Entries - Entry Category: Medicine

Teen Pregnancy

Emerging as a social problem in the United States during the late 1960s and early 1970s, teenage pregnancy has become a complex issue in the United States and around the globe. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Arkansas’s state health director Dr. Joycelyn Elders, who later became U.S. surgeon general, made combating teenage pregnancy a major part of public health policy in Arkansas. Despite declines in rates since the 1990s, teen pregnancy remains an important public health issue in Arkansas and elsewhere. From the colonial era through the nineteenth century, the religious and legal concerns associated with teen pregnancy focused less on the parents’ ages and more on whether the parents were wed. Christianity condemned those, especially women, who …

Thomas C. McRae Memorial Sanatorium

aka: Alexander Human Development Center
The Thomas C. McRae Memorial Sanatorium in Alexander (Pulaski and Saline counties) was established in 1931, in the midst of the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, to treat African-American victims of tuberculosis (often called “consumption” at the time). It was the first facility of its kind in Arkansas. It was opened twenty-two years after the Arkansas State Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Booneville (Logan County), which treated only white patients. In 1968, following the integration of the state’s sanatoriums, the Alexander site became the Alexander Human Development Center. In 2011, the facility was closed. The bill that created the McRae Sanatorium was introduced in the Arkansas General Assembly in 1923. It had strong support from the Arkansas Tuberculosis Association, particularly from …

Tickborne Diseases

Ticks are a very specific cosmopolitan collection of obligate, haematophagous, ectoparasitic arthropods of vertebrates (mostly on reptiles, birds, and mammals). They are important as vectors of bacterial (mainly rickettsial and spirochaetal), protistal, and viral disease agents of domestic animals and humans, as well as other mammals. By 2016, sixteen tickborne diseases of humans were known, which includes four emerging diseases discovered since 2013. In 2017, state and local health departments around the country reported a record number (totaling 59,349) of cases of tickborne diseases to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, up from 48,610 in 2016. Tickborne diseases can range from producing mild symptoms that are treatable at home to causing symptoms including fever and …

Tobacco Settlement Proceeds Act of 2000

After the establishment of the Master Settlement Agreement of 1998 between several major U.S. tobacco companies and four state governments (Texas, Florida, Minnesota, and Mississippi), the remaining forty-six states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories not party to the original legal action were allowed to join into benefits conferred by the agreement. The tobacco companies were mandated to pay damages approaching the sum of $10 billion over an indefinite time period to the states joining the agreement, as well as acknowledge publicly that tobacco companies targeted youth in marketing and sales of products. In addition, the companies were subjected to sponsorship, marketing, and sales restrictions on their product. The State of Arkansas, agreeing not to file further litigation …

Towbin, Eugene Jonas

Eugene Jonas Towbin moved to Arkansas in 1955 to work at the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital. He was a pioneer in the field of geriatric medicine, and his influence brought the first Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) in the country to Arkansas. He was instrumental in obtaining funding for the John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and was one of the founders of the geriatrics program at what is now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). He also supported cultural events and organizations in the Little Rock area. Eugene Towbin was born in New York City on September 18, 1918, to Russian Jewish immigrants Morris and Elena Towbin. He attended public …

Trinity Hospital

Opened in 1924, Trinity Hospital of Little Rock (Pulaski County) operated as a fee-for-service institution until 1931. That year, the physicians of Trinity implemented one of the early health maintenance organizations (HMOs)—a form of insurance in which member physicians provide medical care to voluntary subscribers for a fixed fee—in the United States. The former Trinity Hospital building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 18, 1998. Trinity’s five founding physicians—Mahlon Dickerson Ogden Sr., Orange King Judd, Augustine Mathias Zell, James Isaac Scarborough, and Robert Booth Moore—began practicing medicine together before establishing the hospital. By 1916, Ogden, Judd, and Zell, who were also faculty members at the Arkansas Medical School—now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences …

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (also known as consumption) is a contagious, potentially fatal bacterial infection that mainly affects the lungs. It is caused by the tubercle bacillus (Mycobacterium tuberculosis), which was discovered by Robert Koch in 1882. By 1900, the disease was the second-leading cause of death in the United States, exceeded only by pneumonia. More than eighty percent of the U.S. population had been infected with the disease, although most people showed no symptoms. By the time a person showed symptoms, the disease was usually well advanced and had been spread to many others. The mortality rate for those with active infections was around eighty percent. In Arkansas, tuberculosis once affected one in sixty people and accounted for one out of every …

Typhoid

Typhoid is among the earliest diseases reported in Arkansas and was a significant public health problem up through the early twentieth century. Though it became less common in the modern era, typhoid had a significant impact upon state health in times and places where poor sanitation was the norm. Typhoid, like cholera, is transmitted through the ingestion of food or water that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected individual; the spread of the disease is therefore greatly linked with a lack of proper sanitation. Victims experience high fevers, sweating, inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, and diarrhea. In most cases, the disease is not fatal, though fevers can last well over a month. Some individuals may become asymptomatic …

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock (Pulaski County) is Arkansas’s premier research hospital. UAMS provides the state with a solid foundation of higher learning and financial support. It has a long history of serving the public by providing the indigent with quality healthcare and is one of the largest employers in Arkansas, providing almost 9,000 jobs, many of them professional. To some extent, the history of UAMS is the history of medicine in Arkansas. The Arkansas State Medical Association, formed in 1870, pressed the legislature to allow the legal dissection of cadavers—a major milestone in medical research and education. After the legislature’s approval in 1873, the state’s first dissection, performed by Drs. Lenow and Vickery, …

USPHS Venereal Disease Clinic

In 1921, Hot Springs (Garland County) became home to the first federally run venereal disease (VD) clinic in American history. Established by the United States Public Health Service (PHS) after World War I, the clinic (which was located on Spring Street) constituted one part of a broader federal campaign against syphilis and gonorrhea—diseases considered to be on the rise across the country. Hoping to stem the tide of the “venereal peril,” governmental officials envisioned the clinic as a research facility whose personnel would devise and disseminate new, improved methods for diagnosing and treating VD. Given its long-standing reputation as a therapeutic haven for those infected with syphilis, Hot Springs seemed an obvious headquarters for such a project. From 1921 through …

Vaccination

Vaccination artificially increases immunity to disease and contributes to the development of herd immunity, which is achieved when a sufficiently large percentage of immunized individuals  reduces the likelihood of disease transmission. Beginning in the nineteenth century, vaccination became an essential part of American public health policy. In Arkansas, starting with the introduction of school smallpox vaccination requirements in the late nineteenth century, vaccination became a vital feature of modern public health policy. The smallpox vaccine, discovered by British physician Edward Jenner in 1796, was the world’s first vaccine and remained the only human vaccine available until 1885. Following the introduction of the smallpox vaccine into the United States in 1800, Massachusetts became the first state to mandate smallpox vaccinations, requiring …

Ward, Harry

Harry P. Ward, M.D., in his twenty-one-year tenure as chancellor, was credited with changing the University of Arkansas School of Medicine from a small teaching institution and charity hospital to a major health center known as the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). He led UAMS through major expansions of facilities and programs as it became a leader in education, patient care, and research. Harry Pfeffer Ward was born on June 6, 1933, in Pueblo, Colorado, the second of three sons of Dr. Lester Ward and Alysmai Ward. His father was a family practitioner, and Ward frequently accompanied him on house calls and always said he wanted to be a doctor. He attended public schools and then graduated magna …

Watkins, Claibourne

Claibourne Watkins was one of three native Arkansan founders of the Medical Department of the Arkansas Industrial University, now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Watkins was born on March 3, 1844, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the second son of George Claibourne Watkins and Mary Crease Watkins. His father was state attorney general and chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. He had two brothers: Colonel Anderson Watkins, who was killed at Atlanta during the Civil War, and Captain Walton Watkins. Watkins was educated in a number of institutions, both private and public. The Civil War broke out just prior to his completing his undergraduate degree at St. Timothy’s Hall in Cantonsville, Maryland. A Southerner by birth and …

Welch, William Blackwell

In the late nineteenth century, physician William Blackwell Welch was a leader in the movement to modernize medicine in Arkansas. A cofounder and first president of the Arkansas Medical Society (AMS), he later led the effort to establish a city hospital in Fayetteville (Washington County). W. B. Welch was born on December 9, 1828, in Scottsville, Kentucky, to Christopher A. Welch, who was a farmer, and his wife, Elizabeth Lyles Welch. In 1829, his family, which eventually included two brothers and three sisters, moved to Somerville, Alabama. He attended schools in Huntsville, Alabama, and studied medicine under his older brother. After graduating from Tennessee’s University of Nashville medical department (later merged with the Vanderbilt University Medical School) in 1849, he …

West Nile Virus

West Nile virus (WNV) is an arthropod-borne, positive-sense, single-stranded RNA flavivirus (family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus) that has emerged as a significant health risk for humans. WNV is one of several Japanese encephalitis antigenic serocomplex of viruses that also include Japanese encephalitis virus, Murray Valley encephalitis virus, St. Louis encephalitis virus, and some other flaviviruses. West Nile has also been associated with illness and death in a wide variety of North American reptiles, birds, and mammals. It was first recognized in Arkansas in 2002. WNV was first identified in 1937 in the West Nile District of the Republic of Uganda of eastern Africa. Prior to 1995, the last major human outbreak of WNV was in the 1950s in Israel. The ecology …

Williams, Robert Lee, II

Robert Lee Williams II was a leading figure in American psychology known for his work in the education of African-American children and in studying the cultural biases present in standard testing measures, especially IQ tests. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2011. Robert Lee Williams was born on February 20, 1930, in Little Rock (Pulaski County). His father, Robert L. Williams, worked as a millwright and died in 1935; his mother cleaned houses. He had one sister. He graduated from Dunbar High School at age sixteen and attended Dunbar Junior College for a year before dropping out, discouraged by his low score on an IQ test. He married Ava L. Kemp in 1948. They had …

Williams, Sophronia Reacie

Sophronia Reacie Williams worked more than forty years as a nurse and nurse educator, becoming one of the first African-American nurses in hospitals and universities in Missouri, Ohio, and Colorado. Sophronia Williams was born on June 19, 1929, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the second of six children of Leon Williams and Theessa Woods Williams. Her father was a minister at the Church of God in Christ congregation in Little Rock, as well as a school cafeteria cook. Williams attended segregated John E. Bush Elementary School in Little Rock and graduated from Dunbar High School in Little Rock in 1947. As a teenager, she worked at St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock as a hospital aide. Williams attended Dunbar Junior …

Williams, Sterling B.

Dr. Sterling Williams was a groundbreaking leader in the field of obstetrics and gynecology (OB-GYN) who served in several important roles in national organizations dedicated to medicine and medical education. In addition, he was a gifted vocalist who performed with numerous choral groups. Sterling B. Williams was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on April 3, 1941. He grew up in Little Rock and graduated from Horace Mann High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, followed by a master’s degree in physiology from Northern Illinois University in 1966 and an MD from what is now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in 1973. He also completed work toward his …

Worms [Medical Condition], Traditional Remedies

aka: Intestinal Parasites
Well into the twentieth century, it was believed that all children had parasitic worms and that parents needed to treat this condition with patent or homemade medicines. These concoctions rid children of such intestinal parasites as roundworms (Ascariasis), threadworms (Trichuris), and tapeworms (Taenia solium), some of which also went by the colloquial names of pinworms and seatworms. Worm infestations, it was believed, could cause death. This is borne out by the census’s four mortality schedules (1850–1880). In these, “worms” and “worm fever” were listed as the causes of some children’s deaths, the majority occurring during the warm months of July through October. Some of these children may have died from the debilitating effects of worms or by being overdosed with …

Yellow Fever

In 1878 and 1879, Southern cities such as Memphis, Tennessee, and New Orleans, Louisiana, were devastated by epidemics of yellow fever. Citizens of Arkansas were also affected by the disease, leading to controversial quarantine measures that prohibited travel in parts of the state and also restricted the transportation of materials such as recently harvested cotton. The creation of the Arkansas State Board of Health resulted from successful efforts to protect Arkansans from the 1879 yellow fever epidemic. Yellow Fever (colloquially called “Yellow Jack”) is a potentially fatal virus that mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti) transmit to their human hosts through their bite. It attacks the body’s organs, mainly the liver, which causes jaundice, a yellowing of the patient’s skin and whites of …