From here to Timbuktu

healthlogo.gifThe New York Times recently ran a story on the digitization of historic Arabic language manuscript material from Timbuktu dating back to the 17th century. The digitized texts represent works of law, science, medicine and the humanities. When the digitization project is completed, scholars will have access to material that will shed light on the methods of health care and medical education practices of the sub-Saharan region (See

The AHC History Project hopes to shed a similar light on the health care delivery and health science education practices of the latter half of the twentieth century in the United States in order for researchers to better understand the educational practices, the relationships between funding institutions and their academic counterparts, and the areas of research focus during this time in academic medicine.

Although the Twin Cities is a far away both in time and space from the Golden Age of Timbuktu, the process of promoting health care education and practice are still subjects we record in written format and will be the things we pass on to future generations both near and far. Browse a few of the most recently added digitized texts to the digital archives from the AHC archives.

Googling your health

healthlogo.gifIf the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was designed to give patients more control over their medical records in the electronic age, what does it say if twelve years later we decide we’d prefer Google to manage it for us?

In a recent article in the New York Times, it seems patients are eager to do just that:

The Google record … allows the user to send personal information, at the individual’s discretion, into the clinic record or to pull information from the clinic records into the Google personal file.

The move toward online control and access to personal health information changes the previously static, analog patient record into a dynamic set of data that serves multiple purposes. Our concepts of record management and documentation might have to change as well.

U of M health sciences in Asia

A delegation of leaders from the AHC recently returned from a trip to India to meet with their counterparts and establish connections between their respective programs in the health sciences.

img0054.jpgHowever, collaborations between the University of Minnesota’s health science programs and universities in Asia have a long history. In 1954 the U of M began such a partnership with Seoul National University to provide technical and advisory support for educational programs and administrative organization in medicine, nursing, public health, and veterinary medicine. The project with Seoul National University ran for seven years until 1961. The benefits of the project are still evident today through the AHC’s continued outreach and partnership with other international institutions.

To learn more about the project with Seoul National University, see “Korea – A New Venture in International Medical Education” by Dr. N. L. Gault, Jr. (then Assistant Dean, College of Medical Sciences) from the November 1961 edition of the Medical Bulletin.

The night the lights went out

On October 31, 1957, a rolling blackout struck the upper Midwest. A causality of the event included the electronically powered pacemakers in the pediatric unit of the University of Minnesota Hospital. The Halloween blackout inspired the development of the portable, battery powered pacemaker. To learn more, see the Minnesota Public Radio report by Lorna Benson.

Dr. Verby and the Rural Physician Associate Program

img0051.jpgOn October 23, 2007, Dr. John Verby, the founder of the Rural Physician Associate Program, passed away.

Dr. Verby was a member of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health from his appointment in 1969 until his retirement in 1993.

Dr. Verby, a graduate of Carlton College and the University of Minnesota’s Medical School, served as a lieutenant in the Army Medical Corps in Korea and had a private practice from 1949 to 1969 before coming to the University.

Dr. Verby was acting head for the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health from 1970-1971 and then became the first director for the Rural Physician Associate Program after developing and implementing the idea.

The document below is a press release from 1975 that highlights the program then entering its fifth year and quotes Dr. Verby in regards to the program’s successes.


Eating well

img0040.jpgThe recent issue of Scientific American looks at some of the questions related to the rise of obesity in a world still plagued by famine.

A related article in the issue focuses on nutrition and diet as part of the obesity discussion. The author details an ideal diet and then notes that this advice hasn’t changed much since first put forth by University of Minnesota physiologist Dr. Ancel Keys and Margaret Keys in their 1959 book Eat Well and Stay Well the Mediterranean Way.

The future doctor, past & present

A recent article in the Star Tribune highlighted a new program aimed at diversifying medical schools in Minnesota by encouraging minority, immigrant, and rural undergraduate students to become doctors. The program, “Minnesota’s Future Doctors,” hopes these students will apply to medical school, specialize in primary care, and ultimately stay in Minnesota once they begin their practice.

img0028.jpgAt the same time, I stumbled across an article from 1968 that discussed the “New Type of Doctor” that would be needed by the year 2000. The article begins by emphasizing that it is not the physician “assigned to care for passengers and crew of an interplanetary space ship” but instead it will be a “new type of medical specialist – the family practice physician.”

The 1968 program for new doctors established the Division of Family Practice and Community Health at the University of Minnesota, one of the oldest and largest in the nation. It began as a response to the national shortage of primary care physicians during the 1960s.

Forty years later, the need still exists, as is evident from the Star Tribune article, but the emphasis is now on filling the need for specific communities with what the program creators refer to as doctors with “cultural competencies.”

To read the full article from the 1968 September/October issue of mediCALL (a former publication of the University of Minnesota Health Sciences Center) click the image below.