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Harvey Cushing's ghosts: death and hauntings in modern medicine.

Shin P - Yale J Biol Med (2011)

Bottom Line: The passing of Yale School of Medicine's 2010 Bicentennial occasions a moment of reflecting on the past, present, and future of medical education and research at Yale and beyond.Named after Harvey Cushing, an early 20th-century neurosurgeon and former Yale College alum, the dual education/exhibition space now houses hundreds of gross brain specimens constituting the Cushing Tumor Registry.The brains express Cushing's singular and spectral worldview as a surgeon, artist, athlete, soldier, book collector, and historian.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of History of Science/History of Medicine, Yale University, 333 Cedar Street, New Haven, CT 06510, USA. paul.shin@yale.edu

ABSTRACT
The passing of Yale School of Medicine's 2010 Bicentennial occasions a moment of reflecting on the past, present, and future of medical education and research at Yale and beyond. Last June, a ribbon-cutting ceremony inaugurated the opening of the Cushing Center in the Cushing-Whitney Medical Library. Named after Harvey Cushing, an early 20th-century neurosurgeon and former Yale College alum, the dual education/exhibition space now houses hundreds of gross brain specimens constituting the Cushing Tumor Registry. Originally a personal collection, Cushing donated his numerous medical specimens, photographs, and other medical relics from his deathbed, relinquishing the brains to Yale only under the condition that a suitable space be erected to preserve the many specimens. Some 70 years later and after nearly being destroyed, Cushing's wish is fully realized: The once desiccated, hidden brains have been painstakingly restored and are now on view in the Cushing Center. The brains express Cushing's singular and spectral worldview as a surgeon, artist, athlete, soldier, book collector, and historian.

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Gross specimen from the Cushing Tumor Registry, before restoration. Photo courtesy of Terry Dagradi, Yale University
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Figure 3: Gross specimen from the Cushing Tumor Registry, before restoration. Photo courtesy of Terry Dagradi, Yale University

Mentions: Yet in their material crudity, the brain specimens suggest doubts as to their status as markers of progress. In the overabundance of lifeless, inert flesh, they express what appears to be a clinical failure: Not withstanding scientific research and technological innovation, modern medicine cannot escape the presence of death (Figure 3). Indeed, as Yale Neurosurgeon and Department Chair Dennis Spencer notes, relatively little has changed in the field of neurosurgery from the perspective of the patient: “Everything we’ve done in the last 100 years has changed the progress for malignant brain tumors very little, extending life maybe eight months to two years” [1].


Harvey Cushing's ghosts: death and hauntings in modern medicine.

Shin P - Yale J Biol Med (2011)

Gross specimen from the Cushing Tumor Registry, before restoration. Photo courtesy of Terry Dagradi, Yale University
© Copyright Policy - open access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3117422&req=5

Figure 3: Gross specimen from the Cushing Tumor Registry, before restoration. Photo courtesy of Terry Dagradi, Yale University
Mentions: Yet in their material crudity, the brain specimens suggest doubts as to their status as markers of progress. In the overabundance of lifeless, inert flesh, they express what appears to be a clinical failure: Not withstanding scientific research and technological innovation, modern medicine cannot escape the presence of death (Figure 3). Indeed, as Yale Neurosurgeon and Department Chair Dennis Spencer notes, relatively little has changed in the field of neurosurgery from the perspective of the patient: “Everything we’ve done in the last 100 years has changed the progress for malignant brain tumors very little, extending life maybe eight months to two years” [1].

Bottom Line: The passing of Yale School of Medicine's 2010 Bicentennial occasions a moment of reflecting on the past, present, and future of medical education and research at Yale and beyond.Named after Harvey Cushing, an early 20th-century neurosurgeon and former Yale College alum, the dual education/exhibition space now houses hundreds of gross brain specimens constituting the Cushing Tumor Registry.The brains express Cushing's singular and spectral worldview as a surgeon, artist, athlete, soldier, book collector, and historian.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of History of Science/History of Medicine, Yale University, 333 Cedar Street, New Haven, CT 06510, USA. paul.shin@yale.edu

ABSTRACT
The passing of Yale School of Medicine's 2010 Bicentennial occasions a moment of reflecting on the past, present, and future of medical education and research at Yale and beyond. Last June, a ribbon-cutting ceremony inaugurated the opening of the Cushing Center in the Cushing-Whitney Medical Library. Named after Harvey Cushing, an early 20th-century neurosurgeon and former Yale College alum, the dual education/exhibition space now houses hundreds of gross brain specimens constituting the Cushing Tumor Registry. Originally a personal collection, Cushing donated his numerous medical specimens, photographs, and other medical relics from his deathbed, relinquishing the brains to Yale only under the condition that a suitable space be erected to preserve the many specimens. Some 70 years later and after nearly being destroyed, Cushing's wish is fully realized: The once desiccated, hidden brains have been painstakingly restored and are now on view in the Cushing Center. The brains express Cushing's singular and spectral worldview as a surgeon, artist, athlete, soldier, book collector, and historian.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus