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March 17 to April 26, 2014

Part of the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) traveling exhibition program,Opening Doors highlights four prominent African-American surgeons and examines their roles as educators, healers, and pioneers. Featured are Alexa I. Canady, the first African American woman pediatric neurosurgeon; LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr., cancer surgeon, and the first African American President of the American College of Surgeons and the American Cancer Society; Claude H. Organ, Jr., general surgeon, and the first African American to chair a department of surgery at a predominantly white medical school; and Rosalyn P. Scott, the first African American woman cardiothoracic surgeon. In addition, the careers of five other surgeons are more briefly looked at, giving a broad view of the role of African-Americans in contemporary American medicine.

The NLM cautions that Opening Doors “is not intended to be an encyclopedic look at African American academic surgeons” but “takes the visitor on a journey through the lives and achievements of these academic surgeons, and provides a glimpse into the stories of those that came before them and those that continue the tradition today.”

African-Americans have long practiced medicine both in slavery and in freedom as herbal healers, midwives, and bone setters, but mainstream medicine – and especially academic medicine – was long closed to them by widespread racial discrimination.  This, however, did not prevent some from achieving distinction.

The first African-American to receive a medical degree, James McCune Smith (1813-1865) had to go to Scotland for his education, receiving the M.D. from the University of Glasgow in 1837.  He would later make his home in New York City where he became a leading abolitionist and the first African-American to publish in a medical journal.  Daniel Hale Williams (1856-1931) performed one of the first successful open heart surgeries, when in 1893 he repaired the torn pericardium of a knife wound patient.  Charles R. Drew (1904-1950) did his groundbreaking work on blood banking while a doctoral student at the Medical Center; when he was awarded the Doctor of Medical Science degree from Columbia in 1940, he was the first African-American to receive such a degree.  Dr. Kenneth A. Forde (P&S 1959), José M. Ferrer Professor of Surgery and one of the country’s leading thoracic surgeons, now serves on the Columbia University Board of Trustees.

The first African-American to graduate from the College of Physicians and Surgeons was Travis J. A. Johnson in 1908.  After practicing medicine in New York City for less than ten years, he tragically died in a car accident in 1917.  The first African-American woman graduate was Agnes O. Griffin (1897-1991) in 1923.  Between 1908 and 1940, P&S graduated 15 African-Americans

Opening Doors may be seen during regular library hours: 8am-11pm, Monday-Thursday; 8am-8pm, Friday; 10am-11pm Saturday; and noon-11pm Sunday. For more information contact hslarchives@columbia.edu.

There will be an opening reception March 18th 4-6pm where Dr. Kenneth Forde, Jose M. Ferrer Professor of Surgery Emeritus and Columbia University Trustee will speak.

Opening Doors was developed and produced by the National Library of Medicine and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, Baltimore, Maryland.

Anil K. Lalwani, MD
Professor and Vice Chair for Research
Director, Division of Otology, Neurotology, and Skull Base Surgery
Director, Columbia Cochlear Implant Center, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

Co-edited:

Recent Advances in Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery, 3rd Edition
Philadelphia: Jaypee Brothers Medical Publishers (P) Ltd, 2014.

Feb. 18 – May 17, 2014
Hammer Health Sciences Building, Lower Level 2

The Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library is pleased to announce the opening of a new exhibit, Andreas Vesalius: The Founder of Modern Anatomy, 1514-2014.  Timed to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Vesalius’s birth later this year, the exhibit draws upon the Health Sciences Library’s strong holdings in the history of anatomy and especially in works of Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564).

In 1543 at the age of 28, Vesalius published De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem [On the Structure of the Human Body in Seven Books], his exhaustive survey of the anatomy of the human body.  Vesalius’s assertion in the Fabrica that knowledge of the body could be gained only through the direct experience of dissection helped to overthrow an orthodoxy that dated back to the animal dissections of 2nd century Roman anatomist Galen.  While his elders were outraged by his attack on the authority of the ancient authors, Vesalius’s work sparked a renaissance in anatomical investigation that, in time, gave us an accurate account of the human body.

Visitors will be able to see two copies of Vesalius’ 1543 Fabrica; two copies of the enlarged 1555 second edition of the work; a copy of both the Latin and German version of  the Epitome, the greatly abridged version of the Fabrica intended for student use; and one of the first anatomy books in English, the Compendiosa totius anatomie delineation (1553) by Thomas Geminus, which plagiarized Vesalius’ illustrations. Modern editions of Vesalius such as the Icones Anatomicae (1934), a joint publication of the New York Academy of Medicine and the University of Munich; and the new English translation of the first and second editions of the Fabrica published last year by Karger are also on display.

In addition the exhibit includes works of pre-Vesalian anatomy, such as a 1494 printing of Mondino di Luzzi’s  Anothomia, the first anatomy text based on dissections of the human body;  and Jacopo Berengario di Carpi’s 1521 Commentaria, the first anatomical text to contain illustrations derived from human dissections.  Works that influenced Vesalius, including the first printing of Galen in the original Greek (1525) and the Anatomicarum institutionum (1541) of Johann Guenter of Andernach, his teacher at Padua, can also be seen.

The exhibit is located on Lower Level 2 of the Hammer Building in the Teaching and Learning Center, with two additional cases on Lower Level 1 at the entrance to the Quiet Study Room.  It is open to everyone holding valid Columbia University or New York-Presbyterian Hospital identification.  Those without authorized access who wish to see the exhibition should contact the email address below to make arrangements to view it.

The exhibit was curated by Stephen E. Novak, Head, Archives & Special Collections at the Health Sciences Library.  For more information please contact hslarchives@columbia.edu

Prakash Gorroochurn, PhD.
Assistant Professor of Biostatistics
Mailman School of Public Health
Columbia University

Authored:

"Errors of Probability in Historical Context" The Best Writing on Mathematics 2013 
Edited by Mircea Pitici. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013. p.191-212.

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