Monday, September 29, 2008

What is a medical book?

Sometimes I'm glad I don't work at the National Library of Medicine. They're supposed to be the library of record for medical books, but what is a medical book? One of my neighbors has a new book out - Raising a Child with Albinism: A Guide to the Early Years by Susan Leslie DuBois (Editor). Is this a medical book? Probably. NLM doesn't have a copy yet though.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Flickr success

We keep a log of all of our reference requests and I recently compared the number we have answered so far this year with the number last year at this time. I was pleased and surprised to see we're up between 25%-33%. The log doesn't say how the requester found us but it might be a good piece of information to add to next year's stats. My theory is that much of this increase comes from our Flickr accounts because many people are asking for "permission to use." I think advertisers, photo researchers, book illustrators, and the like are casting about for images and find exactly what they're looking for among our accounts.

Here's an example of how our collections are reaching an ever-wider audience. I handled this request recently and just today received in the mail a copy of the publication in which the image was published. El portavoz, a free community newspaper in Costa Rica, used one of our Reeve photos to illustrate an article about war wounded:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On retirement and a job well done

One of the Archives staff is retiring.

Tom Gaskins has been part of the Museum staff since 2004, but he was a mainstay of AFIP for years longer than that. He's been with the Institute for seventeen years, joining us from the Federal Records Center in Suitland. Tom singlehandedly ran the fifty-year old Medical Illustration Service Library of 3,000 boxes of hundreds of thousands of photographs. The library was the Department of Defense's official medical photograph repository from 1949 on. He inherited all of the responsibility for the Library as staff left and weren't replaced.

Tom's sense of duty and responsibility preserved the Library, through at least two moves, and in spite of disinterest or worse on the part of some. As well as safeguarding the material, Tom kept it being used. A photo request given to Tom was done quickly and well.

Tom joined us due to the Information Manufacturing Corporation scanning project. The initial plan was to do a lo-res scan of the Library and then discard the originals. Fortunately we were able to work around that and add the collection to the Museum. There's overseas photos from World War II, extinct diseases, and Vietnam helicopter dustoffs being found and scanned. Sometime soon we hope to show thousands of pictures online - at the moment you can see a few hundred at our Flickr links.

Tom's been an integral part of making possible hundreds of thousands of scans - 350,000 this year alone. His knowledge of the collection and willingness to share it has been the only thing that's enabled us to make sense of the staggering amount of pictures. Without Tom, the project wouldn't have gotten off the ground. He's also done work in the Archives, such as scanning all of our Civil War photographs.

While I have hopes of filling Tom's position, we certainly won't be able to replace him.


Here's a UK conference on military medicine -


The second international conference exploring the history of military medicine and health care since 1660 15th, 16th and 17th April 2009

at The Army Medical Services Museum

Sessions include

18th Century
The Napoleonic Wars
The American Contribution
The First World War
The Second World War
Military Nursing

For further details and booking form contact:

Army Medical Services Museum
Keogh Barracks, Ash Vale, Aldershot, Hants, GU12 5RQ
Tel: 01252 868820. email:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Army Times on Resolved

The Army Times that is out today gave a two-page spread to the Resolved exhibit.

NLM lecture - Universal Health Insurance Provided by Government

Due to an overwhelming response, Dr. Reiser's lecture has been moved to NLM's Lister Hill Auditorium. All other details of the talk remain the same.

History of Medicine Division Seminar
Tuesday, September 23, 2008, 2-3:30pm
Lister Hill Auditorium, Bldg 38A, NLM
Bethesda, MD

"Universal Health Insurance Provided by Government: Explaining Historically Why America Has Resisted This Concept."

Stanley Reiser, MD, PhD, George Washington University

Since the founding of the United States, political and social values and events have exerted a telling influence on the structure of its health system and the division of responsibility for providing the resources to access its care. Lack of understanding the nature and significance of these developments has been a continuing source of the failure of proposals to enlarge the entitlement of Americans to health care, introduced in the 20th century and up to now. This presentation considers this history and the lessons it carries for us today.

All are Welcome

Sign language interpretation is provided. Individuals with disabilities who need reasonable accommodation to participate may contact Stephen Greenberg at (301-435-4995), e-mail, or the Federal Relay (1-800-877-8339).

Due to current security measures at NIH, off-campus visitors are advised to consult the NLM Visitors and Security website:

Exhibit Design for MHS

A day in the life of, exhibits...

Exhibit Design for Military Health System
I had the privilege of art directing and designing
this for MHS.  

Yea, I worked this up using
Photoshop, Indesign, & Cinema-4D.  The artwork
was inspired by and uses photos from the respective
websites, but the mural is just a comp. I just love engineering
structure. This one was tough as hell though. Comments please.

credit of photos
Department of the Army,
Department of the Navy,
US Coast Guard,
US Air Force
and of course several images from the National Museum of Health & Medicine archives.

Art Director - Navjeet Singh Chhina
Design- Navjeet Singh Chhina

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Poster exhibit talk at National Academy of Sciences

Mike Sappol's speaking about his new exhibit. By the way, we just moved a box of exhibit catalogues from the last National Library of Medicine poster exhibit. If you want a copy for free, email me.

"The new and excellent method of skin grafting"

In this 1872 letter from George Otis to a soldier's lawyer that I found today, the Museum curator (and surgeon) recommends "the new and excellent method of skin grafting" if other methods of closing an ulcer fail. Otis goes on to note that he can't help with the man's pension, "and take only a scientific, and I trust humane interest in his case..."

George Otis was a good man, I think.

Art exhibit by Museum staffer

Archivist Donna Rose has an exhibit of her artwork in Baltimore.

She makes collages by tearing apart magazines. Fortunately this behavior hasn't spread to work.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Clara Barton and Dorothea Dix Bios

Civil War Women has two new posts of interest--Clara Barton and Dorothea Dix.

Both of these remarkable women are mentioned in the NMHM's exhibition "To Bind a Nation's Wounds"--Clara Barton also appears in the new exhibition, "RESOLVED."


Saturday, September 13, 2008

AFIP in new New Yorker article on 9-11

This article is largely about NY medical examiner Charlie Hirsch but also mentions AFIP rendering a second opinion on lung sections - probably the environmental pathology branch. Read "A Cloud of Smoke: The complicated death of a 9/11 hero," by Jennifer Kahn, September 15, 2008 - it's look at the limits of a medical examiner system.

The problem of electronic records

The New York Times has a good article on government electronic record keeping problems - "In Digital Age, Federal Files Blip Into Oblivion," By ROBERT PEAR, September 13, 2008, in which they summarize "Countless government records are being lost to posterity because workers do not regularly preserve documents."

This is true. It's a problem we face in the Museum. We're attempting to handle it by mounting more on our website, but largely through committing to KE Software's Emu catalogue which permits the electronic record to be linked to the catalogue record describing it. We're funded through 2009 and we hope to have most of the data and records in the museum uploaded into it by next summer.

AFIP mentioned in two newspaper articles

Ed Huffine, formerly of the Medical Examiner's office, is featured in "Stringing Together The Clues of DNA: Fairfax Lab Solves World's Mysteries," By Michael Laris, Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, September 12, 2008; Page B01.
A urinalysis test developed at the AFIP for Salvia divinorum, a potent hallucinogenic herb, is discussed in "Popularity of a Hallucinogen May Thwart Its Medical Uses," By KEVIN SACK and BRENT McDONALD, New York Times September 9, 2008.

Walter Reed medical center history conference

With the level of communication, you couldn't tell we actually work on the same base, but I got my hands on a CFP from the WRAMC history office.

Call For Papers

Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Centennial Symposium 1909-2009

Date: April 29, 2009

Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D. C.

Theme: Walter Reed and A Hundred Years of Army Medical Care

Background: On May 1, 1909, medical officials transported patients from the old and condemned, Washington Barracks General Hospital to the newly constructed Walter Reed General Hospital, and thus began the legacy of this world recognized military medical institution.

Papers: Papers should focus on the significance of Maj. Walter Reed, the army physician, or Walter Reed Army Medical and its medical institutions and history.

Participants are to submit a prospectus that includes the title of the paper, thesis or theme, overview and a brief bibliography.

Prospectus: Due December 1, 2008

Send to:

Sherman Fleek
Command Historian
Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Office Public Affairs
6900 Georgia Ave. NW
Washington DC, 20307-5001


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Military funeral at Arlington

Acres of headstones"
A woman emailed me a couple of months ago, asking if she could use one or two of my Flickr photos in a video she wanted to make to honor her father, who was buried at Arlington National Cemetery last spring. Of course I said yes, and went back to the cemetery to take some specific pictures for her. Please take a few minutes to watch her video and see parts of this iconic cemetery that needs just a one-word name: Arlington.

The cemetery's official website has details of its fascinating history that dates to America's Civil War. I think we who live here may take it for granted, but it really is a special, sacred place.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Did Daniel Sickles visit his leg in the Museum?

Someone emailed the question "Did Daniel Sickles visit his leg in the Museum?" in today.

Here's a bit I ran across a few years ago. A very old doctor wrote his reminiscences of people who knew in the US Army Medical Department in "Personal Recollections of Some Old Medical Officers" by Henry Crecy Yarrow, Military Surgeon January 1927, pp 73-74:

One day he [Curator George Otis] received a visit from a fine looking gentleman of military bearing, who announced himself as General Dan E. Sickles, and stated that he understood his leg, which had been amputated in consequence of a shell wound received in the battle of Chancellorsville, was on exhibit in the Museum. Dr. Otis replied that it was and with that courteous urbanity of manner for which he was celebrated, invited the General to accompany him to the main hall of the Museum. He pointed out several interesting specimens, but the General, apparently losing patience, said, Oh, yes, yes, but let us come to my leg!" They finally reached the case where the leg was exhibited and the General examined it very carefully for a few moments, when he turned to Otis and said with some harshness, "Where is my foot?" What have you done with my foot -- that should have been shown too." Otis replied that there seemed to be no necessity for saving the foot as the part saved showed why a surgical operation was necessary. The General became very angry and anathematized the museum very freely."

Diabetes and hearing loss

As part of my once-in-a-while campaign to spread the word about the long-term effects of Agent Orange, let me pass along to you a report from the NIH about the connection between diabetes and hearing loss.

"The link between diabetes and hearing loss was evident across all frequencies, with a stronger association in the high frequency range. Mild or greater hearing impairment of low- or mid-frequency sounds in the worse ear was about 21 percent in 399 adults with diabetes compared to about 9 percent in 4,741 adults without diabetes. For high frequency sounds, mild or greater hearing impairment in the worse ear was 54 percent in those with diabetes compared to 32 percent in those who did not have the disease."

How does Agent Orange fit in? As I noted in a prior post, the Veterans' Administration has stipulated that Agent Orange causes diabetes. So, once again, all of you Vietnam vets out there - if you have health problems, contact the VA.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Make your own museum specimens

With Halloween a few weeks away, those inspired by the rows of "wet specimens" at the museum can make their own at home!

RESOLVED exhibit spotlighted today

More links for you this evening, this time featuring our newest exhibit RESOLVED: Advances in Forensic Identification of U.S. War Dead.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Links to Pass The Time

Since I've been away from the blog for a while, I thought I'd dive back in with the most routine of blog posts: links, links and more links.