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NLM History Talks: Past

2020 and 2021

Past NLM History Talks

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  • Thursday, February 11, 2021 — 12th Annual Cassedy Lecture in the History of Medicine

    Photograph of a black woman.

    “Savages cry easily and are afraid of the dark”: What It Means to Talk about Race and African American Health
    Naa Oyo A. Kwate, PhD — Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Associate Professor of Human Ecology, Rutgers University, and recipient of a 2018 NLM G13 Award for Scholarly Works in Biomedicine and Health for Race and the Transformation of the Food Environment: Fast food, African Americans, and the Color Line, 1955–1995
    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET
    Watch the archived lecture at NIH VideoCasting.
    Read an Interview with Naa Oyo Kwate on our blog Circulating Now.

    This talk examines the impact of racism on African American health, looking at pervasive inequities that drive higher rates of morbidity and death in the United States. Where once explicitly racist theories of African American bodies and minds dominated public and scientific discourse, contemporary understandings of racial inequities in health tend to use less incendiary language, but still conceive of poor health as fundamentally a problem of individuals. Such framing centers health behaviors including diet and visits to the doctor, and leaves the role of social structures uninterrogated. This talk explores the deeply entrenched effects of racism on African American health through institutional policies and practices that defeat socioeconomic opportunity and cause overexposure to harms; stereotypes; day-to-day encounters with racism; and other aspects of American social life.

    Image copyright Christophe Delory

    About James H. Cassedy


    Thursday, March 25, 2021

    A white woman with grey hair and blue glasses.

    Placing Women in Medicine: Maude Abbott and the Archaeology of Friendships
    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET
    Watch the archived lecture at NIH VideoCasting.
    Read an Interview with Annmarie Adams on our blog Circulating Now.

    This talk is drawn from a chapter of Professor Adams’s forthcoming biography of Canadian physician Maude Abbott. It explores how a prominent woman negotiated relationships during the early twentieth century. Abbott spent most of her career at McGill University in Montreal, as curator of its medical museum and as a researcher in congenital heart disease. Nonetheless her network of correspondents was vast. Engaging an approach Professor Adams calls “friendship archaeology,” she will excavate Abbott’s relationship with two powerful American physicians, Paul Dudley White and Emanuel Libman. Archival evidence, including the Libman papers held by the NLM History of Medicine Division, turns up links with Nobel prize nominees and winners, revealing how close Abbott lived to that world.


    Thursday, June 3, 2021 — 5th Annual Michael E. DeBakey Lecture in the History of Medicine

    Photograph of a white woman with paintbrushes and anatomical art.

    Dissecting Gender: Reframing Anatomical History Through the Female Body
    2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. ET
    Watch the archived lecture at NIH VideoCasting.
    Read an Interview with Allison Hill-Edgar on our blog Circulating Now.

    The female body has been a part of anatomical history from its inception, but usually as the reproductive other to the male body. This presentation re-examines the Western anatomical tradition through the lens of the female body in order to elucidate factors that have framed our understanding of and approach to gender differences in medicine and society. Anatomical studies exist at the intersection of medicine and art, as well as observation and interpretation. Consequently, they reveal much about the practices, beliefs, biases and power dynamics of the cultures in which they were created. Drawing primarily on images and sources held by the NLM History of Medicine Division, this presentation will share an array of often marginalized anatomical works, and highlight many of the related subjects, patients, medical practitioners, anatomists, artists, and activists. This archival analysis reveals the impact of anatomical visual history on current culture and medical practice today.


    Thursday, September 9, 2021

    Photograph of a white woman with brown hair.
    Photograph of a white woman with white hair.

    Peril in the Air: Pollution Activism on Film
    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET
    Watch the archived lecture at NIH VideoCasting.
    Read an Interview with Sarah Eilers and Angela Saward on our blog Circulating Now.

    Moving images are a powerful medium for conveying the impact of polluted air on humans and other living things. This often-invisible menace can have catastrophic effects. In 1948, the Donora Smog in Pennsylvania killed 20 and sickened half of the town’s population, while in the UK the Great Smog of 1952 led to 12,000 deaths—and a Clean Air Act just four years later. Add to these events Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring, and the modern environmental movement took root. Legislative and societal changes followed on both sides of the Atlantic. In this presentation of select US and British films on air pollution and the environment, Sarah Eilers and Angela Saward explore the intersection of filmmaking, government, and medicine as they not only respond to, but attempt to drive, this shift of the collective mind. Vivid imagery and dramatic narration make clear the power of film to tell a story that words alone often do not.


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  • Thursday, February 27, 2020

    Photograph of a white woman.

    The Girl in the Lion Cage: Regulating Hypnotism in Nineteenth Century France
    Katrin Schultheiss, PhD — Associate Professor, Department of History, The George Washington University
    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET in the NLM Lister Hill Auditorium, Building 38A
    Watch the archived lecture at NIH VideoCasting.
    Read an Interview with Katrin Schultheiss on our blog Circulating Now.

    In 1890 in the southern French town of Beziers, a “carnival hypnotizer” put a sleeping young girl, one “Miss Sperling,” in a lion’s cage, in an effort to demonstrate how profound—and authentic—her hypnotic trance was. The awe of the assembled crowd soon turned to horror, however, as the lion seized “Miss Sperling” in its jaws, parading her around the cage. The victim was eventually extracted and taken to the hospital but soon died from the injuries she sustained. This incident was just one of a number of stories circulating in the French press in the late nineteenth century that vividly demonstrated the dangers of the popular hypnotism shows that captivated audiences across the European continent. Doctors seized on such episodes to argue that the practice of hypnotism should be limited to medical professionals who alone could be trusted with the power to control the minds of others. In some European nations—Belgium and Switzerland, for example, and in some Italian towns—their efforts were successful. In France, however, despite the urging of the powerful neurologist and psychologist Jean-Martin Charcot, efforts to regulate popular hypnotism failed. This talk, based on research completed largely in French nineteenth century medical journals and on the writings of Jean-Martin Charcot (1825–1893), explores the debates surrounding popular hypnotism. It argues that the failure to regulate the practice in late nineteenth-century France reveals conflicts over the authority of professional medicine, the changing role of women, and deep cultural anxiety about the power of the unconscious mind.


    Wednesday, April 2020-Special Program

    Girl clerks in New York at work with masks carefully tied about their faces.

    Reporting, Recording, and Remembering the 1918 Influenza Epidemic
    Katrin Schultheiss, PhD — Associate Professor, Department of History, The George Washington University
    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET
    Watch the archived lecture at NIH VideoCasting.
    Read an article on the symposium in the NIH Record

    Join us to learn the research outcomes of Virginia Tech students studying the history of data in social context through individual and collaborative primary-source research here at the NLM and elsewhere, and as part of their course Topics in the History of Data in Social Context, being taught by Dr. E. Thomas Ewing.

    During the symposium, the students will present their research on various aspects of the 1918 pandemic, including newspaper reporting at the peak of the epidemic (late September to early November 1918), contemporary social distancing policies and procedures, and how contemporaries determined that the epidemic was ending, and how they remembered the remarkable experience of this intense, but relatively brief, crisis in community health.

    Discussants will include Dr. Nancy Bristow of the University of Puget Sound and author of American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic (Oxford University Press, 2012), among others.

    All are welcome to tune-in to this research symposium which advances the NLM 2017-2027 strategic plan emphasizing data-driven discovery, enhanced stakeholder engagement, and the role of libraries and archives in providing trusted information.

    Reporting, Recording, and Remembering the 1918 Influenza Epidemic is sponsored by the NLM History of Medicine Division in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities—as part of the ongoing NLM/NEH partnership to collaborate on research, education, and career initiatives.


    Tuesday, June 9, 2020

    Photograph of a white woman.

    When People are Data: How Medical History Matters for Our Digital Age
    Joanna Radin, PhD — Associate Professor, Program in History of Science and Medicine, Yale University
    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET
    Watch the archived lecture at NIH VideoCasting.
    Read an Interview with Joanna Radin on our blog Circulating Now.

    This talk focuses on the history of a particular collection of data, extracted and digitized from patient records made in the course of a longitudinal epidemiological study involving Indigenous members of the Gila River Indian Community Reservation in the American Southwest. The creation, circulation, and eventual restriction of the Pima Indian Diabetes Dataset (PIDD) demonstrates the value of medical and Indigenous histories to the study of Big Data. The history of the PIDD reveals how data becomes alienated from persons even as it reproduces complex social realities of the circumstances of its origin.


    Wednesday, September 9, 2020 — 4th Annual Michael E. DeBakey Lecture in the History of Medicine

    Photograph of a young woman.

    DeBakey in Baghdad and Beirut: The Internationalization of Surgical Education, 1945–1970
    Sara Farhan, PhD — 2019 NLM Michael E. DeBakey Fellow in the History of Medicine, Assistant Professor of History, Department of International Studies, American University of Sharjah
    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET
    Watch the archived lecture at NIH VideoCasting.
    Read an Interview with Sara Farhan on our blog Circulating Now.

    The techniques of medical education in the fields of surgery underscore the universality of the medical profession and the internationalization of its pedagogies. This presentation examines the field of surgery in the medical schools of Baghdad and Beirut as comparative transnational microcosms for the study of the development of pedagogical approaches of surgical education. Pointedly, this presentation focuses on the centrality of Dr. Michael Elias DeBakey in this internationalization process. In the aftermath of World War II, DeBakey became vernacularized in surgical canon. Medical students in the Middle East studied DeBakey’s techniques and the intricacies of his inventions while instructors employed his pedagogies. In examining DeBakey’s influence on curricular development in the Middle East, the complexities and richness of cross-cultural exchange in the realm of medical education and the trajectory of the pedagogy of surgical education can help us understand the processes of the internationalization of the medical profession.


    Thursday, October 15, 2020

    Photograph of a white woman.

    New Drugs, Old Problems: The Sulfonamide Revolution and Children’s Health Care Delivery in the United States, 1933–1949
    Cynthia Connolly, PhD, RN, FAAN — Professor of Nursing, Rosemarie B. Greco Endowed Term Chair in Advocacy, and Associate Director, Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET
    Watch the archived lecture at NIH VideoCasting.
    Read an Interview with Cynthia Connolly on our blog Circulating Now.

    Drawing on pediatric patient records housed at the National Library of Medicine, Dr. Connolly explores the transformation wrought by the sulfonamides in medical and nursing practice at Baltimore’s Sydenham Hospital. Published articles, oral histories, and physician memoirs reveal only part of the story of one of the most pivotal scientific breakthroughs of the twentieth century. Through patient records, which rarely survive intact, it is possible to appreciate the ways in which the new therapeutics demanded more intense bedside care, enhanced laboratory facilities, and new levels of cooperation. Examining patient records also reveals how and why the care of infants and children with infectious diseases made demands on physicians and nurses that differed from those facing clinicians treating adult patients. Finally, the clinical practices, policy debates, and legal infrastructure that arose in the context of the sulfonamides provided a template for pediatric drug development going forward that exists into the present day.


    Thursday, December 3, 2020

    Photograph of a white woman.

    Rise, Serve, Lead… And Publish: Including Women Physicians’ Writings in Rise, Serve, Lead: America’s Women Physicians
    Ashley Bowen, PhD — Editor, Perspectives on History, American Historical Association
    2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET
    Watch the archived lecture at NIH VideoCasting.
    Read an Interview with Ashley Bowen on our blog Circulating Now.

    The NLM banner exhibition and companion online adaptation Rise, Serve, Lead! America’s Women Physicians celebrates the impact that remarkable women made on medical care, education, and research. In the 170 years since Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to earn an MD degree from an American medical school, women have risen to the highest ranks of the profession, served as leaders in their communities, and led their peers.

    In this talk, the curator of Rise, Serve, Lead, Dr. Ashley Bowen discusses the lives and accomplishments of three very different women featured in the exhibition—Dr. Rebecca Crumpler, Dr. Helen Rodríguez Trías, and Dr. Frances Conley—and then discuss how the collections of the NLM shaped the exhibition. Each of these remarkable physicians contributed to the medical literature during her lifetime, and many are represented in the NLM collections, as well as in PubMed Central, the NLM’s free full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature. Dr. Bowen reflects on how connecting each woman’s biography to her published work shaped her thinking about the featured doctors and their impact on the field.


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Last Reviewed: November 30, 2021