Vignettes at Large - Hektoen International

On orchids and testes

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Orchis anthropophora (L.) All. (originally labeled Aceras anthropophorum (L.) R.Br.). From Album des Orchidées d’Europe by Henry Correvon, 1923. Swiss Orchid Foundation at the Herbarium Jany Renz. Botanical Institute, University of Basel, Switzerland. “You like orchids?…Nasty things. Their flesh is too much like the flesh of men, their perfume the […]

Of lice and men

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Head louse clinging onto strands of human hair. Scanning electron micrograph by Kevin Mackenzie. Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0. “By consistently tormenting them / with reminders of the lice in their children’s hair, the / School Physician first brought their hatred down on him / But by this familiarity they […]

Doctors’ husbands

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels. “Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe   The stereotypical image of the “medical couple” is changing: it is no longer the doctor-husband and his nonphysician-wife. This change is permanent and will accelerate, since 60% of American […]

Paruresis: “Shy bladder” syndrome

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   “Keep calm and carry on.” – British motivational poster, 1939   Sensor operated urinals, which offer very little privacy. Photo by Julo (Steve Mann) on Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 3.0. Paruresis is the fear of being unable to urinate without privacy. It is more than simple shyness or embarrassment, but is […]

Drapetomania: A “disease” that never was

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Two unidentified escaped slaves wearing ragged clothes. Photo by McPherson & Oliver, between 1861 and 1865. Liljenquist Family Collection, Library of Congress. No known restrictions on publication. “Slavery is next to hell.” – Harriet Tubman “And before I’d be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave…” – Oh, Freedom, […]

Medical marijuana, caregivers, and jail time

Remi Alli United States   IStock.com/sx70 Did you know that under current laws in the United States, if you deliver medical marijuana, there is a chance you could land in jail? In some states, a caregiver can be found guilty of illegal possession of marijuana even if it has been approved for medical use. State […]

Chinese footbinding: A millenium of mutilation

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   A high caste woman with her feet unwrapped. From Women Of All Nations (London & New York: Underwood & Underwood, 1911), 532. Via Wikimedia. Public domain. “Foot binding is the most incendiary and least controversial subject in modern Chinese history.”1 – Dorothy Ko, professor of History and Women’s Studies, Barnard […]

“Phossy jaw”: an industrial horror story

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   Skull with jaw affected by phosphorus poisoning. Artwork by J. Bartholomew in Edinburgh Medical Journal. Wellcome Collection. Public domain. “The greatest tragedy in the whole story of occupational diseases.”1 – Donald Hunter, M.D. (1898–1978)   The development of cheap, reliable, and reasonably safe matches became possible with the addition of […]

Isaac Bashevis Singer describes koro

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   “When I was a little boy, they called me a liar, but now that I am grown up, they call me a writer.” – Isaac Bashevis Singer   Mephistopheles in the air (Méphistophélès dans les airs). Lithograph by Eugène Delacroix. Plate 1 from Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, published […]

J. Marion Sims and the reputation-character distinction

Jack E. Riggs Matthew S. Smith Morgantown, West Virginia, United States   J. Marion Sims (1813-1883) Sims’ reputation during his life garnished national and international awards and recognition. Image via Wikimedia. Public domain. “Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us.” — Thomas Paine (likely […]