Entries - Entry Category: Medicine - Starting with M

Malaria

Malaria is a serious infectious disease caused by a single-celled parasite known as a plasmodium, which is generally spread through mosquito bites. This disease caused incalculable suffering for thousands of Arkansans and other Southerners through the early twentieth century. Symptoms of malaria include high fever, chills, profuse sweating, malaise, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms can appear within a week of initial infection but can vary with the different types of parasites. Complications can include anemia, liver failure, kidney failure, and breathing problems. Patients can suffer relapses years after the initial infection. If untreated, malaria can cause death. Along with pellagra and hookworm, malaria was one of three diseases whose symptoms contributed to the false stereotype of Southerners as …

Malaria Control Projects in Southeast Arkansas

Two malaria control demonstration projects in southeast Arkansas during the Progressive Era showed not only that the disease could be controlled, but also that control was economically feasible. The project in Crossett (Ashley County) targeted mosquito breeding sites, while the one in the Lake Village (Chicot County) area studied protection by mechanical means. Both were noteworthy successes, though local governments often failed to follow up on those successes. Malaria control was a logical extension of hookworm eradication projects sponsored by the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission for the Eradication of Hookworm Disease. In 1915, Dr. Wickliffe Rose, who headed the commission, said that “malaria was responsible for more sickness and death than all other diseases combined.” The disease sapped the vitality of …

Malnutrition

Social, environmental, and political forces have influenced—and often hindered—Arkansans’ access to nutritious food. From outright hunger to nutrient-specific deficiencies like pellagra, malnutrition contributed to stereotypes about “lazy southerners” Through much of the state’s history. The American Mercury’s 1954 description of Arkansas as a land of “malnutrition, mental disability, hookworm, [and] hogs” did little to refute this stereotype. Although nutrition interventions focused heavily on the Delta area by the conclusion of the twentieth century, Arkansas as a whole received the dubious distinction as having the fifth-highest rate of food hardship in the nation of all states in 2012, according to the Food Research and Action Center. Historical BackgroundSome of the earliest evidence of malnutrition in what is now Arkansas can be traced …

Mayfield, Mary Victor (M. V.)

Mary Victor (M. V.) Mayfield was a woman who came to Mena (Polk County) in 1918 and practiced medicine in the guise of a man for seven or eight years. A small, kind, and peaceful citizen, she soon became “the cancer doctor.” She put Mena in the national news for the events of January 23, 1926, when her identity as a woman was revealed by the news media. Little is known about M. V. Mayfield’s early life. She later claimed that her gender deception began in England—her parents needed a son, not a daughter, to “protect property rights,” so they dressed her as a boy and raised her in disguise. Mayfield carried the masquerade into adulthood by smoking a pipe and drinking a …

McAlmont, John Josephus

John Josephus McAlmont was one of the eight founders of the Arkansas Industrial University Medical Department, now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). John McAlmont was born on December 22, 1821, in Hornellsville, New York, the son of Daniel and Samantha Donham McAlmont and the youngest of seven siblings. McAlmont left home at age seventeen, earning money by teaching school. At twenty-one, he entered Geneva Medical College in New York for its one-semester course in medicine; there, he completed a course of lectures in medicine in April 1843. (A course of lectures was all that was required to practice medicine at the time.) McAlmont established his practice in April 1844 in Kendall Creek, Pennsylvania. The community was a …

Medical Arts Building

The sixteen-story Medical Arts Building at 236 Central Avenue in downtown Hot Springs (Garland County) was the tallest building in Arkansas from its completion in 1930 until 1960, when the Tower Building was completed in downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County). (The tallest building in Arkansas currently is the forty-story Metropolitan Tower in Little Rock, which was built in 1986.) The upper floors of the Medical Arts Building are now vacant. The Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas (HPAA) listed it in 2012 as one of the state’s most endangered places. The Medical Arts Building was constructed by general contractor G. C. Gordon Walker with work beginning on December 1, 1929. Investors from Little Rock and New Orleans, Louisiana, purchased the site, …

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is professional misconduct by physicians and surgeons toward a patient. Historically, malpractice falls into two categories: criminal malpractice covers actions contrary to or expressively forbidden by law; civil malpractice, the dominant form in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, refers to injurious treatment of the patient that includes unnecessary suffering or death that is due to professional ignorance, carelessness, a want of proper medical skills, and a disregard for established rules and practices. More rarely, malpractice can cover lawyers and other professionals. Medical malpractice suits emerged in the nineteenth century and came about only after the practice of medicine became informed by a scientific revolution that involved such discoveries as sepsis, immunization, and the germ theory. Suits were rare …

Mental Health

Prior to the opening of the Arkansas Lunatic Asylum (now the Arkansas State Hospital) in 1883, mentally ill Arkansans were cared for by their families or housed in jails, prisons, or poor farms. Since 1883, the Arkansas State Hospital (ASH) has been responsible for the treatment of thousands of Arkansans with a wide range of psychiatric diagnoses such as depression and schizophrenia. In the 1950s, the hospital’s census peaked at 5,086 patients. Since that time, the deinstitutionalization movement and advances in psychotropic medications have resulted in dramatically lower inpatient numbers. The current (as of 2010) ASH capacity of 234 beds represents a deinstitutionalization rate of 97.5% for the state. Most patients are admitted through a screening process conducted by the …

Mental Health Council of Arkansas

The Mental Health Council of Arkansas (MHCA) is a nonprofit organization that has been working to improve the overall health and well-being of citizens in Arkansas since 1972. It was originally founded under the Federal Community Mental Health Construction Grant. The MHCA is composed of fifty psychiatrists and approximately 2,000 healthcare professionals and is governed by a board of directors. Its members provide comprehensive mental health services to Arkansans through the fourteen community mental health centers in Arkansas. The centers provide a variety of mental health services, such as individual and group psychotherapy and medication management; psychological, personality, forensic, and intellectual evaluations; emergency/crisis treatment; consultation/education programs; and partial hospitalization programs. The MHCA is a member of the National Council for …

Mickel, Lillian Estes Eichenberger

Lillian Estes Eichenberger Mickel pioneered women’s roles in multiple fields. She served as a professional photographer, founded a nursing home, established a unique facility for handicapped children, was an accomplished portrait painter, and served as Johnson County’s historian. Lillian Eichenberger was born in Clarksville (Johnson County) on June 14, 1909, to Lafayette Eichenberger and Martha Louisa Black Eichenberger. She had seven siblings. Her father, a house painter, died in 1912. Her mother was an extremely talented seamstress. At the age of twelve, Eichenberger went to work in M. E. Anderson’s photography studio in order to give financial help to her widowed mother. She learned the photography business, becoming the first woman photographer in the state to make and distribute colored …

Midwives

Midwives have filled a clear, important role in Arkansas history by caring for populations of women who were medically underserved. Their role was almost supplanted by physicians in the early twentieth century, but they remain a viable option for women seeking an alternative model of birth care. Midwives in the hill country of Arkansas were well-respected members of the community who performed their duties as a service to their neighbors. Most were older women whose own children were grown and who had learned their trade from another midwife. They carried a midwife’s book and bag with them to assist during complicated deliveries when no doctor was available. Midwives were very knowledgeable on the subject of childbirth and the many uses …

Morris, John William

John William Morris was a long-time physician in Woodruff County who practiced medicine until the age of 101. Beginning in 1950, the Arkansas Medical Association (AMA) recognized Morris as the oldest practicing physician in Arkansas. In 1973, the AMA and “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” recognized him as the oldest full-time practicing physician in the United States. J. W. Morris was born on February 6, 1875 at Honey Hill (White County) to George Louis and Sarah Seawell Morris. He had ten siblings. Morris began his practice near McCrory (Woodruff County) on April 21, 1900. He married Amma Gray Burkett on December 19, 1901, and they had two children. Morris estimated that he delivered more than 7,000 babies during his career. …