum Display Dr. Pam Jones, UB Alumni Assoc.  Not pictured, Robin Comeau, Curator

G.W. Ferry Dental Museum Display
Dr. Pam Jones, UB Alumni Assoc. Not pictured, Robin Comeau, Curator

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Resusci Anne and her Buffalo Connection

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Did you know that the CPR mannequin Resusci Anne, also known as Rescue Anne or CPR Annie, has a Buffalo connection? First introduced in 1960 “she” was developed by a Norwegian toy maker named Åsmund Laerdal who named her after his very popular doll “Anne” (1). The face of the mannequin was modeled on the death mask of a young girl called “L’inconnue de la Seine” who had drowned in the Seine River in Paris sometime in the 1880’s (2). Laerdal based the design of Anne’s respiratory structure on research done by anesthesiologists Dr. Peter Safar and Dr. James O. Elam (3).

Now here’s where the Buffalo connection comes in: Dr. Elam, co-founded the Department of Anesthesiology at Buffalo’s Roswell Park Cancer Institute. His work in mechanical ventilation and artificial respiration revolutionized the field of anesthesiology (4). Additionally, Dr. Elam, along with fellow Roswell Park physician Dr. Elwyn S. Brown, was the first to describe how to provide mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, also known as “rescue breathing” (5).

Resusci Anne and her descendants are still made by the Laerdal Company today. So when you next attend a CPR class, take a moment to appreciate the international, and local, styling/history of the mannequin from which you are learning!

Recusci, or Rescue Anne, CPR mannequin extraordinaire

Recusci Anne, CPR mannequin extraordinaire


Dr. James O. Elam of Roswell Park Cancer Institute

1-3. Tjomsland, N; Baskett, P. The Resuscitation Greats: Asmund S. Laerdal, Resuscitation; 2002, 53: 115-9.
4. Sands, R.P; Bacon, D.R. An Inventive Mind: The Career of James O. Elam, M.D. (1918–1995), Anesthesiology; 1998, 88(4): 1107–12.
5. Peppriell JE.; The development of academic anesthesiology at the Roswell Park Memorial Institute:, Anesth Analg; 1991 Apr, 72(4):538-45.

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History of Medicine Books in Civil War Exhibit at Genesee Community College!

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Courtesy National Library of Medicine

September 16, 2013 – October 26, 2013

Alfred C. O’Connell Library  

Genesee Community College  Batavia, New York

Two books from the Brown History of Medicine Collection will be a part of the new exhibit  “Life and Limb: The Toll of the American Civil War” at the O’Connell Library at Genesee Community College.  Reminiscences of an army nurse during the Civil War  by Adelaide Smith and A Manual of Military Surgery… by Samual D. Gross, MD, were loaned to the library for the event.  The History of Medicine Collection is pleased to be able to contribute to this exciting undertaking!  Attendance is free and open to the public. (Some historical battlefield and medical images and materials in the exhibit may not be suitable for pre-teen or grade school age students.)

Photos and text below courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

“The perspectives of surgeons, physicians, and nurses are richly documented in the history of Civil War medicine, which highlights the heroism and brutality of battlefield operations and the challenges of caring for the wounded during wartime. Yet the experiences of injured soldiers during the conflict and in the years afterwards are less well-known.

More than three million soldiers fought in the war from 1861-1865. More than half a million died, and almost as many were wounded but survived. Hundreds of thousands were permanently disabled by battlefield injuries or surgery, which saved lives by sacrificing limbs. Life and Limb: The Toll of the American Civil War explores the experiences of disabled Civil War veterans who served as a symbol of the fractured nation and a stark reminder of the costs of the conflict.”

Images and text courtesy of the National Library of Medicine



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Austin Flint And Elbert Hubbard: Beneath The Covers

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Flint's Journal

Flint’s Journal

What connection could there be between Austin Flint, M.D., one of the founders of the University at Buffalo’s Medical School, and Elbert G. Hubbard, founder of the Roycroft arts and crafts movement in East Aurora, New York?  Recently re-discovered in the Brown History of Medicine Collection were eight volumes of a publication called Flint’s Journal dating from1848 to 1855.  While the title on the spine of the original binding may not be familiar, the journal inside is actually the Buffalo Medical Journal and Monthly Review of Medical and Surgical Science, established in 1846 by Dr. Austin Flint and Dr. Sanford Hunt.  What makes this particular iteration of the journal even more interesting is who actually owned it.  Inside several of the volumes were letters, newspaper clippings and hand written notes relating to Dr. Silas Hubbard, father of Elbert.  What a find!  Dr. Hubbard, born in Mayville, New York in 1821, moved to Buffalo when he was ten.  At age eighteen he began the study of medicine with Dr. William Butler in Lima, New York after which he attended a course of medical lectures at the Medical College in Castleton, Vermont.  In the fall of 1840 Dr. Hubbard returned to Buffalo and continued his studies with Dr. Noah Warner followed by another course of medical lectures in Vermont where he received his degree in 1842.  He practiced medicine in Buffalo and also lectured on phrenology in various other states.  Dr. Hubbard moved with his family to Illinois where he continued the practice of medicine. He eventually moved to East Aurora, New York before returning to Buffalo where he died in 1917.  Elbert Hubbard, the third of eight children born to Dr. Hubbard and his wife, promulgated the English Arts and Crafts movement personified by William Morris and others that stressed hand craftsmanship as an “antidote to the unhealthy character of industrial society.” (1)  Elbert and his second wife were killed in May, 1915 when the ship they were on, the RMS Lusitania, was torpedoed by the Germans.  On a page inside Volume X of Flint’s Journal a devastated Dr. Hubbard wrote the following in his frail handwriting: “E.G Hubbard [son] was 59 years old when he was murdered by the Germans last [m]ay 1915.”



Dr. Hubbard's comments inside Volume 10

Dr. Hubbard’s comments inside Volume 10

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Donation Spotlight: The Collection of Dr. H.T. Jackson, Country Doctor

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Dr. Homer T. Jackson, MD, an 1881 graduate of UB’s Medical School, practiced medicine in the rural town of Verona, NY at the turn of the 19th century. When leaving for house calls, Dr. Jackson would don his top hat, grab his pocket watch and his case of instruments. He would also bring along a pistol.

Those days were different. Doctors such as Dr. Jackson had to be prepared for anything, including wandering highwaymen who looked to take advantage of travelers on lonely country roads.  They also had to be prepared to accept chickens and veggies in lieu of coin.

Today, we can get a glimpse into the professional life of Dr. Jackson thanks to the generosity of Dr. Kenneth Felch, MD (UB Med 1961). The grandson of Dr. Jackson, Dr. Felch has donated several important pieces to the R. L. Brown History of Medicine Collection. Along with his personal collection of diagnostic and surgical instruments, several of Dr. Jackson’s handwritten notebooks were also donated. Through these wonderful manuscripts, we can look back upon Dr. Jackson’s methods of diagnosis, treatment, and his creation of medicinal preparations.

The Dr. H.T. Jackson Collection has been reassembled and is currently on display in the Buffalo Academy Room, located within the History of Medicine Collection. Please feel free to stop by and enjoy this truly unique glimpse into medicine’s past.

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Italian Medical Students at HSL

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Students in History of Medicine

On July 26th, 50 enthusiastic and engaging medical students from Italy toured the Health Sciences Library and the History of Medicine Collection.  The students are from medical schools in Bologna, Florence, Pisa, Milan and Salerno and are participating in the Fourth Annual Professor Giovanni Mazzotti Italian-American Conference on Human Anatomy, Research and Healthcare Professions at D’Youville College. They are spending 4 weeks completing the Gross Anatomy component of their medical education which is not currently offered in Italian medical universities.  Italian medical students only learn gross anatomy and dissection from books, models and demonstrations, as there is not an established donor program in their country.  We wish all of them the best in their future careers!

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MEDSTEP Students Visit the History of Medicine

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Student exploring the stacks by flashlight

Recently the Robert Brown History of Medicine Collection was visited by students from the Summer Component of UB’s Medical STEP (Science and Technology Entry Program) and their mentor, Zohra Hasham, a student at UB’s School of Dental Medicine. The Medical STEP Program at the University at Buffalo is designed to acquaint and academically prepare high school students for admission in one of many health-related professions (medicine, medical technology, nursing, dentistry, etc.). The six-week Summer Component allows students to continue exploring their career interests by working or conducting research at UB-affiliated hospitals or clinics four days a week and includes classroom instruction and college admissions preparatory sessions.


Students learning the history of the Medical School Mace

I was pleased to give the group a tour of the Collection including the stacks where the rare books are kept, the McGuire Medical Instrument Collection and other artifacts such as the Medical School mace and death masks. It was a delight to meet these engaged students and to emphasize to them the need to be familiar with the past in order to understand the present and the future. The students asked very insightful questions seemed to enjoy the time they spent in the Collection. Good luck in to them in their future careers!

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Circulating Now launches, the official blog of NLM’s history division.

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An image of the cover page for "Some Account of the Pennsylvania Hospital", as featured in Circulating Now, the official blog of NLM's history division.

Cover page for “Some Account of the Pennsylvania Hospital”, as featured in Circulating Now.


Earlier this month, the Historical Collections of the National Library of Medicine officially entered the blogosphere with the launch of Circulating Now (, a new blog that “conveys the vitality of medical history in our 21st-century world” while highlighting the world-class holdings of the NLM’s history division. Early entries have explored such diverse topics as President Garfield’s assassination, the establishment of the nation’s first hospital, and the evolution and persistence of “how to” books. Lovers of medical history, get excited; the eye catching layout combined with intriguing stories promises many enjoyable, upcoming intellectual experiences!

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