Before the May 26, 2010 meeting of the “new” Cecil Striker Society for the History of Medicine, the Society had last met in 1980, shortly after Dr. Striker’s death. Recently, as the latest phase of the Winkler Center’s own history began to blossom, the idea of resurrecting the Society made eminent sense. Cincinnati’s medical history is the envy of most cities, large and small, but with the passing of a generation of physicians and historians who knew and understood their community’s prominent role in medical history, appreciation of this illustrious history began to pass with them.
On May 26, that changed. While meetings of the original Society attracted 10 or 15 medical history enthusiasts, 60 people attended the most recent meeting to hear Dan Hurley talk about Healing Cincinnati: A Winding Path Towards “Pursuing Perfection”, a survey of historical events that demonstrated the significant role that our local health care community has played in advancing the science and art of medicine for nearly 200 years. Mr. Hurley is a highly regarded scholar of Cincinnati history, producer and host of Local 12 Newsmakers, and Director of Leadership Cincinnati.
In his remarks, Mr. Hurley recounted the founding of Cincinnati’s first college of medicine and teaching hospital in 1819, noting that over 20 other medical schools – some of more repute than others – came and went during the 19th century. While most of Cincinnati’s hospitals were housed downtown near the river, by the latter part of that century, they had moved uptown to “Pill Hill,” where the air and streets were cleaner. And, it wasn’t until the scientific advances of the early 20th century that hospitals became places to heal people and cure illnesses rather than to simply ameliorate pain and provide comfort as patients as often as not slowly died.
The significance of scientific advances may well be best demonstrated by one anecdote recounted by Mr. Hurley. Daniel Drake, founder of several medical colleges, including two in Cincinnati, believed that alcohol intemperance predisposed the body to “spontaneously combust.” By the mid 20th century, after the groundbreaking work of Abraham Flexner to anchor medical education in scientific principles, Cincinnati became an important center for biomedical research and advanced clinical care. The work of Albert Sabin, who, while at the University of Cincinnati and Children’s Hospital Research Foundation from 1939 to 1969, developed the oral polio vaccine that eradicated polio from the United States and most of the world, is the most well known example of the world-class research conducted by Cincinnatians who had fully grasped the science of medicine.
Mr. Hurley’s final example of Cincinnati’s pursuit of medical perfection is the nearly 15-year old program at Children’s Hospital referred to as “improvement science.” Children’s has completely changed its culture and the attitudes of its employees to focus on evidence, patient safety, and transparent communication with the parents of its patients. It serves as a model for hospitals worldwide.
In addition to Mr. Hurley’s presentation, the meeting featured a reminiscence of Cecil Striker by his son Dr. Theodore Striker; a speaker introduction and remembrance of Cecil Striker by Dr. E. Gordon Margolin, who was a friend and colleague of the elder Dr. Striker and whose lecture fund at Jewish Hospital sponsored the meeting; and a recognition ceremony for Winkler Center’s 442 benefactors, with special mention of those who gave $1,000 or more in 2009 and 2010.
Through October 2010 the Winkler Center’s Stanley J. Lucas Board Room will feature an exhibit of artifacts and photographs illustrating Mr. Hurley’s paper. The Center is open by appointment, Monday through Friday. The transcript of the paper is available on the Center’s website at http://www.libraries.uc.edu/hsl/history/Hurleyarticle.htm. For a recording of the Cecil Striker Society program on DVD contact the Winkler Center at (513) 558-5120 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Post by Steve Marine, Executive Director of the Henry R. Winkler Center for the History of the Health Professions