May 2010

Report of the External Committee

In the recent State of the Academic Health Center address, Dr. Frank Cerra, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences, referenced a 1970 report by the External Committee on Governance of the Health Sciences to then University President Malcolm Moos.

In December 1969, President Moos asked the committee, chaired by Alexander Beard of Vanderbilt University, to address the following issues:

1. Is there a need for a Regents’ definition of the missions and responsibilities of the health sciences?

2. Given the history, current situation, existing competence and needs of the health sciences, both within and without the University of Minnesota, what alternative administrative structures could be developed for units in this area? Such administrative structures should also take cognizance of the needs of the allied health professions.

3. How should the responsibilities for continuing and graduate education in the health sciences be divided between the health science units, the Extension Division, and the Graduate School?

4. What steps should be taken to assure satisfactory relationships between all professional units in the health sciences and the hospitals?

5. What steps should be taken to assure satisfactory relationships between all professional units and the basic science departments?

6. What should be the pattern of relationship sought with affiliated hospitals, and other community agencies and services and the locus of decision making on contracts specifying these relationships?

The report outlines the committee’s suggestions on the mission, administrative structure, and relationships to basic sciences, allied health, the University Hospital and affiliations, and the Graduate School.

As an audience member at the State of the AHC noted, the report called for the establishment of a School of Allied Health Sciences, an achievement now taking form.

The groundwork for the report came from a campus visit in January 1970 as well as two supporting documents: Discussion Papers for External Committee on Governance of the Health Sciences and Background Information for External Committee on Governance of the Health Sciences.

Read the final February 26, 1970 report in full below.


First mention

History is often focused on the first instance, the first mention in order to identify when something happened and how it relates to what followed. The New York Times offers a column ‘First Mention‘ that uses its own archives of news articles to determine when something was first reported. This isn’t too different from the way the Oxford English Dictionary traces the etymology of a word to its modern meaning.

As more and more documents are transferred to a digital format, our understanding of the ‘first’ of anything will become more accurate.

As an example, in the spring of 1954, the beginnings of open heart surgery took a major step forward at the University of Minnesota. A team of surgeons including C. Walt Lillehei, Richard Varco, Morley Cohen, and Herbert Warden developed and implemented a new technique called cross circulation.

On April 30th the University News Service held a news conference and issued a corresponding press release heralding the new achievement. Pushed out to the national media, the story of Dr. Lillehei’s success soon became a popular print and television phenomenon.

Historically, this was a major accomplishment in the world of surgery and captured the world’s attention.

From a digital archives perspective, we are now able to re-live those early first moments as presented to the public by locating the procedure’s first mention.

In addition to the New York Times’ pay service, offers free online access to their articles dating back to 1923. A simple search easily retrieves the May 10, 1954 announcement of cross circulation. Google’s News Archive Search also offers the ability to discover multiple articles on the subject from news sources across the country.

Closer to home, the University Digital Conservancy, the digital archives for the University of Minnesota, provides online access to the original news release on cross circulation issued at 2 PM on April 30, 1954.

There are even some remnants of film surviving from the press conference that have transitioned from analog to digital format. This may not be on par with today’s Driven to Discover videos but it surely captivated the interest of viewers at the time.

Tracking down these first mentions usually provide other insights that historical researchers are unaware of. For instance, until Herbert Warden started the pump in the above video, I had no idea that cross circulation was a LOUD technology; something akin to an air compressor in the operating room.