First History of the Health Sciences Lecture of 2018/19 Explores Anti-Semitism in U.S. Medical Education, October 10 at 6pm

Dr. Edward Halperin, Chancellor and CEO of New York Medical College, will deliver a lecture on a little-known episode of anti-Semitic violence in American medical education. Entitled “This is a Christian institution and we will tolerate no Jews here”: The Brooklyn Interns Hazing Episodes of 1916 & 1927, the lecture will be a 6pm on Oct. 10 in Conference Room 103-A, in the Knowledge Center of the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences. A reception will follow.

The lecture is free and open to the public but registration is required:

Though anti-Semitism in early 20th century U.S. medical education was pervasive, it rarely resulted in acts of violence.  The exception was in Brooklyn where Jewish interns were twice assaulted at Kings County Hospital in 1916 and 1927.  Dr. Edward Halperin will present the findings of his recent research on these incidents and discuss the implications of the assaults in light of the current debate on immigration and higher education.

Dr. Edward C. Halperin has been Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer of the New York Medical School since 2012. Prior to this he served as Dean of the School of Medicine, Ford Foundation Professor of Medical Education, and professor of radiation oncology, pediatrics, and history at the University of Louisville. He was also on the faculty at Duke University for 23 years, serving as professor and chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology, vice dean of the School of Medicine and associate vice chancellor. Besides his medical achievements, Dr. Halperin has long had a keen interest in the history of medicine especially in the history of racial, religious and gender discrimination in higher education.

Health Sciences Library Discovers Letter from Signer of the U.S. Constitution

The Columbia University Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library has found a letter in its holdings from Colonel William Few (1748-1828), Revolutionary War officer, member of the Continental Congress, and Signer of the Constitution for Georgia. 

The letter dated July 14, 1817 is addressed to Dr. William MacNeven, faculty member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, now Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.  In it, Few complains that the expansion of the College’s building, then on Barclay St. near City Hall, threatened to obstruct his light – even then, evidently, a matter of concern to New Yorkers.

Few writes that he was “seriously apprehensive” that the expansion would block the light “which I have long enjoyd [sic] and find so necessary for my comfort & convenience…Would it not be better to contract your plan a little than to greatly injure a Neighbour?”

He goes on to warn that “I have consulted a lawyer on the subject” who assures him “the law will redress.”  Furthermore, Few cautions the College “that if the practice of dissecting human bodies is carried on in such a manner as to be offensive to the Neighbourhood the Courts will take cognizance of it.”  Though the minutes of the College’s Board of Trustees records the receipt of Few’s letter, no response appears to have survived.  The building project was finished that year and the school remained on Barclay St. until it moved to Crosby St. in 1837.

Few was born in Maryland, moved to North Carolina as a child, and eventually settled in Georgia where he rose to be colonel in the state’s militia and one of its representatives in the Continental Congress.  He was among Georgia’s four delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention and was one of only two of those delegates to actually sign the document.  After the ratification of the Constitution, Few was chosen as one of Georgia’s first two U.S. senators.

Few moved to New York City in 1799 at the urging of his wife, a native New Yorker.  He spent the rest of life in New York serving at various times as a state assemblyman, city alderman, and state inspector of prisoners.  He was also an early president of what is now CitiBank.

The letter was found in a collection of miscellaneous College records and other correspondence called “The College of Physicians and Surgeons Manuscript Collection.” Because Few signed his letter “W. Few” rather than with his full name, the writer’s identity wasn’t realized when the collection was cataloged in the 1960s. A recent reappraisal and reorganization of the collection led to the discovery of the letter by Archives & Special Collections staff.  

A Medical Center for New York: The Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, 1928-2018: An Exhibit

A Medical Center for New York: The Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, 1928-2018: An Exhibit

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

Hammer Health Sciences Building, Lobby Level

February – April, 2018

Ninety years ago this March, what was then called the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center opened to the public.  One of the world’s first health care centers to combine complete facilities for patient care, medical education and research in a single complex, Columbia-Presbyterian was the result of years of sometimes stormy collaboration between Columbia University and Presbyterian Hospital, dating back to the original affiliation agreement of 1911. 

A small exhibit in the Health Sciences Library’s Knowledge Center commemorates this anniversary with a display of original construction photographs and contemporary fundraising brochures. 

The Knowledge Center is accessible 24/7 to anyone with a valid CUMC or NYPH ID.  

When the Famous Get Sick and the Sick Get Famous - History of Health Sciences Lecture

When the Famous Get Sick and the Sick Get Famous: Lessons from Celebrity Patients

Barron Lerner, M.D., Professor, Departments of Medicine & Population Health, New York University Langone Medical Center

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Reception, 5:30, Lecture 6:00

Conference Room 103-A, The Knowledge Center at the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library

Hammer Health Sciences Building, 701 West 168th St. at Ft. Washington Ave.

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


How do we reveal an illness?  Difficult enough to do when it only concerns family and friends, disclosure becomes more fraught when the subject is famous and the news of illness is potentially of interest to the larger public.

Barron Lerner (P&S 1986) explores the dimensions of celebrity and sickness in his lecture, When the Famous Get Sick and the Sick Get Famous: Lessons from Celebrity Patients on February 22, 2018 at the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library. 

Based on his book, When Illness Goes Public: Celebrity Patients and How We Look at Medicine, Lerner will discuss numerous cases in which famous people revealed details of their illnesses. From Lou Gehrig (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), to Steve McQueen (mesothelioma), to Rita Hayworth (Alzheimer’s Disease), celebrity illnesses have helped to educate the public, but they’ve also attained a mythical dimension that make them both inspiring and misleading.  In contrast, some patients attain celebrity through their illness, becoming symbols for a particular disease.

Please join us on February 22 for this free lecture.


Barron H. Lerner is a professor in the Departments of Medicine and Population Health at New York University Langone Medical Center.  He received his M.D. from Columbia University in 1986 and his Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington in 1996.  His book, The Breast Cancer Wars: Hope, Fear and the Pursuit of a Cure in Twentieth-Century America, published by Oxford University Press, received the William H. Welch Medal of the American Association for the History of Medicine and was named a most notable book by the American Library Association.  Dr. Lerner has published extensively in scholarly journals and contributes essays to Slate,, the Washington Post and the print and online health pages of the New York Times.  He has also appeared on numerous NPR broadcasts, including “Fresh Air,” “All Things Considered” and “Science Friday.”  Dr. Lerner’s fifth book, The Good Doctor: A Father, a Son and the Evolution of Medical Ethics, was published by Beacon Press in May 2014 and came out in paperback in May 2015.  The New York Times called it “exquisitely insightful.”  In addition to his research, Dr. Lerner practices general internal medicine and teaches medical ethics and the history of medicine to both undergraduates and medical students at NYU.

Over There: The Presbyterian Base Hospital in France, 1917-1918

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

Hammer Building, Lower Level 2

January 29-May 11, 2018


In April 1917 the United States, breaking its long tradition of isolation from European affairs, declared war on Germany in hopes of making World War I into “A War to End All Wars.”

As Americans rushed to do their part for the war effort, Presbyterian Hospital, now part of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, responded to the call for doctors and nurses to serve in the war by organizing U.S. Army Base Hospital No. 2. 

To commemorate their service during this centennial of the end of World War I, a new exhibit tells the unit’s story through original letters, documents, and photographs held by the Health Sciences Library’s Archives & Special Collections.  Included are a copy of the Base Hospital newspaper, The Dooins; a nurse’s diary open to the entry for November 11, 1918, the day the war ended; a program for Hello Etretat!, a musical comedy staged by unit members; vintage postcards; and a menu from the ship on which they returned home at war’s end.

One of the first U.S. medical units to reach France in 1917, Base Hospital No. 2 was stationed at Étretat on the coast of Normandy. There twenty-five physicians and surgeons and sixty-five nurses – almost all affiliated with Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons – cared for the conflict’s military casualties.

Twice, smaller groups of doctors and nurses were detached from the Base Hospital to form Casualty Clearing Stations. Working on the combat’s front lines, the men and women of the CCS faced additional hardships and danger – including a bombing raid on their quarters.

Whether behind the lines at Étretat or in the thick of the fighting, the Hospital’s personnel put in long and grueling hours to save the soldiers entrusted to their care.  When the war ended on November 11, 1918, Armistice Day, they could look back with satisfaction on their achievement.

Over the last decades, the Health Sciences Library’s Archives & Special Collections has amassed a large collection of personal papers from those who served in France with Base Hospital No. 2.  Almost all the items seen here come from those collections, carefully saved by their creators to record one of the most important episodes in their lives.

The exhibit runs until May 11, 2018 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.

Knowledge Center Hosts Virtual International Student Conference

The Knowledge Center hosted the second virtual international student conference (“Skype project” conference) with medical and dental students from Canada, Germany, Finland, Japan, Taiwan, and the United State. 25 CUMC students (all first year P&S and CDM) and their international peers presented data to each other - on differences in healthcare systems, healthcare education, public health and health ethics.

Pictured are  some of the participating CUMC students along with Anatomy faculty Dr. Paulette Bernd and Dr. Anette Wu as well as Anthony Pizziatolla and Eric Dillalogue from the Health Sciences Library. In the background are screenshots of the international peers and faculty.

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