Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Vignette

  • Nicholas Cusanus

    Avi OhryTel Aviv, Israel Non-medical scientists and scholars often contribute substantially to medicine. Nicolaus Cusanus (1401–1464), also known as Nicholas of Cusa and Nikolaus Krebs von Kues, was a German cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, philosopher, jurist, mathematician, and astronomer. In Padua he earned a doctorate in canon law in 1423. He became a…

  • Dr. Mary Edwards Walker: A trailblazer for female surgeons  

    Shabnam ParsaLeshya BokkaLiam ButchartStony Brook, New York, United States Dr. Mary Edwards Walker (1832–1919) was the first female surgeon in the United States—a pioneering educator, clinician, and medical innovator.1 Her academic path was paved by her parents’ dedication to education. Vesta and Alva Walker established the first free school in Oswego, New York, where they…

  • Chocolate created a commotion in Chiapa cathedral

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “Beware the chocolate of Chiapas.”—Mexican saying The cacao bean, the essential ingredient in chocolate, is native to Southern Mexico, Central America, and South America. There is evidence that chocolate was used in Ecuador over 5,000 years ago.1 The Aztecs produced a ceremonial drink called chocolatl. The Spanish invaders of the New World…

  • Sand flies, leishmaniasis, and kala-azar

    Sand flies are about three millimeters long and gray, brownish or golden, with long, piercing mouthparts adapted for sucking blood from their hosts. These seemingly innocuous creatures, classified as belonging to the genus Phlebotomus or Lutzomyia, have long legs and hairy wings held in a vertical V-shape when at rest. They seek moist resting places…

  • Fasciola hepatica, the liver fluke of sheep and cattle

    The liver flukes Fasciola hepatica and gigantica are parasitic infections that affect humans and animals—cattle, sheep, and goats—in all inhabited areas where they are raised, on all continents, and in over eighty countries. People acquire the disease by eating raw vegetables such as watercress that have been contaminated by one of thirty species of snails,…

  • Tapeworm tribulations

    Taenia saginata, solium, and asiatica are three related species of tapeworms, each with its own lifecycle, mode of transmission, and clinical implications. The adult tapeworms cause few symptoms, but their larvae can be more troublesome. These parasites have afflicted mankind for thousands of years, perhaps when switching from large carnivores to less dangerous hosts such…

  • Trachoma: Contained but not yet subdued

    Trachoma is a chronic eye infection caused by Chlamydia trachomatis, a bacterium at first thought to be a virus because of its minuscule size. It is the most common infectious cause of blindness worldwide, striking repeatedly in early childhood and, until recently, blinding millions.1 In 1907, Ludwig Halberstadter and Stanislaus von Prowazek observed the causative…

  • Echinococcus granulosus, the sheepdog worm

    In the days when Britain ruled the waves and its colonies, some sheep from Thomas Hardy’s Wessex and other counties followed their masters to the antipodes instead of stupidly jumping off a cliff.1 They multiplied in the sun and produced much wool, some of which was later returned to England under the imperial preference system…

  • Fugu—Japanese delicacy or death?

    In Japan, fugu has been a “captain of these men of death” for generations, causing an exitus that is “rapid and violent.” There is at first numbness around the mouth, then paralysis, and, as with curare, consciousness persists until the very end. The poison interferes with the transmission of signals from nerves to muscles by…

  • Willebrand disease discovered in a girl from the Aland archipelago

    In 1924 the Finnish physician Erik von Willebrand was consulted about the case of a five-year- old girl from the self-governing autonomous Swedish-speaking region of the Aland archipelago in the Baltic Sea. Born on February 1, 1870, in Vasa, Finland, von Willebrand had graduated in 1896 from the faculty of medicine of the University of…