Thursday, May 13, 2010

Picturing the physician–patient encounter.

L. M. Lawson, M.D., "Lectures on the Pathology, Diagnosis and Treatment of Diseases of the Chest; … Mode of Auscultation -- Stethoscopes," The Western Lancet Vol XI, No.3 (March, 1850): fig 24 (opp p 137).

This summer at the Dittrick we are busy revamping our balcony display of diagnostic instruments first installed way back in 1976. As previously discussed in the Newsletter of the Cleveland Medical Library Associaton, this renovation has been precipitated by donations by Don Blaufox of drawings of stethoscopes (Fall 2008) and his extensive collection of historic stethoscopes and sphygmomanometers (Spring 2009).

A.B. Norton, M.D Ophthalmic Diseases and Therapeutics. 1898. p 30, fig 6

It’s an exciting and challenging prospect to make these instruments come alive, to show how they enhanced the process of diagnosis and altered the physician-patient encounter in the physical examination. We’re hot on the trail of images depicting doctors and their patients, using a variety of diagnostic instruments. Great help is to be found in the Cleveland Medical Library collection in the Allen, the first core library established in 1893. Museum volunteer Jim Vendeland, a retired ophthalmologist, is plowing his way through the monograph collection to ferret out such images. As Jim tracks them down, museum student assistant Gillian Seaman (history major at Case) is scanning the images and carefully documenting them. The result? A growing fund of images seldom seen before, as most are buried deeply in medical literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

H. C. Burnett, System of Diseases of the Ear, Nose, and Throat. 1893. p 116, fig 16.

In addition to providing a pool of images useful for the diagnostic instrument gallery, we are generating a visual library of arresting and fresh (though technically “old”) depictions of doctors examining patients. All too often, illustrated works on the history of medicine use hackneyed, clichéd images. We’re happy to break from that pattern, and will be sharing our finds as this project proceeds.

Bon courage.

Jim Edmonson


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