Monday, October 5, 2009

Civil War Medicine Conference Wrap-Up!

This past weekend (Oct 2-4, 2009), I had the great pleasure and privilege of attending the 17th Annual Conference on Civil War Medicine organized by the National Museum of Civil War Medicine and held in Towson, MD. I had a terrific time and thought I would provide a summary of the weekend in this post.

It was all the more special for me as I got to see old friends, meet some new ones, give one of the lectures, and launch a new book!

On Friday afternoon, there were two very good lectures on prison conditions and medicine practiced in the prisons, with one speaker concentrating especially on Fort Delaware; a terrific lecture about John Allan Wyeth, M.D., a Confederate soldier who had a very distinguished post-war career in medicine. The last lecture was by C. Craig Caba, Chief Curator of the outstanding "J. Howard Wert Gettysburg collection." He brought with him a wonderful selection of Revolutionary War- era and Civil War-era medical artifacts, some of which are shown in the photographs here.

Friday evening's social hour was a special event as co-editor Guy Hasegawa, Pharm.D., and I were able to launch our new book, Years of Change and Suffering: Modern Perspectives on Civil War Medicine! It wasliterally "hot off the press" having shipped from the printer just the night before! I also signed copies of my first book, Lincoln's Labels: America's Best known Brands and the Civil War, now available in softcover!

On Saturday, Dr. Stephen Goldman gave an amazing lecture on post-traumatic stress syndrome in Civil War veterans, made some excellent points about the mental health challenges beings faced by soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen in Iraq and Afghanistan (they are not the same challenges in the two countries or among the various services), and - most important - discussed the ethical responsibilities of psychiatrists-as-historians (and vice versa). I followed with a well-received (thankfully!) talk on phrenology and the Civil War. The final lectures were on Civil War hospitals in "Mountain Maryland" and artificial eyes in the Civil War era, given byMike Hughes, one of a small group of practicing ocularists in the United States, that is - people who specialize in making and fitting artificial eyes!

Saturday afternoon was spent on a bus tour taking us to the National Museum of Dentistry in downtown Baltimore and then a short visit to Federal Hill, overlooking Baltimore Harbor.

Sunday saw three more lectures: a wonderful talk give by Bonnie Brice Dewhart about the medical education of her relative, Walter Brice, M.D., who served as asurgeon with 9th Tennessee Infantry, CSA...My good friend and collaborator Guy Hasegawa, Pharm D., gave an excellent presentation on "Preparation and Dispensing of Civil War Prescriptions" which included photographs from items in his collection and excellent advice for some of the living historians in the audience. Another lecture by Robert E. Mallin on women's health in the mid-19th century was also very interesting.

I can't say enough about the dedication of the staff at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. They are all wonderful, from founder Dordon Dammann, D.D.S., to Executive Director and Deputy Director George Wunderlich and Karen Thomassen, to everyone else.

If you are not a member of the NMCWM, you should be!

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