History of Medicine Project

Winners and Losers in the Medical Revolution

We are living longer and healthier these days thanks to improvements in medical knowledge and procedures, new drugs, and artificial body parts.  With replacements of hips, prosthetic limbs, and even 3D-printed organs, we are closer than ever to being able to build a person from the ground up. 

However, the history of medicine is filled with strange twists and turns.  For instance, leeches were used for hundreds of years as part of bloodletting practices to “heal” patients.  But did you know that leeches are once again being used: this time they are “introduced” to the tip of a re-attached finger to get the blood flowing out to the tiny capillaries.  

Medical progress has also not been shared evenly.  In one of the most notorious examples, from 1932 until 1972 the US Public Health Service studied the untreated progress of syphilis in African-American men in Alabama without their knowledge or consent.  They let them get increasing ill, even when penicillin was shown to treat the disease in the early 1940s.  

Another major medical ethics issue is told in the best-selling book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.   Here we learn how Lacks’ cells were taken without her knowledge and turned into a research tool.  

The Triangle area has amazing resources we will explore, including the:

  • Human Patient Simulator and SEAL Surgical Training Lab
  • Huge collection of history of medicine materials and artifacts recently donated to Duke 
  • Duke Center for Integrative Medicine with alternative approaches, including acupuncture, mindfulness training, herbal medicine, etc.
  • DiVE 3D virtual reality chamber to help isolate specific anatomies.  Also at Duke are the Hyperbaric Unit and the Research Greenhouse (which contains many medicinal plants).
  • UNC Health Sciences Collection 
  • the Lincoln Hospital records on African American doctors (Watts Hospital was the “white” facility and Lincoln was the “black” hospital, before the practices were merged in 1978 to eventually become Durham Regional, and 
  • even the secret passages at the NC School of Science of Math (from when it was Watts Hospital) highlighting a different method of patient care 

We will also be taking a number of field trips such as to the new National Museum of Health and Medicine in the DC area and the Country Doctor Museum in Bailey, NC, about 30 minutes east of Raleigh.  

Each year we also complete a capstone project.  This year we studied diseases endemic to NC and more widely, and then created multimedia presentations using green screen technology which were broadcast over the NC School of Science and Mathematics distance learning studios to share more broadly. The Scholars also brought their interactive materials on diseases to several elementary school science nights.

We kicked off our seventh year of the program with a mandatory one-week immersion at Duke. Scholars are required to read a program book before the immersion.  This week of fun-filled learning was followed by monthly gatherings, also at Duke, on the second Saturdays of each month from 10 AM – 3 PM.  

For more information, contact:

David Stein
John Hope Franklin Young Scholars Program Director
919-668-6284 (fax)