Thursday, August 25, 2011

"my dear Doctor Whipple..."

I was doing some internet research today when I happened upon some copies of the original letters written by Virginia Apgar (yes, that Apgar) to Allen Whipple (yes, that Whipple) concerning the formalization of medical training for perioperative care, into what would eventually become the Department of Anesthesiology at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.

Now I don't know if it's just because I'm a dork (certainly) or because the players were such medical legends that getting a chance to read their correspondence (along with handwritten notes jotted in the body and along the margins!) feels like watching history unfold in real time.  Or perhaps it's just seeing that familiar address on that old letterhead--the correspondence below detailing the formation of a department where, seventy years later, I myself would train--that got me all goose-bumpley.   But certainly, there's a reason that these were called The Days of the Giants, and Virginia Apgar no doubt stood tall among them.

For more on Dr. Apgar, they have quite a trove of biographical information, pictures, and letters in the "Profiles in Science" section in the National Library of Medicine.  Definitely worth checking out if you're a medical history wonk.  Or just look at this picture of C. Everett Koop and wonder why people don't grow beards like this anymore.


  1. Anonymous6:45 PM

    So cool!! I go to Mt Holyoke and the school tends to be pretty interested in the going on's of Apgar. We have her first medical bag and its contents in our library! I'm sure they'd love this!

  2. Very cool!

    It turns out she wasn't right about one thing though -- patients have better outcomes in general when the department of anesthesia is NOT in the department of surgery.

  3. nicole1:57 PM

    this is amaaazing!!

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  5. Anonymous9:27 PM

    People don't wear beards like that anymore because you can't get a good seal with the N-95 respirator

  6. Yeah, that is pretty cool.

  7. I am training at Pennsylvania Hospital, where we have the "wall of interns," consisting of brass plaques with the names of every intern that has ever trained here, starting with Jacob Ehrenzeller in 1773. But this is my favorite: Last year I met a patient for a gyn-onc consult, a cute older lady who was born with her "insides all twisted around" and told me, matter-of-factly, that "Koop did my surgery when I was a baby." And then proceeded to stare at me as I completely geeked out. (OK, my favorite plaque is my own, but Koop is a good second-favorite :)

  8. Nurse Bella8:02 PM

    Just saw this today - that is sooo cool!

  9. Outre8:24 PM

    I wish more was known about where in Westfield, NJ she was born/lived in, that house might still be around, I could be living in it... :-o.

  10. "A vacation from .... to ... is in order." Is in order! Love it.

  11. Anonymous7:25 AM

    I just realized that both Dr. Apgar and Doctor Whipple were physicians at the College of physicians and surgeons. All P&S medical student and graduates out there, aren't you proud to be a part of this elite history?

  12. Anonymous8:56 AM

    even then, the residents made about 1/3 what the secretary was making... nice to know not much has changed ;)

  13. Anonymous6:58 AM

    Thought you might like this about the Natural History Museum's Whale.

  14. Anonymous12:23 PM

    Okay, somebody has to say it... Koop Koop-a-doop.


  15. For all the greatest medical poop, call Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop Koop Koop-a-doop.

    (This is worse than your song about Mister T.)

  16. Anonymous10:05 PM

    I wrote a song about Mister T? Maybe this is a Simpsons reference from after the eighth season (when I stopped watching)...

    --Eleanor :)

  17. Anonymous10:14 PM

    Gah! I just remembered Apu says that after they finish singing. I hang my head in shame for forgetting.


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