Russell Museum at MGH

Russell Museum at MGH The Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation tells the rich story of Massachusetts General Hospital. Massachusetts General Hospital was established in 1811 to serve Boston's general public.
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At that time, the sickest and most vulnerable patients were cared for in almshouses, while the wealthy could afford private care at home. Creating a general hospital was an innovative idea. Since its inception more than 200 years ago, Mass General has remained at the forefront of medicine by fostering a culture of innovation. We continue to conduct groundbreaking research, educate health care professionals from around the world and, most importantly, improve the quality of clinical care provided to all members of our community. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation tells the rich story of Mass General through interactive media displays, artifacts and photographs. You can learn about the hospital's important contributions to the medical field and see how these discoveries and advancements have shaped the present – and how the hospital can continue to shape the future of medicine. The Russell Museum is dedicated to drawing connections between innovations spanning a period of more than 200 years – from the hospital’s charter in 1811 to present day. We encourage you to visit us for an experience that will inform, inspire and engage. Honoring Paul S. Russell, MD The museum is named in honor of Paul S. Russell, MD, a pioneer in the field of transplant surgery and chair of the Mass General History Committee. Dr. Russell was the chief of surgery from 1962 to 1968 and directed the Mass General Transplantation Unit from 1968 to 1990. In addition to founding the Boston Interhospital Organ Bank (now the New England Organ Bank), he has served as a professor at Harvard Medical School since 1962. "There is so much to tell and a great sweep of interest – not only on the clinical side, but also on the research and community side – specifically around how the hospital has continued its tradition of caring for its neighbors, which today can mean in our community or around the world," Dr. Russell said.

Operating as usual

Next in your medical museum at home is citrus fruit. During the era of exploration and commerce by sailing ship, many sa...
01/14/2021

Next in your medical museum at home is citrus fruit. During the era of exploration and commerce by sailing ship, many sailors suffered from scurvy, a disease characterized by deteriorating gums and poor wound healing that could be fatal. Scottish surgeon James Lind knew that some people believed that fresh produce, particularly citrus, could prevent or cure scurvy, and in 1747 he decided to test it for himself. He divided twelve sailors with scurvy into pairs and gave each pair the same diet with a different supplement -- some got vinegar, some seawater, but a lucky pair received oranges and lemons. As we now know, citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, and scurvy is caused by vitamin C deficiency. Both sailors saw the benefits, while the others in the experiment stayed sick. What’s notable about this very small-scale experiment is that it is widely considered the first controlled clinical trial on record.

Next in your medical museum at home is a sewing needle. Needles with eyes were invented sometime between 50,000 and 30,0...
01/12/2021

Next in your medical museum at home is a sewing needle. Needles with eyes were invented sometime between 50,000 and 30,000 BCE, and it is often assumed that they were first used to stitch wounds together not long after that. The first documented instance of surgical sutures (also called stitches) was in 3,000 BCE in Egypt. Up through the early twentieth century, common materials for sutures included hemp, silk, and animal intestine; they were gradually replaced with synthetics, including some materials that can dissolve rather than being removed after the wound heals.

Next in your medical museum at home is nylon fabric -- the main component of modern parachutes (before WWII, the most co...
01/05/2021

Next in your medical museum at home is nylon fabric -- the main component of modern parachutes (before WWII, the most common parachute material was silk). Parachutes are the tongue-in-cheek focus of a serious discussion: the nuances of evidenced-based medicine. In 2003, a paper was published in the British Medical Journal that was formatted like a review of the existing studies on a scientific question. However, the question was whether parachutes prevent death and injury to people jumping out of planes, and the authors pointedly noted that they could find no randomized, controlled trials that compared the fates of people jumping out of planes with and without a parachute. Since then, people have used “parachute” as a shorthand for the concept of a treatment has been proven so well through observation that it does not need a randomized controlled trial. However, in 2018 a study was published showing that there are very few “parachutes” in medicine, and even many treatments that people call parachutes have been studied in randomized controlled trials. Later that year, a different group of authors published a facetious study pointing out that study design must be analogous to real-world conditions and also drawing attention to the importance of reading a study thoroughly: they claimed to have done a randomized, controlled study showing that parachutes have no impact on survival and injury rates when jumping out of planes. At the very end of the paper, they noted that the planes were stationary and on the ground at the time of the jumps. While this conversation is a recent one, earnest debates about how to ensure that the science medical providers rely on is good science have a rich history. For example, MGH’s Henry Knowles Beecher led the field in using placebo-controlled trials.



https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC300808/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5878948/

https://www.bmj.com/content/363/bmj.k5094

A Message of ThanksWhen the museum closed on March 12, little did we know what lay ahead. Amid the tumult and anguish of...
12/31/2020

A Message of Thanks

When the museum closed on March 12, little did we know what lay ahead. Amid the tumult and anguish of this year, we’ve taken comfort in the knowledge that we’ll welcome you, our visitors, again someday.

For what we miss most is you—your keen questions for lecture presenters, your eagerness to share with us your deep curiosity about medical innovation, your personal connections to MGH and medical history at large.

As members of the hospital’s Office of News and Public Affairs, we at the museum and the MGH Archives have largely been pulled away from our usual work. Yet as a result, we have been privileged to witness the hospital’s extraordinary response and innovation this year. (For a compelling look at the hospital’s efforts, visit Proto Magazine: Dispatches From the Frontiers of Medicine.)

What the museum team has managed to do, however, is create exhibits for the hospital’s main hallways, including an exhibit for National Nurses Week, one on writing, art, and music created in response to the pandemic, and a display of just a few dozen of the thousands of thank-you cards a grateful public has sent the hospital. The museum’s virtual events included an evening of readings by residents who had published reflections on the pandemic. In July, we debuted a virtual version of our museum and Ether Dome tour for school and community groups. Meanwhile, for the first time, the museum became a clinical space, hosting the hospital’s flu vaccine clinic this fall.

We plan to continue to stay in touch through our e-newsletter and here, bringing you word of virtual events and new features on our Website. We encourage you to contact us with comments and suggestions.

Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2021.

Sarah Alger
George and Nancy Putnam Director
Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation

While at the museum to document the building's temporary flu vaccine clinic, a member of the hospital's photography team...
12/29/2020

While at the museum to document the building's temporary flu vaccine clinic, a member of the hospital's photography team also captured these lovely photos of the rooftop garden in winter stillness.

Next in your medical museum at home is a candy cane. While candy canes aren’t related to any real medical ailments unles...
12/24/2020

Next in your medical museum at home is a candy cane. While candy canes aren’t related to any real medical ailments unless you eat far too many or one goes down the wrong way, the MGH surgical residents have a long tradition of presenting a pretend medical case with Santa Claus as the patient, always with thematic “symptoms” such as candy-cane scented urine. Of course, Santa always recovers in time for Christmas. However, in 1966, the Santa cases were the key to uncovering an actual medical mystery -- see this blog post from a few years ago for the story. https://www.wondersandmarvels.com/2016/12/santas-epidemiology.html

If you are looking for ways to reflect with your family on how this year fits into the broader arc of medical history, r...
12/22/2020

If you are looking for ways to reflect with your family on how this year fits into the broader arc of medical history, remember that the museum has created a list of ten discussion prompts about your own experiences with medical history and innovation. If you need resources more specific to the challenges of this year, the hospital has information on coping with stress and grief here.
http://www.russellmuseum.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Discussion-prompts-for-family-phone-calls.pdf

https://www.massgeneral.org/psychiatry/guide-to-mental-health-resources/general-mental-health-and-coping

Next in your medical museum at home is a watch. It is said that James Jackson, the prominent surgeon and co-founder of M...
12/17/2020

Next in your medical museum at home is a watch. It is said that James Jackson, the prominent surgeon and co-founder of MGH, always carried two watches, to ensure that he was never late. This was in the early nineteenth century, an era when watches had to be wound regularly to keep time, and could slow down if they were in need of winding or their mechanisms were wearing out. Many Bostonians of his era relied on the clocks on public buildings, either to set their watches by, or as their main place to check the time.

Next in your medical museum at home is an elastic bandage. Cloth bandages that were somewhat stretchy were developed dur...
12/15/2020

Next in your medical museum at home is an elastic bandage. Cloth bandages that were somewhat stretchy were developed during WWI; prior to that, most bandages were plain woven cotton or linen. Later in the 20th century, advances in rubber technology allowed the creation of the cohesive bandage -- elastic bandages that adhere to themselves but not to other materials, making them easy to use to create compression. After donating blood, you’ll often have a cohesive bandage on your arm for the first hour or so. For more information about giving blood: https://www.massgeneral.org/blood-donor

Next in your medical museum at home is a candle. In the 19th century, some doctors experimented with using mirrors in a ...
12/10/2020

Next in your medical museum at home is a candle. In the 19th century, some doctors experimented with using mirrors in a jointed tube to reflect light into the body (say, down the throat) for diagnosis and procedures. The external light source could be a candle or a brightly burning mixture of liquid fuels. Soon, incandescent light bulbs replaced the flame, and in the 1960s, fiber optics allowed light to be transmitted around corners in the body using a flexible endoscope.

Final hours to come to the museum for a flu shot. MGH co-founder John Collins Warren beseeches you to get one.
12/09/2020

Final hours to come to the museum for a flu shot. MGH co-founder John Collins Warren beseeches you to get one.

Because of low patient volume, the MGH Central Flu Clinic will be closing on Wednesday, December 9 at 6pm. We apologize ...
12/08/2020

Because of low patient volume, the MGH Central Flu Clinic will be closing on Wednesday, December 9 at 6pm. We apologize for any inconvenience. If you can't make it in before then, please contact your primary care physician’s office or visit a retail pharmacy.

Next in your medical museum at home is a photo album. It has been speculated that a photographer was hired to document t...
12/08/2020
Medical Historical Library

Next in your medical museum at home is a photo album. It has been speculated that a photographer was hired to document the first ether demonstration but he had never seen a surgery before and backed out at the last minute. While the tale is probably apocryphal, there is no photo of that day in 1846, and the image most commonly associated with the birth of anesthesia is from the following year. The medical history library at Yale University used this image in their announcement that they have just acquired an extremely significant collection of photographs. Amassed by a private collector, the collection will now be available to researchers for the first time, and the library plans to digitize parts of the collection for the public to browse. https://library.medicine.yale.edu/historical

COVID-19 Update: All Yale libraries will be closed to users starting November 24 at 6pm. Users needing access to Historical Library special collections materials should email [email protected]

If you haven't yet received a flu shot, stop on by and get a museum postcard for your trouble.
12/07/2020
MGH Diabetes Education

If you haven't yet received a flu shot, stop on by and get a museum postcard for your trouble.

It's National Influenza Vaccination Week! It's also the final week of the MGH Central Flu Clinic. If you haven't gotten your #flushot yet, it's not too late! Enjoy the holiday season knowing that you have done the best thing to protect yourself and loved ones from getting the flu!

The Central Flu Clinic at Russell Museum at MGH is open through Wednesday, December 9th 7am – 6pm. Visit massgeneral.org/flu for more information.

Next in your medical museum at home is a mirror. During the polio epidemics of the early and mid-twentieth century, many...
12/03/2020

Next in your medical museum at home is a mirror. During the polio epidemics of the early and mid-twentieth century, many patients were supported by an iron lung, which was a state-of-the-art respirator at the time, and required patients to lay on their backs. In the days or even months that patients stayed in the iron lung, they observed what was going on around them through a tilted mirror positioned above them. Some polio survivors remember the oddity of watching television through a mirror, with baseball players running the bases backwards.

Next in your medical museum at home is an egg. The precursor to modern vaccination was “variolation” -- the practice of ...
12/01/2020

Next in your medical museum at home is an egg. The precursor to modern vaccination was “variolation” -- the practice of inoculating a healthy person with the smallpox virus, using material from a smallpox patient (smallpox was caused by the variola virus). The virus could still replicate in the body, but was often less severe than regular smallpox, and provided immunity. In the late 18th century, people switched to vaccination, named after the cowpox virus vaccinia, which still gave immunity because it was a closely related disease. The science of creating vaccines for other diseases took off in the 20th century, with researchers developing new ways to kill or inactivate viruses after growing them so that they couldn’t reproduce in the human body. The viruses for most flu vaccines are grown in chicken eggs before being inactivated; no cows or sick humans required. See massgeneral.org/flu for information on how to get your flu shot at the museum this week or next.

Russell Museum at MGH's cover photo
11/27/2020

Russell Museum at MGH's cover photo

Russell Museum at MGH
11/27/2020

Russell Museum at MGH

Next in your medical museum at home is corn. When penicillin was first discovered, science didn’t have a good way to mas...
11/26/2020

Next in your medical museum at home is corn. When penicillin was first discovered, science didn’t have a good way to mass-produce it. This vital antibiotic is the byproduct of a mold that scientists grew in culture to harvest the drug. Researchers found it grew better in the laboratory in Iowa than it had in England and Germany, which turned out to be thanks to the corn-based culture they were using. Ultimately, the change that had the most impact was finding high-yield strains of the mold, but this was an important step forward in the development of the drug.

This is a particularly good year to reflect with your family and friends on how medical history and innovation has touch...
11/24/2020

This is a particularly good year to reflect with your family and friends on how medical history and innovation has touched your lives. The museum's ten discussion prompts can get you started -- you may hear stories from other generations in your family that you hadn't heard before.

http://www.russellmuseum.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Discussion-prompts-for-family-phone-calls.pdf

Social work past and present: as part of an administrative fellowship program at Mass General, clinical social worker Ma...
11/20/2020

Social work past and present: as part of an administrative fellowship program at Mass General, clinical social worker Mark Wesseler provides modern-day reflections on a founder in the field in this series of posts.

Ida Cannon, co-founder of medical social work at MGH, wrote in 1913: “Broad-minded men and women in the professions of medicine and social work have seen that dissemination of medical knowledge is on the whole a safeguard, not a danger; and that education in physiology and hygiene is among the most important factors for community health.” Medical providers across the nation are beginning to recognize the need to put the patient at the center of their care, and no longer on the periphery. Cannon recognized early on the need to improve the patient experience, through education and advocacy.

Next in your medical museum at home is a professional journal. After completing a Rosenwald Fellowship at MGH in 1940, R...
11/19/2020

Next in your medical museum at home is a professional journal. After completing a Rosenwald Fellowship at MGH in 1940, Robert Fullilove, Jr., MD, tackled the issues of his time. Responding to colleagues who considered syphilis “a disease of the ignorant” in white patients but acted as though it were inevitable in Black patients, Fullilove pointed out the serious need for fewer barriers to education for Black people. “It would be a serious mistake to attempt to treat this problem by merely dispensing large quantities of antisyphilitic drugs without at the same time attempting to cure some of the serious socioeconomic conditions underlying it,” he wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1943.

Next in your medical museum at home is a necktie. In his obituary, it was noted that the students of Harold Farmer, MD (...
11/17/2020

Next in your medical museum at home is a necktie. In his obituary, it was noted that the students of Harold Farmer, MD (1904-1990) would remember him for his dapper sense of style and his humor, as well as for his skill at teaching physical diagnosis. He was a Rosenwald Fellow at MGH and Harvard Medical School, and returned to his home in the Philadelphia suburbs, where he was the only Black physician for many miles. In addition to teaching at Penn, he specialized in internal medicine and worked with tuberculosis patients.

Social work past and present: as part of an administrative fellowship program at Mass General, clinical social worker Ma...
11/13/2020
Social work in hospitals : a contribution to progressive medicine : Cannon, Ida M. (Ida Maud), b. 1877 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

Social work past and present: as part of an administrative fellowship program at Mass General, clinical social worker Mark Wesseler provides modern-day reflections on a founder in the field in this series of posts.

“Human kindness should always characterize social work, but human kindness alone cannot solve our tangled social problems; nor can it minister, unaided, to the body or the mind diseased,” wrote MGH’s Ida Cannon in Social Work in Hospitals: A Contribution to Progressive Medicine, noting the critical need to recognize the disease model of mental health illnesses. While empathy and kindness are crucial to developing rapport with our patients, it is important to provide actionable resources and intentions to address the patient’s true needs. An example of MGH’s commitment to transform human kindness into action is the hospital’s programs to address addiction and pain management, using the most up-to-date evidence-based modalities of care.

https://archive.org/details/socialworkinhosp00canniala

Includes bibliographical references and index

Next in your medical museum at home is a rose or rosebush. Theodore K. Lawless, MD, began his medical fellowship in derm...
11/12/2020

Next in your medical museum at home is a rose or rosebush. Theodore K. Lawless, MD, began his medical fellowship in dermatology in 1920, making him one of MGH’s first African American physicians. He went on to open a dermatology practice in the South Side of Chicago and established a medical laboratory at Northwestern University Medical School. He won many awards in his career, largely for his work on Hansen’s disease (leprosy), syphilis and sporotrichosis, a fungal infection also called rose-gardener’s disease.

11/11/2020

Yes! The Central Flu Shot Clinic is open today, until 6 pm.

Next in your medical museum at home is a catalog. Sears, Roebuck and Company is best known (historically, that is) for b...
11/10/2020

Next in your medical museum at home is a catalog. Sears, Roebuck and Company is best known (historically, that is) for being the pioneer of mail-order catalog shopping, but one of its co-owners created the Julius Rosenwald Fund. This fund gave fellowships and grants to support education, the arts, and health care for African Americans between 1917 and 1948. Three of the first African American physicians at MGH had earned Rosenwald Fellowships -- Theodore Lawless, MD, Harold Farmer, MD and Robert Fullilove, MD.

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02114

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Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday, year-round. 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturday, April-October. Our social media policy: http://www.massgeneral.org/notices/socialmediapolicy.aspx

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Comments

Ms Flaherty: the urge to write. Yes, I have been writing like mad into my notebook, I am 66 overcame cancer basically and home alone in my apartment in Seattle. Western Penna native and never married. Dennis Percherke
Is the museum open on saturdays in November?