The Karabots Fellows Explore a Virtual Crime Scene

Over the past few months CEPI has sought to integrate game-based learning into the curriculum for our youth programs. Recently, the Karabots Junior Fellows learned about how games are being used to train the forensic investigators of tomorrow.

The Karabots Junior Fellows meet with forensic expert Allen Burgess who leads them through the game Virtual Forensics Lab

The students met with Allen Burgess, DBA, who served as a consultant and technical manager for Virtual Forensics Lab. Developed by IDeS (now a part of Boston College’s Center for Teaching Excellence) for use in forensic science courses at Boston College, Virtual Forensics Lab takes students through virtual adaptations of real-life crime scenes. Students explore the crime scene, gather evidence, and attempt to draw conclusions based on their observations. Dr. Burgess walked through one of the crime scene scenarios with the Karabots Fellows, encouraging them to put their powers of observation and deduction to the test.

A screenshot of Virtual Forensic Lab

Happy Birthday, Dr. Laënnec: The Karabots Junior Fellows Commemorate 200 Years of the Stethoscope

Two students from the Karabots Junior Fellows Program experiment with a Laënnec stethoscope

Today is the 235th birthday of Rene Laënnec, the inventor of one of the mainstays of the medical professional’s toolkit: the stethoscope. As it turns out, 2016 also marks the 200th anniversary of the stethoscope.

In honor of the device’s bicentennial, the Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia hosted an exhibition of some of the stethoscopes in the College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s vast collection. There were also stethoscopes on loan from Thomas Jefferson University Archives and three private collections. On display were stethoscopes past and present, including one owned by William Osler and both an original and a more modern facsimile of Laënnec’s original design.

Students in the Karabots Junior Fellows Program were on hand to examine the collection, learning facts about the stethoscope from our very own CEPI Director Jacqui Bowman who organized the exhibition in collaboration with George Davis, MD.

The Karabots Junior Fellows meet with CEPI Director Jacqui Bowman to learn about the history of the stethoscope

After exploring the exhibit, the Fellows broke into groups to try their hand at conducting their own auscultations (the technical term for an examination with a stethoscope). They also compared past and present technology by experimenting with a recreation of a Civil War stethoscope in an attempt to learn which was more efficient at detecting a heartbeat.

Karabots Junior Fellows experiment with giving each other auscultations

In March 2016, look out for a mini exhibit on monaural stethoscopes in our CEPI display case near the Koop Education Center here at the College of Physicians.

The Teva Interns Diagnose Racism

Teva Interns meet with Tieshka Smith to discuss her installation: Racism is a Sickness

In addition to teaching students about healthcare, the Teva Pharmaceuticals Internship Program seeks to explore the impact of violence on society. Last week our interns met with Tieshka Smith, a healthcare administrator, artist, and social activist, to discuss the symptoms and possible cures of racial injustice.

Surgical masks and an exhibit label from Racism is a Sickness

Her project, appropriately titled Racism Is A Sickness, seeks to create a safe environment to discuss and examine the impact of racial injustice on communities and find ways to promote healing and empowerment. The centerpiece of the installation is a series of photographs of fourteen Philadelphia individuals who shared personal accounts of racial injustice. As part of the piece, each subject wears a surgical mask inscribed with a word describing how racism makes him/her feel; the backdrop to each photograph is the American flag hung upside down in the universal symbol of distress.  The exhibit also includes several interactive elements where visitors can share their own thoughts and emotions: a wall where visitors can post the names of people close to them who were victims of racial violence, and a message board for visitors to share their thoughts on what they feel racial injustice means to them and to America.

Teva interns take part in activities with Tieshka Smith at her installation, Racism is a Sickness

Tieskha encouraged the Teva fellows to share their own thoughts about how racism makes them feel and discuss possible means of coping with those feelings. Getting teenagers to open up about difficult subjects is no easy task, but she made it look easy.

Teva interns share their thoughts on racism at the Racism is a Sickness installation

Racism Is A Sickness will be running at the Art Church of West Philadelphia through February 29. It will then appear at the Community College of Philadelphia from April 11-15 as part of Diversity Week with plans to travel to other Philadelphia locations through 2016 and 2017, followed by venues outside the city in 2018. For more information about the project, be sure to check out her site on Tumblr.


CEPI Curiosities: The Persian Princess

Hello, again, historio-medico-scientific-forensic enthusiasts. It’s Kevin back again for another look into the medical weirdness we like to call CEPI Curiosities. For today’s installment, we are deviating slightly from the medical side but still discussing the topic of bodies being taken without permission. As you may recall, our last presentation explored the pilfering of presidential son/father John Scott Harrison, whose remains were stolen by resurrectionists for use as a cadaver. While not necessarily for medical subjects the illegal trade in human remains is still a significant issue (for more on the subject, check out the University of Glasgow’s online resource: Trafficking Culture). This time around we are examining a relatively-recent case: one that involves bodysnatching, fraud, and possibly murder. It is the case of the Persian Princess.

Following a 2000 earthquake in Pakistan, a group of individuals claimed to come across an astonishing discovery. Among the rubble was a ancient-looking sarcophagus inscribed with cuneiform characters believed to be ancient Persian. Preliminary examination of the coffin identified it as containing the remains of the daughter of Persian King Xerxes, which dated the coffin at around the fifth century BCE. Having coming across a momentous discovery, two men–Ali Akbar and Wali Mohammed Reeki–concluded the most logical course of action was to try to sell it for millions of dollars on the international antiquities market. Reportedly, their asking price for the artifact was in the neighborhood of $11 million, whereupon they were arrested by Pakistani officials for violating the country’s Antiquity Act.

The artifact’s discovery even prompted an international incident, as both the Iranian and Pakistani governments claimed ownership over the Persian Princess’ remains. Later Afghanistan’s Taliban government also laid claim to the discovery. In the meantime, the sarcophagus was brought to the National Museum at Karachi for study. In the end, the debate was settled scientifically in the sense that scientists determined the Persian Princess to be a fake.

A number of factors raised eyebrows over the artifact’s authenticity. Linguists saw syntactical issues with the cuneiform inscribed on the sarcophagus, arguing the dialect was much more recent than the claimed 600 BCE date. Carbon dating determined the reed mat on which the body rested was no more than fifty years old. In 2001, the so-called Persian Princess was officially announced as a fraud.

If the remains were not of an ancient Persian princess, whose were they? Officials conducted an autopsy on the body in the sarcophagus and identified the body as that of a middle-aged woman who had suffered from a broken spine, although it was not clear whether it was her cause of death. However, it was clear that her organs had been removed and the body was chemically mummified to appear much older than it was. How old was it? Far from 2600 years old, examiners determined the time of death as roughly 1996, a mere four years prior to its “discovery.”  These revelations raised the question of whether the woman had been murdered and the Pakistani government opened an investigation into the matter. However, seven years passed with no leads, and the remains of the erstwhile Persian Princess were buried in 2008.


New Article from The Wellspring: Mental Health Implications for LGBTQ+ Youth

Banner for The Wellspring

The following article comes from The Wellspring, our sister site devoted to providing mental health resources related to the LGBTQ+ community:

Trapped in The Closet: Mental Health Implications for LGBTQ+ Youth

By Kierson Romero

“What’s the big deal? Why don’t you just tell people and get it over with?”

These are the words that I heard from a classmate at my undergrad when my best friend was trying to explain the fear he had about coming out to the rest of our school as trans. I felt chills run down my back and an ache in my stomach as I listened to my friend try to calmly explain that coming out wasn’t just a choice about privacy but one about safety and survival. [Read More]


Math can be useful sometimes…

On February 7, 2016, the Mütter Museum celebrated National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day for the first time ever. One of the ways we decorated the building was to create a ribbon on the stair risers up the main staircase. This is not an easy thing to do. Ella, Margaret and Jayne, who are seniors from Friends Select School, with the assistance of Kevin and Ja’Nelle, two of our KJF3 students, created and installed the ribbon. You can see how complicated it is and it took hours to complete, but the end result was very eye-catching. It immediately indicated that something special was happening on this day in the museum.

The designs for the ribbon for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, 2/7/2016

Our volunteers carefully mapped out the dimensions…

Students in the Karabots Junior Fellows Program assembling the ribbon for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, on the College of Physicians steps, 2/7/2016

…then worked together to put their plan for the ribbon into action!

The completed ribbon commemorating National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, 2/6/2016

The end result is amazing.

The event was a huge success with more than 70 people getting tested for HIV. Many more left with greater knowledge of the disease. The ribbon provided the perfect “photo spot” for many people during the day.

Attendees of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day posing in front of the NBHAAD ribbon, 2/6/2016

CPP Observes National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Person holding a poster promoting National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The Sign reads: "Take the Test. Take Control"

This Sunday, February 7, 2016, marks National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a day devoted to raising awareness among the African American community of the impact of HIV and AIDS. The goal is to encourage people to take action through public education, community involvement, testing, and treatment.

In the spirit of the day and our mission to promote public health, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia will be hosting a full day of activities and programs aimed at educating the public about the impact of HIV/AIDS in the African American community and encouraging visitors to the Mütter Museum to get tested. Free AIDS and STD screening will take place at the College all day (provided by Prevention Point Philadelphia, Action AIDS, and Q-Spot), and free admission to the Mütter Museum will be offered to anyone who gets tested. The event will take place from 10 AM to 4 PM.

The College of Physicians of Philadelphia will also be hosting several relevant programs and demonstrations throughout the day. At 1 PM, there will be a formal presentation honoring College of Physicians Fellow Nathan Mossell, whose portrait was recently added to the gallery. At 3 PM Keturah Caesar along with Philadelphia teens will be presenting a performance called “The Situation.” The site will also be holding a day-long exhibition of four panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, a massive quilt devoted to remembering victims of the disease.

For more information about our National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day programming, please consult the Mütter Museum’s page.