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.


Rosemount polio hospital

In 1946, an outbreak of polio spread across the United States and Minnesota was not isolated from this epidemic.

At the University, the Minnesota Poliomyelitis Research Committee, a team of medical researchers from a variety of disciplines under the direction of Maurice Visscher, created sophisticated surveys and data sets based on this epidemic to better understand the disease.

As part of this effort, the University Hospitals provided care to polio patients, both acute and chronic, as a public health service and a means to collect research data. Many of these patients were cared for off-site at the Fort Snelling army station hospital. Activities at the fort quickly came to a close in 1946 after the drawdown of troops after World War II. This drawdown, however, created a new opportunity for the University that proved to be a timely resource.

In December 1946 the University entered an agreement with the War Assets Department to “enter upon, occupy, and use” the facilities and grounds of the Gopher Ordnance Works, a war-time munitions plant and barracks, in Rosemount, MN for the cost of $1.

On January 3, 1947 the University moved non-acute polio patients to the new location and opened the Rosemount Hospital. The Rosemount location served as a hospital until June 30, 1948. During that time, it saw 269 patients for a total of 33,014 patient days.

Much of the above information and more on the University’s response to the 1946 polio epidemic can be found in the “Biennial Report of the President of the University of Minnesota to the Board of Regents 1946-1948.” Read the full report below.



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.


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!


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.


Seeing through you

November 8th marked the 115th anniversary of the German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen’s detection of x-rays while conducting an experiment in his laboratory. The medical application of Röntgen’s x-rays as a diagnostic tool was immediately apparent.

Within a few months of the publication of his findings, a physics professor and football coach at the University of Minnesota, Frederick “Fred” Jones, acquired the equipment to duplicate Röntgen’s results. By March of 1896, Prof. Jones began providing campus lectures on the properties of x-rays and demonstrating the ability to determine densities of liquids and minerals, to see a pair of glasses within a leather purse, and to show the skeleton structure of frogs and fishes with use of the newly discovered rays. That April, Jones lectured medical students on the the use of x-rays to take pictures of tuberculosis patients.

In October 1896, Dean Millard of the Department of Medicine requested Prof. Jones assist in locating bullets in two patients at the City Hospital of St. Paul. Both were located successfully allowing for more precise surgical operations.

A decade later, the construction of the Elliot Memorial Hospital on campus highlighted the need for an on-site x-ray service. In 1912 Dr. Frank Bissell became the first radiographer for the University Hospitals. In 1923 the hospitals established a Division of Roentgenology with a focus of diagnostic and x-ray therapy.

To learn more about the history of radiology at the University of Minnesota, see the 1967 “A Brief History of the Department of Radiology” by Drs. Stephen Kieffer, Eugene Gedgaudas, and Harold Peterson.



The reorganization of the health sciences and the promotion of interdisciplinary research and study at the University of Minnesota forty years ago affected not only administrators and faculty, but students as well. Sensing an opportunity to include themselves as part of the movement toward interdisciplinary education, students within the health sciences organized the Council for Health Interdisciplinary Participation, or CHIP. Today the acronym remains but it stands for the Center for Health Interprofessional Programs.

From its beginning, CHIP focused on projects developed by student members seen as a way to reach out into communities and provide new educational perspectives for students. These projects included recruiting minority students into the various health sciences programs, staffing St. Mary’s detoxification unit, working with the College of Pharmacy to create a drug educational seminar, and designing a national program on the education and eradication of venereal diseases.

CHIP also sponsored guest speakers to discuss health care topics not covered in their coursework. Two early notable speakers included Dr. Evan Shute and his advocacy for mega doses of vitamin E to combat disease and Dr. Andrew Weil, then a researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health, who discussed recent research on marijuana in his talk “Altered States of Consciousness: Drugs and Society.”

The Alumni News magazine wrote a profile on CHIP and its early accomplishments in the October 1972 issue. Read the article below.