February 2007

AHC history round table

On Wednesday, February 21st, the AHC History Project hosted a small round table discussion on the history of the AHC. The seven participants included Frank Cerra, SrVPHS; Neal Gault, former Dean Medical School; Harry Hogenkamp, former head of Dept. of Biochemistry; John Kersey, Director Cancer Center; John Kralewski, former Director Institute of Health Services Research, Public Health; Marilyn Sime, former Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies, School of Nursing; and Charlene Thoemke, Executive Assistant, SrVPHS, and agreed to answer a few open ended questions and express some of their own in a conversational format. The invited audience included a few members of the advisory committee, AHC Office of Communications staff, and University Archives staff. It was hoped that a small audience would not inhibit the overall discussion.

For nearly three hours, the participants discussed their own backgrounds at the AHC, their understandings of major events and milestones, education and research issues, the influence of managed care on the AHC’s mission, and current and future funding concerns.

The discussion was professionally videotaped and all participants agreed to the recording being deposited in University Archives for future research use.

The ultimate goal of the round table was to better guide the history project by bringing in key individuals to help identify topics and events. Although this was an experiment, its success seems evident and will likely support a series of future round table discussions.

AHC History Project Lecture

B.J. Kennedy and the Campaign for Medical Oncology
by Gretchen Krueger, historical consultant for the American Society of Clinical Oncology from 2003-06m
Location: Mayo Memorial Auditorium
Contact: For further information, contact Jenny Meslow at 626-7072 or email meslo001@umn.edu

The Academic Health Center and University Libraries will launch the AHC History Project with a special lecture honoring the late University of Minnesota oncologist B.J. Kennedy. Gretchen Krueger, historical consultant for the American Society of Clinical Oncology from 2003-06, will speak on “B.J. Kennedy and the Campaign for Medical Oncology,” Wednesday, Feb. 28, from 4 to 5 p.m. in the Mayo Memorial Auditorium. A reception will follow in the auditorium lobby. The AHC History Project is dedicated to preserving the rich history of the Academic Health Center and promoting the collection of its historical documents within the University Archives. For more information, go to: www.ahc.umn.edu/img/assets/7617/HistoryProject_Kennedy.pdf

State of the AHC

Last Wednesday, January 31, 2007, Dr. Frank Cerra, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences, delivered his annual State of the AHC address (streaming video available). Several pieces of his presentation struck a chord with me and demonstrate relationships with the overall goals of this project. I’d like to discuss one of those pieces below.

During his explanation of his vision for research, he listed the following bullet point under the topic of concerns & issues.

  • We need to value and use wisdom of existing faculty/staff

What he said was:

The final concern I heard in this area was find a better way to value and utilize faculty wisdom. There is a repository of wisdom in our faculty… We need the wisdom of those faculty and we don’t really have a good system for tapping it and using it. It’s part of a dialogue that’s on going and I think we need to really learn how to do this. (35:21, streaming video)

I think this is a key approach to better help faculty and their departments understand the importance of their work and its relevance beyond publication. Lecture notes, correspondence, presentations, committee work, all these facets of a faculty member’s life represent the whole of their repository of wisdom. Believing that a life-time career can be easily measured in the publications left behind paints a false portrait of a faculty member’s work. It is linear and flat. It gives the impression that their work began with Point A and finished at Point B.

We all know a professional career is not that simple. It is full of false starts and the abandonment of some research questions to pursue others. It is dynamic and multileveled. It is not a portrait done by a connect-the-dots strategy, but one done in pointillism. What may seem random dots of color up close, in fact, come into focus as you step away from the canvas.

Archives can act as part of the solution for the concerns & issues raised in this vision for research. They can act not only as a source for information, but also as a model for how to organize the repository of wisdom being created at that moment.

Familiar faces

Two familiar faces re-entered my office this afternoon. The portraits of the Mayo brothers are still in need of a little restoration, although most of the damage is to one of the frames. Their disposition seems to be back in my court. Further investigation is needed.