African American Graduates of Jefferson Medical College: The First Hundred Years
F. Michael Angelo
The story of early African American physicians begins in 18th century Philadelphia with James Derham who is recognized as the first black allopathic (regular, non-sectarian) medical doctor. The first medical school in the U.S. to admit an African American was Rush Medical College in Chicago that awarded, in 1847, David J. Peck his degree. Dr. Peck came to the “Quaker City” to set up his practice the same year that the A.M.A. was formed, also here in Philadelphia. In 1877, Jefferson doctors protested the seating of the delegates from Howard University, the nation’s most important black medical school, in part, because that school admitted men and women students in the same classrooms. In the nineteenth century, JMC had a reputation for the highest standard in medical education and, unfortunately, also shared some of that era’s racial and gender prejudices. JMC’s conservative admission policies rejected people of color and women applicants until a brief period in the first decade of the 20th century when a modest percentage of African Americans were admitted. But byWorldWar I, the doors had again closed until the late 1940s. This first generation of “Old Jeff ” African American graduates laid down foundations and created original strategies to overcome barriers to not only succeed, but to excel, as they served their neglected community. This exhibition celebrates the remarkable achievements and lives of that handful of early pioneers.
Dr. John H. Gibbon, Jr. and Jefferson's Heart-Lung Machine: Commemoration of the World's First Successful Bypass Surgery
F. Michael Angelo
On May 6, 1953 at Jefferson Medical College Hospital, Dr. John Heysham Gibbon, Jr., his staff, and with the help of his latest-designed heart-lung machine, “Model II,” closed a very serious septal defect between the upper chambers of the heart of eighteen-year-old Cecelia Bavolek. This was the first successful intercardiac surgery of its kind performed on a human patient. Ms. Bavolek was connected to the device for three-quarters of an hour and for 26 crucial minutes, the patient totally depended upon the machine’s artificial cardiac and respiratory functions. “Jack” Gibbon did not follow this epoch-making event by holding an international press conference or by swiftly publishing his achievements in a major medical journal. In fact he later recalled that it was the first and only time that he did not write his own operative notes (which were supplied by Dr. Robert K. Finley, Jr.). According to a recent biographical review by C. Rollins Hanlon, “Therein lies a hint of the complex, unassuming personality behind the magnificent technical and surgical achievement of this patrician Philadelphia surgeon.”
United States Medicine, Women and Jefferson Medical College
F. Michael Angelo
Timeline of women at Jefferson Medical College.
Latin Heritage Month. Carlos Juan Finlay: Outrageous, Courageous and Correct
Dorothy E. Berenbrok
In 1855, a modest Cuban physician named Carlos Juan Finlay graduated from Jefferson Medical College. He was among JMC’s first dozen Hispanic graduates, initially signing the registrar’s log as “Charles”. He left Philadelphia at the age of 22 to begin private practice. Preceptor and close friend S. Weir Mitchell, among others, urged Finlay to work among the burgeoning Spanishspeaking population in New York City, but he returned to Cuba and set up practice in Matanzas, a town near Havana. He took a binocular microscope with him, similar to one used byMitchell, which would serve him well for many years.
During his years of medical practice, Finlay developed a keen interest in urban communicable disease. He rejected the common assumption that “miasma”, or fumes producing contagious disease, were the source of infection, and conducted meticulous studies to confirm his theories. While he is best known for his research showing that mosquitoes transmit yellow fever, he also correctly deduced that cholera was water-borne, and that the cotton used to tie the umbilical cord on newborns carried infantile tetanus. His views on cholera and yellow fever earned him the title of “crank” and he was largely ignored. During the 1867-68 cholera epidemic in Havana, he tried to publish his findings in the local paper and was rebuffed by censors. He quietly boiled the water in his home to prevent cholera in his family.
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