AHC documents

The Academic Health Center History Project documents and preserves the institutional memory and historical events that chronicle the development of health sciences education and research at the University of Minnesota.

Oral History in the Making

History does not necessarily have to be about people who are no longer around. The Academic Health Center History Project has an oral historian, Dominique Tobbell. Since 2009, Dr. Tobbell has conducted interviews with many of the prominent people of the Academic Health Center from the past century. Here in University Archives, we have finally uploaded the first batch of oral histories she conducted to the University Digital Conservancy. Getting people’s recollections and perceptions first hand makes history seem more tangible. If you have a few moments, browsing the recently uploaded oral histories is something worth doing.

An international veterinarian

In 1954 the University of Minnesota began a partnership with Seoul National University to provide technical and advisory support for educational programs and administrative organization in a variety of disciplines including medicine, nursing, public health, and veterinary medicine. The project with Seoul National University ran for seven years until 1961.

The College of Veterinary Medicine at Seoul National University shares an anniversary date with the U of M’s College of Veterinary Medicine – 1947. During the period of the University’s work at SNU, John Arnold, professor and head of veterinary surgery and radiology at Minnesota, served as an advisor to the veterinary college and produced a set of recommendations in his final report in 1961. That report is now available in the University Digital Conservancy.

The report provides not only a description of the program and its growth, but also a first-hand account of Prof. Arnold’s observations about the changing political structure in Korea and their direct influence on an academic institution.

After his work in Korea, Prof. Arnold continued to be active in international veterinary education. He worked as a consultant at the National University in Bogota, Columbia and hosted visiting veterinarian professors from Iran in the early 1970s.

Read his final report for the SNU project below.


Making plans

In the fall of 1964, University of Minnesota president, O. Meredith Wilson, appointed a long-range planning committee for the planned physical expansion of the health sciences to correspond with a Board of Regents review of the current health workforce sponsored by the Hill Foundation. Often referred to as the “Learn Committee” in reference to its chair, Elmer Learn, the Committee for the Study of Physical Facilities for the Health Sciences completed its work by 1968 after issuing a three-part report titled “Future Planning for the Health Sciences.”

Although these two events are viewed as the beginning of the expansion of health education and facilities on campus, there are clues that the preparation for their work began a few years earlier.

In 1962 a gathering of data about existing facilities used for health science education and research occurred. It is unclear from the documents who gathered the information or to whom it was directed, but they prove to be interesting none the less.

The first document below lists all buildings associated with medical education at the University of Minnesota. The list is divided into two sections; first the “Old Medical Group,” an area on campus situated just south of the Pleasant St. loop and second, the “New Medical Group,” an area south of Washington Ave and still home to a large majority of health sciences facilities. The list also includes building dates and changes to the building names over the years.



The second document is based on the information collection in the first; however, this document provides building valuations for each facility. It lists the total construction cost, the amount of state or federal contributions, and any major gift or endowment associated with the building.



Digging deeper

The University Archives collects the personal and professional papers of senior administrators, long-term faculty, selected alumni, and others whose primary institutional affiliation has been with the University of Minnesota.

Generally, these collections complement departmental holdings and reflect the teaching, research, and service missions of the University of Minnesota by capturing the personal perspectives of those tasked with implementing theses missions.

Unfortunately, these collections are not always robust. They have been unceremoniously weeded by their creators during office moves or retirement, picked over by colleagues and family after a person’s passing, or stored in multiple locations hindering attempts to reconcile the documents.

These are generally the conditions archives consider normal. The personal papers of individuals that we do collect are done so with an acknowledgment that it is usually an incomplete set and likely the best means to document their work.

Lately, however, a new approach to digging deeper into the professional lives of those individuals that make up the university has become evident. As the University Archives digitizes portions of its holdings, there is now the ability to keyword search across hundreds of thousands of pages of press releases, minutes, annual reports, and alumni and university newsletters in the University Digital Conservancy. Trolling through this much information simply would not have been possible before.

img0175.jpgOne recent example that I came across was information about Ray M. Amberg, who administered the University Hospitals from the 1930s until his retirement in 1964. The Archives does have a small set of his papers, mostly consisting of personal correspondence and various accolades received for his performance. Yet, by searching the digital archives, a much richer depiction of his involvement with the university becomes clearer.

The first mention of Mr. Amberg is as a student singled out in the 1918 President’s Report as one of eight students leaving their studies to take part in the war effort.


As Director of the University Hospitals, the defining moment of his career was likely the opening of the Mayo Memorial Hospital in 1954.


Finally, in December 1968, the Regents’ minutes note that their regularly scheduled start time was delayed so that they could attend the funeral service of Mr. Amberg.


Student health

“Five students were hit by autos, six were bitten by squirrels on campus last year” are two highlights from a 1971 report from the Students’ Health Service.

The Health Service opened in 1918 as a response to the need for student medical care on campus. The first director was Dr. John Sundwall from 1918-1921. The next director was Dr. Harold S. Diehl who would lead the Students’ Health Service from 1921 until 1935 when he became dean of the College of Medical Sciences. The Health Service is most known for its third director, Dr. Ruth E. Boynton for whom the service was named in 1975.

A 1924 report on the Students’ Health Service by then director Dr. Diehl highlights the rapid growth and use of the facilities in its first few years. At the time, the service had 25 beds as well as examination and laboratory space in the basement of Pillsbury Hall. The St. Paul campus had its own building devoted to the Health Service that had 40 beds and out-patient dispensary.

Read Dr. Diehl’s full report as reprinted in Minnesota Medicine in April of 1924.


Shaping trends

As an institution, public universities are positioned to look forward to identify trends and potential growth opportunities while training the future workforce. These long range estimates must then be translated to budget cycles that hopefully allow programs to build incrementally on the current & foreseen needs of the state. Often these needs require not only an investment from outside the university but a willingness by the institution to re-shape itself to become more flexible and reflect the future realities rather than the status quo.

1970 is certainly a year in the history of health sciences education at the University of Minnesota that represents a pivot in not only the needs of the workforce but in the structure of the educational delivery system. Summarizing these changes, a 1971 report to the Minnesota Higher Education Coordinating Commission the health sciences leadership acknowledged the demands of the citizens for “access to a rational health system at a reasonable cost” while noting that accommodating this change requires a “reshaping [of the University’s] mission and organization. The result was the formation of the Academic Health Center.

Read the full report to the commission in the University Digital Conservancy.


Ye shall know the truth

“Upon the brains of our men in medical research depend the lives of our people.”

The brochure “And Ye Shall Know the Truth” was a post-war media campaign to emphasize the work done at the University of Minnesota Medical School. At the time the University was involved in a major development push to fund and build what would become the Mayo Memorial Building.

The brochure highlights what was then current and past research at the Medical School and names its most notable faculty. Ironically, Ancel Keys and the Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene are featured on the cover; yet, the lab did not move into the completed Mayo complex and instead remained in space underneath Memorial Stadium.

The Mayo Memorial opened in 1954. Thirty-two years later it was replaced as the primary hospital. Today it still provides some research and clinical space amid administrative offices.

See the full brochure below.



Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes, especially taxes.

Last week the United States Supreme Court provided its opinion on case No. 09-837 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Et al., Petitioners v. United States. The University of Minnesota Regents joined the petitioners that asked the question of the court: “Are medical residents students or employees?”

The unanimous opinion affirmed the Treasury Department’s rule that treats medical residents as full-time employees and subjects them to the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, or FICA tax.

The opinion is more than just a disappointment to the University; it’s the end of an era. Since 1951 when the Treasury Department applied its regulations defining the 1939 student exception to FICA, the University of Minnesota’s Medical School has tried to determine the status and eligibility of exemptions for medical residents, interns, and fellows.

View selected correspondence from deans Harold Diehl and Robert Howard discussing the Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department’s positions and the process for classifying hospital interns, residents, and fellows in the 1950s.


No cavities

Nature abhors a vacuum. Apparently history does too.

Although the history of the health sciences at the University of Minnesota is ours to keep and preserve, we are not the only place to find our history. Our history is part of other histories such as Minnesota history and the history of science and medicine, and thus, is found in many different locations.

img0164.jpgA recent entry to Ben Welter’s regular feature “Yesterday’s News” on the Star Tribune web site reinforces the idea that our history is everywhere. The column highlighted an article from October 10, 1945 interviewing the then new dean of the School of Dentistry, William Crawford. The article demonstrates the role of the dental school in a modern age and the research behind the introduction of fluorine as a tool in dental health.

Welter accompanies the reprinted story with several photographs from the Minnesota Historical Society’s collections of the dental facilities. It is easy to understand the attention the University’s School of Dentistry received across the state and by the public in general.

Such recognition was not a first for the School of Dentistry. In 1923, the then College of Dentistry at the University received a straight A rating by the Dental Education Council of America. The Council noted “Certain institutions stand forth in the educational world because of their power to inspire students with the desire for knowledge and with the love of hard work… The University of Minnesota College of Dentistry is such an institution.” This is the dental equivalent to having no cavities.

The August 15, 1923 issue of Minnesota Chats, a publication by the University, recites more of the Council’s praise and discusses the role of the College of Dentistry in relation to the state. Read the full pamphlet below.


Holiday recipes

Today, most diets and nutritional guidelines are theme-based. Food pyramids, point systems, carb-counting, and protein-based diets all are designed to allow you to eat just about anything as long as it falls within a suggested set of guidelines. Most of these theme diets are a response to the ever present pre-made, pre-packaged food items in the stores and on our shelves. They allow us to diet without an understanding of food preparation or nutritional values.

Not so long ago, diets were based on recipes that controlled intake of certain types of foods and provided a basic understanding of the science behind the nutrition. One such example from the archives is the recipe books produced by the Minnesota Lipid Research Clinic.

The Lipid Research Clinic, supported by a grant from the National Heart and Lung Institute in the 1970s, was an interdisciplinary program of the Medical School’s departments of medicine, surgery, and biochemistry as well as the School of Public Health’s Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene. Its projects primarily focused on multifaceted approaches to lower cholesterol and sodium levels in the body to aid in the prevention of heart disease.

As part of the results of its studies, the Lipid Research Clinic produced recipe booklets for popular audiences in order to communicate methods of healthy eating. The recipes took suggested allotments of cholesterol and sodium as supported by the research to create easy to prepare meals that would help to curb the detrimental affects to the heart. The LRC brought its scientific studies directly to the table to promote a healthier lifestyle.

An interesting research question waiting to be investigated would be to find out when the emphasis of recipe based diets shifted to theme diets. In the mean time, enjoy a few recipes below and let me know how they turned out.

Happy Holidays!