Medical school

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.

A Gopher’s View of the Medical School

Gopher1892History.jpgThe student view of the Medical School has changed as the years progressed. Only three years after the opening of the Medical School, the 1892 Gopher Yearbook (page 77) proclaimed the Medical School’s positives, including the high standard it set for its students. Some other aspects of the Medical School that the Gopher Yearbook touted were the great clinical facilities, the large number of students, and the faculty who had previous experience in teaching or managing medical schools.

Gopher1961Study.jpgToward the end of the production of Gopher Yearbooks, the observations about the Medical School were less glowing. The comments were still positive, however they were aimed more toward commiserating with the current students on how much work it was to study for a medical degree. In the 1961 Gopher Yearbook (pages 123-125), for instance, an article entitled “Medical School Means Study” explained that “Medical school has a reputation for being rough. This is no idle talk. Every hour of lecture means at least two in the lab.” In 1964, the Gopher Yearbook (pages 339-343) Gopher1964Demanding.jpg had an article about how the work of a medical student was demanding and required determination. While this article has many pictures and explanations about what a medical student does during their years of training, it has nothing as complimentary as what was written in the 1892 Gopher Yearbook.

The Millard Halls

img0200.jpgMillard Hall, corner of Washington and Union.

Millard Hall, constructed in 1911 and opened in 1912, served as a complimentary facility to the recently opened Anatomy Hall, now Jackson Hall. Millard Hall provided laboratory research space and departmental headquarters for most faculty in the Medical School. Millard Hall was torn down in 1999, along with Owre Hall and Lyon Laboratories, to make way for the Molecular and Cellular Biology building.

But did you know there was a Millard Hall before this Millard Hall? Did you know the original Millard Hall is still standing on campus, albeit under a different name?

img0201.jpgThe first Millard Hall opened in October of 1892 as Medical Hall on the corner of Arlington and Pleasant. This was the first new building on campus dedicated to the medical sciences. Dean Perry Millard provided nearly $65,000 of the construction costs and the legislature appropriated $80,000. After Dean Millard’s death the building was named in his honor in 1906. When the new Medical School opened in 1912 the name was transferred to the new location.

img0202.jpgThe original Millard Hall.

What became of the old Millard Hall? In 1913 the College of Pharmacy, under the leadership of Dean Frederick Wulling, moved into the space. In 1942 the building was renamed in his honor and retains that designation today.

Today the building no longer serves as an educational home to any of the health sciences on campus, but it remains the first building constructed for medical education and has outlasted many that have come after it, including the new Millard Hall.

Father of Medical Oncology

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Kennedy.jpgB.J. Kennedy was a Regents’ Professor at the University of Minnesota and was considered the Father of Medical Oncology by many. Kennedy passed away in 2003, and his family deposited materials from his research and work in 2004 and 2010. Just recently, those materials have been processed and listed so as to be more accessible to the general public.

Within those materials are a huge number of images from Dr. Kennedy’s research into cancer and graphics from talks he gave. Kennedy also kept an ordered collection of the almost-1,000 articles he published, which is now stored in the University Archives. While a prolific researcher, he was also a prominent administrator at the University of Minnesota. His papers include records from the Department of Oncology and the Masonic Cancer Center.

Learn why Dr. B.J. Kennedy was considered the Father of Medical Oncology by visiting the University Archives and reading his biographical file or looking through the collection of his materials.

Ecology of cancer

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells within the body. Common forms of treatment include the targeted destruction of the mutated cells through radiation or chemotherapy or the removal of the cells once they have amassed into a tumor. More recently, preventative measures, including the use of vaccines, have become a common focus in the fight against certain types of cancer. The National Cancer Institute describes these cancer vaccines as representing “an emerging type of biological therapy that is still mostly experimental.”

Yet, those researching the cause & prevention of cancer know that the use of vaccines is not a new idea. Evidence of early research into the commonalities between viruses and cancer is found in the University of Minnesota Archives.

img0183.jpgDr. Robert G. Green, M.D. joined the staff of the Department of Bacteriology in 1918. In the 1920s, Dr. Green’s research focused on the evolutionary nature of viruses and how they cause disease. Dr. Green also directed the Minnesota Wildlife Disease Investigation, sponsored by the State of Minnesota, the University of Minnesota, and the United States Biological Survey. During his tenure, he created a vaccine to prevent encephalitis in foxes. Based on this work with viruses, he went on to investigate how cancer cells spread in the body. In 1946 he published an article on “Virus Aspects of Carcinoma” and in 1947 he published “The Species Character of Cancer Cells” in Science.

Green’s papers are also a fascinating study of the early work done in ecology and the crossover between researchers and the fields of medicine, zoology, and conservation. Examples include correspondence with Aldo Leopold and Charles Elton.

img0184.jpgA 1935 letter from Leopold documents the sharing ideas. Leopold writes “I thought you might be interested in the enclosed publication by Allen and Baldwin, indicating a cycle in the effectiveness of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the process of passage through successive host plants. This comes very near the Matamek hypothesis of cyclic virulence in pathogenic bacteria.”

View the finding aid for the Robert G. Green, M.D. papers available at the University of Minnesota Archives.



A recent New York Times blog post highlighted the dilemma of whether or not Twitter messages, Facebook updates, and emails are protected from access by law enforcement the same way personal telephone calls and written letters stored in a person’s home. The current answer is that they are not. Our social life via social media is not within our means to control and can work against us.

This article appeared on the same day a document surfaced in the Dr. Robert G. Green papers at the University of Minnesota Archives that offered another perspective on law enforcement’s use of social activities to track criminal behaviors.

Dr. Green was a bacteriologist in the Medical School. His primary research focused on the relationship between viruses and cancer in animal populations. He directed the Minnesota wildlife disease investigation and for a brief time served as chair of bacteriology prior to his death in 1947.

In his papers he kept a FBI wanted persons mailer. The person in question was William Dainard, as know as William Mahan, in connection with the 1935 child abduction and ransom of George Weyerhaeuser, heir to the Weyerhaeuser timber company.

The mailer was part of a national attempt to locate Dainard. Dr. Green received a copy as a bacteriologist due to the fact that Dainard was likely seeking treatment for a venereal disease. In this case, the FBI used Dainard’s social activities, and subsequent social disease, against him in an effort to track him down.

See a copy of the FBI mailer below. Note the stamped “May Seek Venereal Treatment” under the mug shots.



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.


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!


Tentative discovery

If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

This metaphysical riddle challenges our ideas about reality and perception and whether or not our knowledge of how something works exists in an unperceived existence. It is also viewed as a technical question: without ears present to hear a sound wave, how can it be heard?

For all the things collected in archives, it is common to not have the exact item a person is looking for. This is sometimes due to the fact that it is lost or destroyed while at other times it is a result of having likely never existed in the first place.

In these situations the researcher is more often than not challenged with the metaphysical task of pairing known reality with perception of existence. The task is to take the documents that do exist and seeing whether or not they support a proposed theory. It is the metaphysical equivalent of the tree falling in the forest riddle: If a decision is made, and there is no record in the archives, can it be documented?

A recent research question dealt with such a gap in documentation. The topic seemed straight forward: When was the first medical ethics course taught in the Medical School? Every clue moved the researcher further back into time with less and less solid documentation. Working backward from the 1980s, the researcher discovered bits and pieces of evidence that further shaped an undocumented reality. Student advocates, departmental politics, and curriculum planning all lead to the late 1960s and focused squarely on the origins of the Department of Family Practice.

Definitive documents defining the development of the course or its justification were never found, but the archives provided historical mile markers and contextual evidence for the researcher to elaborate on this unperceived existence.

One document found along the way was an incomplete, undated copy of a medical ethics laboratory manual written by Elof Nelson, a chaplain at Fairview Hospital and the course instructor in the 1970s. Only the first 45 pages of the approximately 200 page manual are available. The remaining likely exists but is not yet preserved in the archives. The manual describes medical ethics as “search and tentative discovery [rather] than indoctrination.” The same can be said about historical research.

Read the partial lab manual below. It includes the full table of contents so in this case we know what we are missing.


Base Hospital No. 26

Every war requires that doctors and nurses become soldiers. The University of Minnesota Medical School first became involved with such an effort as World War I spread across Europe.

img0158.jpgIn October 1916, half a year before the United States declared war with Germany, the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic began preparations for establishing a base hospital at the request of the Surgeon General. The unit, known as Base Hospital No. 26, organized itself over the summer of 1917 under the auspices of the American Expeditionary Forces and waited for the call to active duty. In December 1917, the War Department mobilized the unit. It was not until June 20, 1918 that the unit reached its destination of Allerey, France. In sum, the unit’s equipment and staff were designed to support a 1,000 bed hospital. It cared for nearly 6,000 patients through 1919.

Historical information about Base Hospital 26 is available from a variety of sources. The Minnesota Alumni Weekly chronicled the activities of the Base Hospital through regular articles and published letters from the unit’s staff. Also, several archival collections have material related to the unit including the papers of Dr. Moses Barron, a University of Minnesota pathologist who served as an officer in the unit. Included are photographs, correspondence, diaries, and related information all pertaining to Base Hospital No. 26.

See a short typewritten history below of Base Hospital No. 26 as an example of the materials available in the Barron papers at the University Archives.


Back to the future of continuing medical education

Predicting the future is a popular means to finish a review of past accomplishments. Often, these forecasts rely heavily on current trends in technology to safely guess advances and efficiencies.

An example of one such prediction is in the 1955-1957 Biennial Report of the Department of Continuation Medical Education.

Formalized in 1937, the Department of Continuation Medical Education, formerly known as Postgraduate Medical Education and today named the Office of Continuing Medical Education, enjoyed a major boost to its programming in 1945 through a nine year, $250,000 grant by the Kellogg Foundation to increase opportunities for participation in its teaching programs. Although review courses for practicing physicians were part of the Medical School’s curriculum for decades, the department provided a permanent home for the “interdepartmental” education program.

The 1955-1957 report cites recent developments in the audio-visual field as a major future trend. Specifically it looks toward the use of television as a means to distribute postgraduate medical education. The report then imagines a world where continuing medical education moves past the limited scope of closed-circuit television and will be

“widely disseminated allowing physicians, even in remote areas, to keep abreast of medical progress simply by watching their TV screens for appropriate periods each week.”

An equivalent modern predication might be live-streaming of lectures or procedures via one’s smart phone or other mobile device. Gone will be the tether to the lecture hall or conference room. And as for the future of PowerPoint as an educational tool? The Magic 8-Ball says “Ask again later.”

Read the 1955-1957 Biennial Report below. The report also includes an overview of the department beginning with the 1945 Kellogg grant through current programs.

CME Report