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Medical History Archive Series Debuts

Medistorian Society and Archivist Nicholas Webb Showcase College’s Collection of Historic Texts and Artifacts

February 05, 2024
Students in conference room looking at historical artifacts.
Students gather at the Phillip Capozzi, M.D., Library, with Nick Webb, M.I.S.S., to look at the College’s archive collection.

While the College campus buildings are adorned with historical artifacts and placards that explain their origin and purpose, the Medistorian Society wanted to create a more intimate environment for students to go back to the past – a vision Webb has also shared. “I’ve been interested in doing more outreach to students, so I was thrilled to know that there was an enthusiastic and motivated group of students who wanted to come and take a look at our collections,” said Webb.
“Surprising,” was the word that summed up the event for Sumaita Mahmood, SOM Class of 2026, president of the Medistorian Society. “I think that's how everyone who participated felt because who would have known that our school had archives that we could access? Even if we had known, we would still be surprised by the contents. Students were astounded by this unique collection of documents and objects in this special library room that they pass by every day.”
Carefully placed on the conference table were woodblock prints of original Vesalius engravings, a pocket medicine book from the 1600s, a portable electroshock device, an old yearbook, a lecture attendance card permitting access to lecture halls, a course catalog from when tuition was $425, and more – each with a detailed description. In small groups, the students were all ears when Webb explained about the objects that were placed in front of them. They asked questions to further understand medicine’s past and present. 
The event was organized the same week as the History of Medicine course taught to first-year medical students (M1) by Edward C. Halperin, M.D., M.A., chancellor and chief executive officer, however, students from other years attended the event, each learning something new about the College, previous medical practices, and the handling of sensitive artifacts. The second installment of the archive series will take place later this month on the History of Medicine and Medical Knowledge curriculum for M1s. The theme will primarily be based on items in the College’s archives about epidemics, curated by Webb.
“I hope that students can have an outlet to further explore the history of medicine,” said Mahmood, who found students interested in the topic but struggled to make time to explore more. “We started the Medistorian Society with the idea of making it easier to explore the subject with the goal of making it more accessible. The archives series is an opportunity to take a mental break from what you are doing by looking at something else for an hour, where you definitely will discover something you haven’t seen before.”