Tag Archives: Spring 2021

Somerset Maugham

JMS Pearce  Hull, England   Fig 1. Somerset Maugham by Graham Sutherland, black chalk, pencil and gouache, 1953. NPG 5327 I have two professions, not one. Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress; when I get tired of one I spend the night with the other. -Anton Chekov, 1888 As a graduate […]

The two doctors

In the crowded center of an ancient city with churches and minarets, with fragrant spices and fluttering chickens for sale, there practiced two friends who finished medical school in the same year. The one who had graduated at the bottom of the class had a huge practice. The one who came first had very few […]

The old ice box

A popular doctor once had in his office an old icebox that had long ceased to fulfill the function for which it had been created. It was disconnected from electrical power but spacious enough to allow a person to sit in it. The physician would tell his worried, well patients that this was an x-ray […]

The last iron lungs

Charles Halsted Davis, California, United States   This photograph depicts an opened Emerson respirator, also known as an iron lung. Photo by Jim Gathany. Via CDC/ GHO/ Mary Hilpertshauser. Public Domain. Source In the springtime of my internship year, I rotated onto the polio ward where I learned that poliomyelitis could kill by paralyzing the […]

Our celiac boarder

Charles Halsted Davis, California, United States   Inflammation of the intestinal mucosa may lead to villous atrophy of the small intestine. 2018. Scientific Animations. Via Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 4.0 I listened with care to her history of weight loss, grain aversion, abdominal cramps, and frequent diarrhea. Her great-grandfather was an early California settler who had […]

COVID-19 and 1665: learning from Daniel Defoe

Brian Birch Southampton, Hampshire, UK   London plague victims being buried in 1665, one of nine scenes from John Dunstall’s Plague broadsheet (1666). Credit: Wellcome Collection.  (CC BY 4.0) Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year is an account of the 1665 Great Plague of London. Based on eyewitness experience, the undersigned initials “H. F.” […]

Leonhard Thurneysser: scholar, alchemist, and miracle doctor

Leonard Thurneysser. Via The National Library of Medicine. A highly controversial figure even in his time, Leonhard Thurneysser remains to this very day for some a revered scientist and for others a resolute quack. Born 1531 in Basel, he was the son of a goldsmith and followed in his father’s profession. He also studied with […]

The history of quarantine and contact tracing as surveillance strategies

Mariella Scerri Victor Grech Malta   A view of the city of Malta, on the side of the Lazaretto or pest-house, where ships perform quarantine, by Joseph Goupy, around 1740-1760. Public Domain. Source. Quarantine, from the Italian quaranta, meaning forty, is a centuries-old public health measure instituted to control the spread of infectious diseases by […]

The germ of laziness

Enrique Chaves-Carballo Overland Park, Kansas, United States   Charles Wardell Stiles (1867-1941). Parasitologist, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Portrait ca. 1912. Wikimedia Commons Rockefeller Foundation The Rockefeller Foundation was chartered on June 1909 “to promote the well-being and to advance the civilization of the peoples of the United States and its territories and possessions and of […]

Oswaldo Cruz and the eradication of infectious diseases in Brazil

Robert Perlman Chicago, Illinois, United States   Photo of buildings on Rue Oswaldo-Cruz, a street in Paris named after the physician. Photo from Wikimedia by user CVB. CC BY-SA 4.0 In 1899, an epidemic of bubonic plague caused a crisis in the Brazilian port city of Santos. Ship captains were angry that their boats had […]