Portrait of a Fellow: Chevalier Jackson

Greetings and salutations, fellow historico-medico aficionados. Today’s installment is the second in a series we are calling “Portrait of a Fellow,” where we introduce you to notable medical professionals who make up our esteemed body of Fellows of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. The first article in this series highlighted noted physician and civil rights activist Nathan Francis Mossell. Today, we welcome another guest author to make you better acquainted with another of our past Fellows. I turn the floor over to Xavier Gavin, one of our dedicated team of Mütter Museum docents and an alum of the Karabots Junior Fellows Program. He is here to talk about noted otolaryngologist Chevalier Jackson. 

Take it away, Xavier!

The Chevalier Jackson collection is a large assortment of objects that were once swallowed by people accidentally. The collection has over 2000 objects, most of which are on display inside of the staircase in drawers on the lower level in the Mütter Museum. The objects range from pins, to buttons, to animal bones, to Cracker Jack figures, and so on.

Swallowed Objects from the Chevalier Jackson Collection, College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Swallowed Objects from the Chevalier Jackson Collection, College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Chevalier Jackson was born in Pittsburgh in 1865. Jackson’s childhood was full of trouble and trauma. He was bullied in school continuously because of his sensitive demeanor and small stature; once, bullies threw him into an abandoned mine. However, as a child, he always seemed to be drawn to statistics and recording information. When he became interested in skating, he recorded his falls and casualties for reference, which may have helped lead to his interest in records and the like for a future career. Later he worked with pipes and plumbing, inspiring his future endeavors in developing medical tools.

Jackson attended Western University of Pennsylvania, now known as the University of Pittsburgh. While in college, Jackson dabbled in art, specifically that of decorating glasses and china. This side work helped him support his family, pay for his medical school, and helped him cultivate his illustrating skills, which he later put to use when illustrating his techniques in bronchoscopy, helping further his goal of educating others in the field.


Jackson earned public recognition through his work as an otolaryngologist, more commonly known as an ear nose and throat specialist. This field was still relatively new in the late 1800s and the early 1900s, the time when Jackson was practicing. It was during this period that he started collecting swallowed objects he extracted from patients. Jackson created and tended to this collection in order to help educate doctors on the field and to let them know more about what to expect in the field. Jackson never charged a patient any money for extracting an object. All he asked was that he could keep the object for his records. In 1924, Jackson donated his collection of swallowed objects and records to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Safety pins are probably the most abundant type of object in the collection. It was likely such a commonly swallowed object because seamstresses would hold pins in their mouths, or parents would hold them in their mouths while changing a baby’s diaper, or babies removed them from their diapers. Jackson was said to be even good enough at this craft of removing objects to push a pin down into the stomach where there’s more room, close it, and then safely extract it without puncturing anything vital.

X-ray showing safety pin and button in a 10-day-old infant’s airway, 1934, Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

X-ray showing safety pin and button in a 10-day-old infant’s airway, 1934, Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Jackson’s accomplishments earned him the nickname the “father of laryngoscopy.” In addition to his swallowed objects collection, Jackson invented a special tool called a laryngoscope. Jackson’s laryngoscope included a light he used to see into a patient’s throat as well as a long pair of tweezers with clamps on the end to grab the object. Jackson also had a doll named Michelle made so he could practice the procedure on something human-like and teach others his methods for extracting objects swallowed by children.

Chevalier Jackson demonstrating Michelle the Choking Doll, Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Chevalier Jackson demonstrating Michelle the Choking Doll, Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Jackson is also credited with campaigning for proper labeling and classification of anything containing poison. In all of the procedures of removing swallowed objects he endured, Jackson noticed various burns and injuries due to children consuming lye and other poisonous substances. Jackson realized this was a common problem due to the lack of essential warnings on packages or any federal regulation of hazardous substances. Jackson held countless meetings, presentations, and lectures, and his efforts eventually led to the creation of the Federal Caustic Poison Act  in 1925.

Chevalier Jackson has many achievements to his name. Whether people realize it or not, his work is extremely vital to the safety of people of all ages and the advancement of this particular field in medicine. His work goes much further than just what you see in those drawers.

Thanks for the article, Xavier! If you’d like to see the Chevalier Jackson collection for yourself, it is on display (along with lots of other interesting items from the history of medicine) here at the Mütter Museum!


CPP Curiosities: Ted Williams and Cryogenics

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Greetings, medico-historico aficionados, and welcome to the latest installment of CPP Curiosities, our semi-regular foray into weird and interesting chapters in medical history. Past articles have addressed treating syphilis by infecting patients with malaria, a fake Persian mummy who may have been a real murder victim, and graverobbing on top of graverobbing.

The leaves are changing, people are gearing up for Halloween and the subsequent two-month mad dash to the holiday season (only 75 more shopping days until Christmas, everyone!). We are in the midst of an annual American tradition: Major League Baseball’s postseason. The road to the World Series is heating up, and even though our hometown Philadelphia Phillies have long since been eliminated from playoff contention (sometime around the July All-Star break if my memory serves) there are many ball fans of more successful teams who are excited. In the spirit of the postseason, I thought we’d dive into a topic that marries both baseball and weird medical history. With that in mind, read on to learn about possible life after death, the science (or lack thereof) of human preservation, and one of the greatest hitters in baseball history.


Some of you may have heard of cryogenics. Also known as cryonics, cryogenesis, or cryopreservation, it is the practice of having all or part of a person’s body stored at sub-zero temperatures. The ultimate goal, in theory, is they can eventually be thawed and revived. Its medical applications generally involve freezing a patient with an incurable disease or traumatic injury in the hopes that future medical/scientific advances can heal them or that technology advances enough to allow human consciousness to be transferred from the body to another vessel (i.e. preserved and stored electronically). Conceptually, the idea of placing a person in suspended animation, by freezing or otherwise, has a long history in fiction, from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet to Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, to Philip K. Dick’s novel Ubik to Matt Groening’s Futurama. However, modern attempts to bring the concept off the page and screen date and into the real world back to the 1950s. While academic articles circulated in the 1940s and 1950s, the first work on the subject directed at a mass audience was Robert Ettinger’s 1964 book The Prospect of Immortality, a treatise on the scientific feasibility of human cryopreservation. His work led to public interest in the practice and several entrepreneurial enterprises. The first attempt to preserve a body via freezing occurred in April 1966, when Cryocare Corporation froze a recently-deceased elderly woman from California. The following year, on January 12, 1967, technicians froze deceased psychology professor James Bedford (cryonics enthusiasts celebrate January 12 as “Bedford Day”).

As described in a pro-cryonics journal, advocates for the scientific feasibility of cryonics cite four principles: (1) metabolic function is arrested in bodies preserved under sufficiently low temperatures, thus allowing them to be effectively preserved indefinitely; (2) the use of specialized chemicals can reduce or prevent the risk of damage to the body when frozen; (3) biological death, as opposed to legal death, is a process not an event; and (4) future scientific/technical methods could potentially allow cryogenically preserved people to be revived.

In the case of modern cryopreservation, after physicians establish time-of-death, representatives from a cryopreservation group or one of its subsidiaries preserve the body for transit to a cryonics facility. The body is placed in an ice water bath and attached to devices designed to maintain blood flow and respiration (to minimize deterioration) until the body reaches its destination. When it arrives, blood is replaced with a specialized solution designed to protect the body from damage while freezing. If only the patient’s head is being preserved (described in the business as neurocryopreservation or simply “neuro”), technicians remove it from the body. The body or head is then placed into a storage container called a “dewar” and frozen with liquid nitrogen, remaining in a frozen state until science catches up with science fiction (More on the procedure here).

Photo of a dewar, a cryogenic container for storing bodies under below-zero temperatures

A Dewar used in cryopreservation
Photo courtesy of Alcor Life Extension Foundation

It may not surprise you to know there are some key challenges to cryopreservation. For one thing, its efficacy is difficult to test. There’s currently no way to revive a cryopreserved patient and it’s difficult (and illegal) to subject human test subjects to a procedure that effectively has a 100% fatality rate. A patient cannot legally be preserved until after they’re dead. Alcor Life Extension Foundation, one of the more prominent cryonics services, concedes cryopreservation on a living subject is legally considered murder or suicide depending on who initiates it. This leaves cryotechnicians with the trouble of curing death in addition to whatever ailment brought about the patient’s end. As a result, cryonics leaves a lot of the work up to future scientists to help finish the job for them. Failure rates and deterioration of specimens are also issues. Modern cryonics facilities claim to make every effort to minimize the amount of deterioration due to extreme temperatures; however, there is a risk. According to a report from Alcor, with the exception of Bedford, every other cryonics patient preserved before 1974 eventually suffered some manner of failure. The general scientific consensus is, while it’s certainly possible to preserve a body under extremely low temperatures for a long period of time, the odds of revival are so low as to invalidate the endeavor. Advocates, meanwhile, retort that even an astronomically small chance of transcending death is better than no chance at all.

An image from the animated series Futurama. Shows a sign reading "Applied Cryogenics: No Power Failures Since 1997 [the seven in 1997 is taped over another number]"

Image Source: 20th Century Fox. Used under fair use.

Another challenge for cryonics enthusiasts: the process is extremely expensive. While companies like Alcor assure that much of the cost can be covered through life insurance, aspiring patients need to be prepared pay between $80,000 and $220,000 (depending on whether they opt for “neuro” or “whole body” plus additional fees) upon the event of their death. According to Alcor, the cost covers the initial procedure, general storage and maintenance as well as a trust patients can access after their reanimation. (A small price to pay for immortality?)

The Strange Case of Ted Williams

Often when one brings up the subject, as was my experience, people often mention Walt Disney. This refers to a persistent (and discredited) myth that the founder of the now-monolithic company responsible for most of our youthful amusement had himself cryogenically frozen following his death in 1966. However, perhaps the most famous person who was actually cryogenically frozen was legendary baseball player Ted Williams.

Theodore Samuel “Ted” Williams (1908-2002) was a longtime outfielder for the Boston Red Sox. During his nineteen-year career, 1939 to 1960 with a brief hiatus in the 1940s to serve in World War II, he was a two-time American League (AL) MVP (Most Valuable Player), a six-time AL batting champion (highest batting average in the league for the season), and an AL All-Star in every season he played. When he retired in 1960, he ranked in the top ten all time in career home runs, batting average, slugging percentage, and RBI (runs batted in). Williams still holds the record for the highest on-base percentage in major league history (full stats). He was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1966, and he ranks among one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

Photograph of Ted Williams from 1939

Ted Williams in 1939 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Ted Williams died of congestive heart failure on July 5, 2002. Following his death, representatives from Alcor shipped Williams’ body from Florida to their facilities in Scottsdale, AZ. There, technicians separated his head from his body, placing the head and torso in separate Dewars.

His passing and subsequent preservation triggered a bitter legal battle among Williams’ three children over the ultimate fate of his remains. His oldest daughter, Bobby-Joe Ferrell along with several other relatives and family friends, argued Ted Williams’ final wishes were to be cremated. However John Henry and Claudia Williams, his son and youngest daughter, respectively, argued Williams had had a change of heart before his death, opting instead for cryopreservation. John Henry developed an interest in cryonics in the late nineties and reached an agreement with Alcor to have his remains along with his father and sisters’ be preserved and stored at Alcor following their deaths. A legal battle ensued: John Henry asserted his power of attorney over his fathers’ affairs, while Bobby-Joe accused John Henry and Claudia of falsifying a consent form from their father. Eventually, Bobby-Joe allowed her brother and sister to keep Williams frozen on the condition that they not attempt to sell her father’s DNA (perhaps so he could be cloned and attempt to re-break his old hitting records). She also agreed to not publicly discuss Williams’ cryopreservation. In exchange, John-Henry and Claudia agreed to pay Bobby-Joe her share of her inheritance.

There was no shortage of press attention for the salacious details of Williams’ afterlife. It didn’t take long for accounts to circulate that Alcor was mishandling Williams remains. In July 2002, reports came out that his head had to be refrozen after cracks began to appear. In 2009, Larry Johnson, Alcor’s former chief operating officer, published a tell-all book about the company’s most famous tenant; among the more shocking accusations he levied against Alcor was that technicians reportedly hit Williams’s head multiple times with a wrench to jar it loose from a pedestal made out of a tuna can. (It hasn’t been the only scandal surrounding the company. In 1988 rumors circulated former Alcor executive Saul Kent poisoned his mother before cryopreserving her head). Moreover, a series of misfortunes brought his cryogenically-frozen future into jeopardy. An August 2003 article in Sports Illustrated reported John Henry still owed Alcor $110,000; according to Johnson, Alcor executives joked they would send Williams’s thawed body back to his son in a cardboard box.

It isn’t clear how matters were resolved between John Henry and Alcor; when John Henry died of leukemia in 2004, his remains were brought to Alcor for cryopreservation and his father remains there in frozen stasis to this day.

If this grisly story hasn’t satiated your need for accounts of preservation (or lack thereof) of notable figures, you can check out my previous article on the preservation of Vladimir Lenin’s body.

Until next time, catch you on the strange side!

Portrait of a Fellow: Nathan Francis Mossell

Greetings, internet aficionados of medical history. Today, we are happy to welcome another guest author to the MütterEDU blog. Mütter Museum docent Izza Choudhry is here to offer a profile of a notable Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia: Nathan Francis Mossell. Dr. Mossell was an accomplished physician and civil rights advocate whose portrait appears outside Ashhurst Hall on the second floor of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Izza is here to offer insights into his life.

The floor is yours, Izza!

College of Physicians staff pose in front of the portrait of Dr. Nathan Francis Mossell

Nathan Francis Mossell (1856-1946) was the first African American to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He established the Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital and Training School, which was the first African American hospital in Philadelphia. In addition to being the first African American member of the Philadelphia County Medical Society, Mossell was the co-founder of the Philadelphia Academy of Medicine and Allied Sciences, an organization for African Americans in medicine, and the National Medical Association.

Nathan Francis Mossell was born on July 27, 1856, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Both of Mossell’s parents, Eliza Bowers and Aaron Albert Mossell, were children of freed slaves. Growing up hearing stories of slavery truly impacted Mossell’s perception of life. In his autobiography, he stated that his mother’s stories of the unjust discrimination that their family faced motivated him to succeed, “Mother inspired us toward high aspirations by stories of how our grandparents overcame obstacles.”

One of the first memories Mossell describes in his autobiography is how many times his mother would tell the story of how her father was freed as as young man. His grandfather was deemed useless by his master because of how viciously he resisted his enslavement. Mossell’s grandfather told his master that he would not work for him because he did not believe slavery was justifiable. Mossell’s grandfather’s persistent resistance towards his master caused his master to give up any attempts of controlling him, and he simply freed him. After gaining his freedom, he settled down in Baltimore, Maryland.

Mossell’s paternal grandfather, initially transported to the United States from the West African Coast, bought his and his wife’s freedom from his master. They settled in Baltimore, where Mossell’s father was born.

When Mossell’s mother was a child, she and her family, along with many other free African Americans, were deported from Baltimore to Trinidad. After they returned to Baltimore, she met Mossell’s father. Mossell’s father worked as a brickmaker, which helped him earn enough money to buy a house. After the birth of their third child, the couple decided to move to Canada, since free African Americans were prohibited from receiving an education in Maryland, and they wanted to provide their children with better opportunities.

During the Civil War, Mossell and his family moved to Lockport, New York, where Mossell spent the remainder of his childhood. In Lockport, Mossell’s father maintained his brickmaking business. At the time, Mossell and his five siblings were the only African American children attending public schools in Lockport.

In the late 1860s, brickyard revenues began to decline, and the Mossells were only able to send their oldest son to college. Mossell had worked at the brickyard since he was nine years old and only attended school sporadically. At fourteen years old, after the death of his second-oldest brother, he started working at the brickyard full-time in order to help his father.

When Mossell was fifteen, his family was finally able to fund his education. In 1871, he enrolled in Lincoln University’s high school preparatory program, where he completed the four-year curriculum in only three years. In 1879, he graduated from Lincoln University with a Bachelor of Arts degree with second honors in his graduating class. He was also awarded the Bradley Medal in natural science.

Nathan Francis Mossell in 1882. Image Source: University of Pennsylvania Archives

Nathan Francis Mossell in 1882. Image Source: University of Pennsylvania Archives

After completing his undergraduate studies, Mossell enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, where became the the most prominent of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School’s first African American students, taking second honors in his graduating class.
During his medical career, Mossell noticed the continuing prevalence of racism and discrimination towards African Americans, especially the prejudice in most hospitals towards African American medical graduates. Due to this, Mossell completed an internship at St. Thomas and Queens College hospitals in London, England. He worked at St. Thomas Hospital for five years before returning to Philadelphia.

After his return to the United States, Mossell became the first African American physician elected to the Philadelphia County Medical Society. For over a decade, he practiced in predominantly white Philadelphia hospitals. In 1895 he established the Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital, the second African American hospital in the United States, to both provide care for the African American community in Philadelphia and to provide young African American physicians and nurses with the opportunity to gain experience working in hospitals. There, he worked as the chief of staff and medical director, until his retirement in 1933. He continued to privately practice medicine until his death in 1946.

In addition to a physician, Mossell was a strong political activist, especially for civil rights. During the 1880s and 1890s, Mossell was one of the first to encourage the hiring of African American professors at Lincoln University. He also worked with state representative Arthur Faucett to pass a bill banning the exclusion of African Americans from university housing at the University of Pennsylvania. Mossell was a founding member of the Niagara Movement, an organization established by W.E.B. du Bois in 1905 to publicly oppose the policies of Booker T. Washington. In 1910, Mossell became a founding member of the Philadelphia’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Two years after Mossell’s death, Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital merged with Mercy Hospital, another African American hospital, to create Mercy Douglass Hospital. This facility continued to care for the African American community until its closure in 1973.

Thanks, Izza, for your insights into Dr. Mossell. If you are interested in learning more from our dedicated docents and volunteers, be sure to check out former docent Sarah Henry’s examination of eye color or a recent article from one of our Karabots Junior Fellows on NBA star Kyrie Irving’s knee injury. See you next time!



CPP Curiosities: Kyrie Irving’s Knee Injury

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Welcome to the third and final installment in a series of articles written by students in the Karabots Junior Fellows Program. Previous articles by our students covered nineteenth century mental health and the 1918 influenza pandemic. Today, we’re shifting away from medical history to some current affairs.

On April 8, 2018, the Boston Celtics announced star point guard Kyrie Irving would miss the remainder of the 2018 NBA season following a surgery on his surgically repaired knee. The loss of Irving, the nature of his injury, and his subsequent recovery were highly-publicized topics in the world of sports punditry, and today we’re offering our own hot take. Allow me to introduce Al Ly. Al is a student in the Karabots Program, who is combining his interest in sports medicine with his love of basketball to share his thoughts on Irving’s injury.

Al, the floor is yours!

Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving goes for a layup against a defender.

Kyrie Irving in 2015 Photo Credit: Erik Drost (Flickr Commons)

During the 2015 NBA Finals, Kyrie Irving, point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers, fractured his left knee. He underwent a surgical procedure where doctors implanted two screws to keep his kneecap in place. About 2 ½ years later, on March 24, 2018, Irving, traded to the Boston Celtics during free agency, had to undergo additional surgery. Doctors went to remove the tension wire in his left knee, but they noticed that there was an infection. The infection came from the screws he had implanted after the injury in 2015.

The knee is the largest joint in your body. It is made up of bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. The three bones that form the knee joint are the femur, tibia, and patella. Tendons connect the knee bones to the leg muscles that move the knee joint. Three main ligaments provide stability to the knee. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) prevents the femur from sliding backwards to the tibia. The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) prevents the femur from sliding forward to the tibia. The lateral collateral ligaments (LCL) prevents the femur from sliding side to side.

Anatomy of the knee, identifying the major parts of the knee

Anatomy of the Knee
Image Source: Bruce Blausen (Wikimedia Commons)

Your knee works like a door hinge. When you open and close a door hinge, it uses a threaded bolt secured by two nuts at the top and bottom of the hinge called acorn nuts. There is also a piece called a sleeve that protects the threaded bolt. Door plates are also part of the hinge with one connected to the door and the other to the wall. With a human knee, the threaded bolt is your knee and the sleeve is the muscle around the knee. The muscle around your knee is patella ligament and your quadriceps femoris tendon. The door plates are your bones that are around the knee, so every time you open or close a door, it’s like bending your knee. The knee is one of the easiest joints to receive an injury, especially for professional athletes who are running and jumping, and, in some sports, making full contact, on a regular basis.

When a person receives an injury like the one Irving suffered in 2015, doctors support the knee using tension wires and screws; Tension wires hold broken bones in position. When a person receives them, it can cause pain and stiffness and a sense the knee is not the same as it was before the injury. People with knee injuries go through physical therapy to regain movement and can take medication for the pain. Keeping the leg elevated will also reduce pain. In the case of Kyrie Irving, doctors discovered the wires in the Irving’s knee were causing him pain. This can happen if the wires are being knocked around, and he had been knocking them around on the court for 2 ½ years while diving for loose balls, colliding with other players, and falling to the ground.

Doctors successfully removed the two screws that had infected Irving’s knee. His season was over; however, his doctors cleared him to be healthy by training camp next season. It could have been much worse due to the infection. Osteomyelitis is an inflammation of the bone or bone marrow due to an infection caused by bacteria, mycobacteria, or fungi. It affects roughly one out of every 5,000 people. There are multiple ways to treat osteomyelitis, including antibiotics and a procedure where doctors remove unhealthy tissue. During treatment, doctors perform blood tests to monitor for signs of infection and to ensure that the treatment is effective, with follow-up visits roughly every two weeks. It usually takes 6 weeks to recover.

The areas of dead bone are hard to treat because it’s difficult for the body’s white blood cells to fight off the infection. Without adequate blood supply, some parts of the bone may die. According to Dr. Derek Ochiai, orthopedic surgeon at Nirschl Orthopedic Center in Arlington, VA, “We don’t know everything obviously, but when you have an infection with hardware, that has the potential to cede the bone. So the infection goes to the bone, which is called osteomyelitis. That can be really difficult to treat.” Left untreated, the infection could have led to swelling, fever, and life-threatening sepsis, a condition where harmful bacteria or toxins infect the bloodstream. It can also lead to fractures in the infected bone, stunted growth (in children), and gangrene. Gangrene is a condition that occurs when body tissue dies. It’s caused by loss of blood supply due to an underlying illness, injury, or infection. The most commonly affected areas are fingers, toes, and limbs. Gangrene can also occur inside your body and it damages your muscles and organs.

Depictions of gangrene's progress from an 1835 book Source: Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Depictions of gangrene’s progress from an 1835 book Source: Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Irving’s surgery attracted a lot of attention from basketball fans and the sports press. In his first public comments following the announcement of Irving’s surgery Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said of Irving, “He’s really disappointed…Obviously, after the initial surgery, the thought was he’d be back in three to six weeks. We thought it would be closer to three than six, the way he was initially progressing. Just one of those things out of his control. But he’s bummed as you can imagine.” The Celtics thought he’d would be back in about a month, but they realized he had a bone infection in his left knee so it took longer than expected. Celtics fans were devastated to hear he would miss the rest of the 2017-2018 season, although the Celtics did manage to reach the Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers (Irving’s former team).

Thanks, Al. Great job! If you are interested in learning more about medical history from our students, check out the links at the top of the article. Click here to learn more about the different youth programs the College of Physicians of Philadelphia has to offer.

As always, catch you on the strange side!


Maloney, Jack. “Kyrie Irving’s knee injury and second story, explained by an orthopedic surgeon.” CBS Sports (April 10, 2018).

Weiss, Jared. “Brad Stevens explains Kyrie Irving bacterial infection knee surgery.” CelticsWire (April 6, 2018).

“What is Osteomyelitis?” Summit Medical Group.  

Zillgitt, Jeff. “Celtics star Kyrie Irving will have another knee surgery and miss the rest of the season.” USA Today (April 5, 2018).


CPP Curiosities: Influenza Virus

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Greetings and salutations, fellow historico-medico afficionados, and welcome to another installment of CPP Curiosities, our semi-regular segment on the unusual and interesting aspects of medical history. Today’s issue is the second in a three-part series of guest articles written by students in the Karabots Junior Fellows Program. The KJF Program is a three-year after-school and summer internship for Philadelphia high school students from underserved communities who have an interest in careers in healthcare and medicine. These two wrote these articles as part of a two-week summer internship wherein they worked closely with staff in the Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and conducted original research on a topic of their choice. This time around, Karabots Junior Fellow Cliford Louis is here to inform you about influenza.

The floor is yours, Clif!

Figure 1. “Preparing to Bury City’s Influenza Victims,” Scrapbook of newspaper clippings concerning the influenza epidemic in Philadelphia, 1918-1919.  Call no. Z10d 7.  Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

On March 11, 1918 at Fort Riley, Kansas,  a soldier reported a fever before breakfast and was later followed by other soldiers with the same complaints. By the end of that week, 500 soldiers were ill and being hospitalized. They were early victims of the infamous Spanish flu. An estimated  675,000 Americans died of influenza during the epidemic, more than all of the wars this century combined, and the disease killed millions worldwide during World War I. At first, scientists considered it a bacterial infection. Nowadays, scientists can confidently describe flu as a virus and explain what it does to the human body once they contain the strain of this virus. 

What is the flu …?

“The influenza virus is a member of the family [Orthomyxoviridae]” (Dehner 23), meaning that the flu is a group of RNA virus. There are three types of influenza: A, B, and C.

  • Type C is considered unimportant because it rarely causes infection.

  • Type B is mildly infectious, but it can cause epidemics.

  • Type A causes the greater threat to humanity; it attacks the respiratory system, and it is highly contagious. 

Figure 2”influenza virus,” Kathmandu Tribune, 12 October 2017. https://kathmandutribune.com/17-people-die-influenza-virus/

The influenza virus is a single stranded RNA virus and normally attacks the epithelial cell. Once the virus reaches the cell, it seizes it to develop new copies of the virus.

“Ultimately the influenza virus destroys any infected cell by destroying the outer layer. The daughter cells that infect adjoining epithelial cells quickly produce many millions of copies of the virus” (Dehner 24). 

This describes the effect of the virus inside of an infected person, and it shows why this epidemic was so deadly. Moreover, the explosive spread and large impact of the virus proves its immense dominance during the time of war. An infected person can transmit the virus to another person through the air by a cough or sneeze.


Figure 2 “Red Cross Ambulance Demonstration – Washington DC,” 1918 Historical Image Gallery from the Center For Disease Control And Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918

Animals such as pigs, waterfowl, seals, horses and whales are considered sources containing the virus; they can catch and transmit the influenza virus to humans.

“Strategies of containment and eradication are impractical because the virus has unquantifiable opportunities for jumping from its natural host to other species, including humans” (Dehner 27).

“To be effective, any response to a pandemic strain must be quick enough to stay ahead of the rapidly transmissible influenza virus, consideration even more important in today’s increasingly interconnected world” (Dehner 196).

Figure 4. Image from “Is the flu shot safe during pregnancy,” The Bump. https://www.thebump.com/a/flu-shot-when-pregnanti


Even with current medicine and increasingly powerful technologies, the virus cannot be eliminated in the world; therefore, the CDC recommends yearly flu vaccines for everyone from six months old and older. Flu season is an important time in the world; the recommendation from doctors, nurses and other medical stuff to receive the flu shot is very vital in society. These vaccines creates antibodies, which helps to prevent viruses including the influenza. ‘Influenza pandemics are relatively rare events.’

 Previous history of influenza epidemics around the world over the past century can really help scientists finding a unique vital antidote to eradicate the flu. A lot has been learned about the influenza virus, but there is still plenty to be known and discovered to reach the stage of elimination for the virus.


Dehner, George. Influenza A Century of Science and Public Health Response. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh  Press, 2012.

Thanks, Clif! Be sure to check back for our final guest article. Until next time, catch you on the strange side!

CPP Curiosities: Mental Health and “Moral Treatment”

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Greetings and salutations, fellow historico-medico afficionados, and welcome to another installment of CPP Curiosities, our semi-regular segment on the unusual and interesting aspects of medical history. Past articles have covered a variety of topics, from historic treatments for syphilis to the preservation of Lenin’s remains to the Greek and Roman god of medicine.

Today’s issue is the first in a three-part series of guest articles written by students in the Karabots Junior Fellows Program. The KJF Program is a three-year after-school and summer internship for Philadelphia high school students from underserved communities who have an interest in careers in healthcare and medicine. These two wrote these articles as part of a two-week summer internship wherein they worked closely with staff in the Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and conducted original research on a topic of their choice. First up is Yazmeen Robinson, who chose to research “moral treatment,” a 19th century mental health practice.

Take it away, Yazmeen!  –KI

Seven female patients in the "Insane Department" at Philadelphia General Hospital sit around a small table.

“Patients in insane department,” Philadelphia General Hospital Photograph Collection, Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, box 2, photo no. 7

Psychiatric hospitals were built for those who were suffering from mental illness and could somehow recover from it. During the nineteenth-century in the United States, there were new European ideas about the treatment of people who were mentally ill. These ideas were called “moral treatment” which promised treatment for those with mental illness in an asylum. During the 19th century, they thought that by treating the patients more like children rather than an animal, patients would have a better chance at recovering. Treating the patients as individuals and helping them to gain control of themselves was very important. Moral treatment at the asylum was connected with occupational therapy, religion, and their community. Moral treatment usually didn’t include traditional treatments like physical restraints.

The moral treatment of the insane refused to associate with the disruptive behavior of mentally ill individuals. Some people with mental illness were too violent or disruptive to stay at their homes or in their communities. Some people with mental illness received treatment at home other than a hospital.

Friends Asylum was established by Philadelphia’s Quaker community in 1814, which was the first institute designed to perform the full program of moral treatment. The Friends Asylum wasn’t run by physicians. It was run by lay staff, which made it unique. Private hospitals were more available to wealthier families to care for their mentally ill family member.

At Taunton Hospital in Massachusetts, there was a lower story that was built and designed for patients that were uncontrollable or considered “filthy.” The Taunton Lunatic Asylum Casebook (1854-1868) has 240 entries with patients’ names, mental states, family histories, and financial status. These records contained information about patients’ profession, lineage, time in America, ships sailed on, and whether their taxes had been paid.

Page from Taunton Lunatic Asylum casebook (1854 - 1868), MSS 6/011, Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Page from Taunton Lunatic Asylum casebook (1854 – 1868), MSS 6/011, Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Here are two patient records that I found interesting:

pg. 101:

Weigandt, Louis, 41, admitted April 3,1860, Boston
Hopeless and quiet
German in Boston, 12 years, wife lives at 70 Crystal Palace, Luicida St.
Mr. Nash reports Weigandt born in Germany, landed in New York how long ago unknown. Parents never in U.S.; Weigandt had lived mostly in Boston.
Wife Jane born in Marblehead, no doubt has a set[?] there
Is cousins with cashier of Marblehead Bank
Mr. Locke says wife [?] care of [?] Crystal Palace

pg. 96:

Copeland, John, 29, admitted Feburary 24, 1860 North Bedford
Doubtful and troublesome; now has been very [?]; fugitive slave; can go as far as health is concerned
Mr. Locke says [Copeland] born in Newburn, North Carolina
Feb 23rd 1863: He [Copeland] says does not know where he was born first found himself in Newburn. Then to Duplin County, there 4 years, came to Philadelphia in 1855 from Wilmington, thence to New York and Albany. 2 years in Albany, then to Wilton County, 9 months there, then to North Bedford, 2 months there. Send to Philadelphia.

Today there are only a few psychiatric hospitals that exist. Psychiatric care is now delivered through other services, such as crisis service. Doctors today gives patients psychiatric medications, such as, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and mood-stabilizing medications, which help treat, but do not completely cure, mental illness. Depending on how severe the patient’s mental illness is, the treatment that will be given could be a mixed treatment. Today there is a treatment team that helps with a patient’s unique recovery plan, which includes educational programs, support groups, and counseling.

Thanks, Yazmeen! Be sure to check back, dear reader, for our second installment soon. Until next time. Catch you on the strange side!

Philly Teens Show Their Support for Teen Health

Teens pose on the marble steps of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia during a March 23, 2018, Teen Health Week panel on substance use and abuse

Did you know that opioid overdoses claim 116 lives every day? Or that at least 25% of teens in the US admit to using at least one form of tobacco? Or that 60% of teens admit to experimenting with alcohol? Last Friday, a group of Philadelphia teens assembled at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia to learn about substance use and abuse.

The event was part of the College’s involvement in Teen Health Week, a global initiative to raise awareness of the unique health issues facing teens today. Teen Health Week was the brainchild of College of Physicians Fellow Dr. Laura Offutt, in conjunction with the Center for Education of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. What started in 2016 as a statewide initiative to raise awareness among Pennsylvania teens has rapidly expanded into a global program, with participating events and activities in nearly forty countries on every continent except Antarctica.

World map with green marks to indicate places where THW 2018 events are taking place

Teens gathered in the Thomson gallery to meet with a panel of healthcare and public health experts to discuss topics related to substance use. Priya Mammen, MD, MPH, a Director of Public Health Programs, Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, and a Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia shared her experience as an ER physician, answering questions related to a variety of emergency cases, including trauma and drug overdoses. Elvis Rosado, Education and Community Outreach Coordinator from Prevention Point Philadelphia, explained the devastating cycle of addiction in relation to the opioid epidemic. Finally,  representatives from Get Healthy Philly (the City of Philadelphia’s anti-tobacco initiative) discussed tobacco use in teens and the ways tobacco companies attempt to directly target teens as new tobacco customers.

Students in attendance also got the chance to show off their knowledge of teen health topics. Teams of teens took part in a teen health-themed quiz game, competing to answer questions related to mental health, stress, self-care, and substance use. All of our contestants came away with small prize packets of THW merchandise. The event also hosted a raffle for THW-themed yoga mats and a photo booth.

Teens dressed in lime green t-shirts pose together for a photograph during a March 23, 2018, Teen Health Week panel on substance use and abuse

Overall, we were excited by the outpouring of support from Philadelphia teens, who came out, wore lime green, asked great questions, and expressed their passion for taking control of their personal health. In a time of increased teen activism, it was heartening to behold.

If you want to learn more about Teen Health Week, be sure to check out our official homepage or check out the hashtag #2018teenhealth on Twitter and Instagram.