Health Sciences Library Acquires Important Manuscript of P&S Founder

The Columbia University Health Sciences Library has recently acquired a manuscript by Samuel Bard (1742-1821), a founder of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) and a prominent early American physician. 

Entitled Remarks on the constitution, government, discipline & expences [sic] of medical schools – submitted to the Regents of the University of New York in obedience to their requisition for such information, the 35 page manuscript was composed and signed by Bard in 1819 replying in his capacity as President of the College of Physicians and Surgeons. 

The manuscript provides an important insight into the educational philosophy of one of the most notable physicians of the early United States.  The son of a doctor, Samuel Bard studied first at King’s (now Columbia) College before receiving his medical degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1765.  He was one of the six New York City physicians who in 1767 persuaded King’s College to establish a medical school, now the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the second oldest in the United States. Bard served as its dean and professor of medicine until its closure in 1776 due to the War for Independence and, after the newly renamed Columbia College revived the medical school in 1791, he served it first as dean and later as president until his death.  Bard Hall, the P&S residence hall, is named for him.

Bard writes that “the peculiar circumstances and wants of our Country” – especially that the United States was “extensive and but thinly inhabited” – meant that apart from a few physicians in large cities most American physicians were not well-paid.  Therefore, he continues, “the general mass of students of medicine are poor; it is therefore very important that we provide them with the best instruction at the cheapest rate.”  Although the U.S. is no longer “thinly inhabited,” the cost of medical education is still a concern in the 21st century as witnessed by the recent donation by Dr. Roy Vagelos (P&S, 1954) and his wife Diana (Barnard, 1955) of $250 million to support scholarships at P&S.

Bard then compares and contrasts instruction at P&S with four other medical schools: the University of Edinburgh (his alma mater), the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, and the University of Maryland.   He asserts that instruction could be reduced to five courses: anatomy, chemistry, practice of medicine, midwifery, and surgery.  Though Bard believes that clinical medical courses “when properly delivered by a competent Teacher, are among the most useful a student can attend” he realizes that they can only be offered when there is a faculty member attached to a public hospital.

Besides curriculum, Bard discusses the length of time students need to apprentice with a practitioner, the manner of examining candidates for the medical degree, and the best method of governing the College – “where some dissensions have again arisen” among the Trustees, he notes. 

In addition to his involvement with the medical school, Bard was one of the founders in 1771 of New York Hospital, now part of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, the primary teaching hospital of the College of Physicians and Surgeons.  His Compendium of the Theory and Practice of Midwifery (1812) is considered the first obstetrics textbook written by an American and went through five editions by 1819.

The manuscript is the second by Bard to be acquired by the Health Sciences Library in recent years. In 2013, the library purchased the autograph manuscript of his 1811 “Discourse on the Importance of Medical Education” a lecture he delivered at the medical school that year. 

The new manuscript is in generally good condition though it will require treatment by conservators to prevent paper loss. Once this work is complete, the manuscript will be available for study and exhibition.

WOMEN AT P&S 1917: A Hundred Years of Co-Education, An Exhibit

The Knowledge Center, A.C. Long Health Sciences Library, Hammer Building

Oct. 4, 2017 – Jan. 12, 2018

One hundred years this Fall, the College of Physicians and Surgeons admitted its first female students – eleven out of a class of 213.  A small exhibit in the A.C. Long Health Sciences Library’s Knowledge Center in the Hammer Building, commemorates this significant centennial.

Although women have held the roles of healers, midwives, nurses, herbalists, and family caregivers for millennia, Western medicine excluded women from attaining the education and authority to practice medicine as certified physicians.  In 1849 Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to receive the MD in the United States, after which the profession very slowly began to open to women. 

The College of Physicians & Surgeons was not among these pioneers. The 1891 agreement whereby P&S was fully integrated into Columbia University included the provision that only the medical faculty could decide when to open the school to female students. 

When the decision for coeducation came in 1917 it was surprisingly quick and uncontroversial: significantly there is almost no discussion in the faculty minutes about it.  Several strong-willed women, notably Barnard College students Gulli Lindh and Susanna Haigh and their dean, Virginia Gildersleeve, successfully lobbied P&S dean Samuel Lambert to admit 11 female first year students.  His only condition was for them to raise the funds to construct bathrooms and locker rooms for women in the medical school building, then on West 59th St.  The sum of $50,000 – about a $1 million in today’s money – was raised by the end of 1917 largely through a donation from a “Texas gentleman” whose identity is still unknown. 

Six of the 11 students would graduate in 1921 with women holding the 1st, 3rd, and 5th places in the class.

Among the documents on display in the exhibit are Gulli Lindh’s admissions application; a classroom photo of six of the first eleven women to be admitted; a 1917 letter from Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler urging P&S Dean Samuel Lambert to settle “the women question” at the medical school; and a 1925 survey of the career paths of the early female graduates.

The Knowledge Center is accessible 24/7 to anyone with a valid CUMC ID.  For those with Columbia University or New York-Presbyterian Hospital IDs, access is available only during Service Hours. Check the Health Sciences Library website for details:

“P&S” 1767-2017: 250 Years of the College of Physicians and Surgeons

“P&S” 1767-2017: 250 Years of the College of Physicians and Surgeons

An Exhibit from Archives & Special Collections, Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library

Hammer Health Sciences Building, Lower Level 2

July 20-December 20, 2017

“P&S” 1767-2017: 250 Years of the College of Physicians and Surgeons tells the story of Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, which opened 250 years ago this November. 

In 1767, when King’s College established a medical school, the United States was still unborn, New York was a city of about 20,000, and most of what we know as “modern medicine” – anesthesia, the germ theory of disease, even the stethoscope – had yet to be discovered.   Americans who wanted to study medicine either had to apprentice to a practitioner for several years or make the perilous journey to Europe for a lengthy and expensive university education.

The founders of what is now P&S hoped to encourage the medical profession in the Thirteen Colonies by giving students the chance to acquire a thorough medical education without having to leave home. Their school was a success: in 1769 two graduates were awarded the Bachelor of Medicine degree and the next year King’s awarded the first M.D. in what is now the United States.

The exhibit tells the story of the medical school thematically rather than in strict chronological order, with a focus on historical turning points, distinguished alumni and faculty, buildings, teaching and learning, and, of course, student life. 

Included in the over 60 items on display are a facsimile of the original 1767 petition to King’s College requesting the founding of a medical faculty; a photo of some of the first female students admitted in 1917; student notes of lectures given by founder Samuel Bard in 1774; a report of the 1813 Building Committee noting that the cost for furnishing the College’s new quarters was a whopping $9,298.63; 19th century student admission tickets; a 1940 Bard Hall cafeteria menu; a broadside listing all the students in attendance during the 1809/10 academic year; and many other documents and photos from the Health Sciences Library’s Archives & Special Collections.

The exhibit runs through December 20, 2017, and can be seen on Lower Level 2 of the Hammer Health Sciences Building which has 24/7 access.  Hammer is open to anyone with a valid Columbia University or NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital ID. Others desiring to see the exhibit should contact Archives & Special Collections at to arrange for admission.

The exhibit was curated by Stephen E. Novak, Head, Archives & Special Collections, Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library.

TEACH 2017 Conference at the New York Academy of Medicine Aug 2-4

The New York Academy of Medicine will again offer an intensive 3 day integrated workshop experience in its “Teaching Evidence Assimilation for Collaborative Healthcare (TEACH)” series. Now in its 9th year, TEACH is unique in providing an interprofessional learning environment that encompasses the essential domains necessary for delivery of evidence-based health care, which seeks to improve the quality of clinical care in a scientifically informed fashion.  The disciplines of knowledge translation (KT--sometimes called implementation science) and quality improvement (QI) offer tools and skills vital to achieving that objective.  TEACH 2017 draws from both KT and QI to equip attendees to enhance the effectiveness and scientific rigor of practice improvement efforts. 

Conference Brochure 

“The Health of Humanity”: 125 Years of the Columbia University School of Nursing

“The Health of Humanity”: 125 Years of the Columbia University School of Nursing, 1892-2017 

An Exhibit, February 24 – May 19, 2017

Hammer Health Sciences Center, Lower Level 2

The Columbia University School of Nursing opened 125 years ago this May with 16 students housed in an unused hospital ward. Then called the Presbyterian Hospital Training School for Nurses, it soon became known as one of the best in the country. Its first dean, Anna C. Maxwell, insisted her students receive a strong scientific education along with varied clinical experiences.  Her belief in nursing’s vital role in all aspects of health care is embodied in the Latin motto engraved on the school pin students received upon their graduation: ““Salus Generis Humani,” or “The Health of Humanity.”

Archives & Special Collections of the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library is pleased to announce the opening of a new exhibit on the history of the Columbia University School of Nursing told through original documents, photographs, and artifacts.

Included are the brochure published by the Presbyterian Hospital announcing the opening of the School; the admissions application of one of the original students; the dress uniform cap of a graduate who served with the Presbyterian Hospital unit in France during World War I; photographs of Maxwell Hall, the School of Nursing’s original home on the Columbia University Medical Center campus; and the School’s first yearbook, Stripes, issued by the Class of 1936. 

The exhibit runs from February 24 to May 19, 2017 and is located on Lower Level 2 of the Hammer Health Sciences Center.  As part of the Teaching and Learning Center, the exhibit area is open 24/7.  A valid Columbia University or New York-Presbyterian Hospital ID is needed to access Hammer, but arrangements can be made for viewing the exhibit by those unaffiliated with the Medical Center.

The exhibit was curated by Stephen Novak, Head, Archives & Special Collections. For more information contact

Evidence-based Guidelines Affecting Policy, Practice and Stakeholders III Conference

The E-GAPPS III conference, sponsored by Guidelines International Network North America (GIN/NA) and the Section on Evidence Based Health Care of the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM), is being held March 20-21 at the New York Academy of Medicine in NY City.   Attendees will experience a unique opportunity  to interact with the perspectives of guideline developers, patient and consumer advocates, clinicians, and leaders of healthcare organizations. The conference will seek to foster new relationships of collaboration and engagement across the diverse constituencies attending it.  

History of the Health Sciences Lecture Series

Dr. Dana Atchley interviewing a patient, 1958.  Photo by Elizabeth Wilcox

Dr. Dana Atchley interviewing a patient, 1958.  Photo by Elizabeth Wilcox


Nuisance or Necessity? Historical Perspectives on the ‘Informed’ Patient

Nancy Tomes, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of History, Stony Brook University, New York

Thursday, March 9

Refreshments, 5:30, Lecture, 6pm

Conference Room 103-A, Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library, Hammer Building

701 West 168th St. at Fort Washington Ave.

Sponsored by the Columbia University Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library


Today it is an article of faith in American health care that patients need to be more actively engaged in their own treatment.   That engagement begins with information: as a nation, we place great emphasis on people’s responsibility to find and act on the best available data about many complex issues, from the choice of insurance plans to the selection of doctors, hospitals, and treatments.  Yet beneath the surface, there remains considerable tension over the role that “informed” patients should and do play in medical decision making.   That tension is often associated with the arrival of the Internet, which has made it far easier for patients to get information about health care options. 

But as this talk by historian Nancy Tomes will show, the fundamental issues involved in today’s debates over how patients use the Internet are by no means new.   Drawing on her latest book, Remaking the American Patient: How Madison Avenue and Modern Medicine Turned Patients into Consumers (University of North Carolina Press, 2016), Tomes will put the current debates over the value of “medical Googlers” in historical perspective.  She will explore the long term factors that have generated those debates and conclude with some reflections on what history can teach us about the present and future prospects for patient engagement.   


Nancy Tomes teaches US cultural and social history, the history of medicine, and women’s history at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook NY, where she is a Distinguished Professor.  Her research interests have ranged widely over the past four decades, but almost all focus on the intersection between expert knowledge and popular understandings of the body and disease.

A profilic author, her books include A Generous Confidence: Thomas Story Kirkbride and the Art of Asylum Keeping (1984); Madness in America: Cultural and Medical Perceptions of Mental Illness Before 1914 (with Lynn Gamwell, 1995); The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women and the Microbe in American Life (1998); and Remaking the American Patient: How Madison Avenue and Modern Medicine Turned Patients into Consumers (2016), among other works. 

Prof. Tomes has created a website, Medicine and Madison Avenue, on the history of health-related advertising, developed in collaboration with Duke University Library’s Special Collections.

She is currently doing research on history of psychiatry while also pursuing many unfinished threads from Remaking the American Patient, including the impact of the Internet on doctor-patient interactions, and a comparative look at medical consumerism in other countries.

Knowledge Center Host Finals Week Event For Students

The Knowledge Center held a week long event where students could come to relax and take a break from finals. Games, puzzles, coloring books, videos, and snacks were provided to students on a daily basis.  The highlight of the week was Wynston the service dog who was accompanied  by  representatives from the Center for Student Wellness.  Wynston’s visit was embraced by everyone in attendance. 


Wynston The Service Dog

Wynston The Service Dog

Students Relax With a Puzzle

Student Artwork

Student Artwork

Student Artwork


Thank you to all of those who participated throughout the week.  

Don't Get Tangled, Get Organized

Don’t Get Tangled, Get Organized! – Tips and Tricks on Making Your Work More Efficient

Are you drowning in a flood of information? This class will help you to organize information and become more efficient.  Learn how to customize your searches, manage your search results in databases and on your desktop, and stay up-to-date in your field of interest.

Who should attend:  New students, faculty and staff or anyone who wants to learn how to organize their work.

By the end of this session you will be able to: