The Boerhaave Society

January 31, 2013 at 11:10 am

In the study of some apparently new problems, we often make progress by reading the work of the great men of the past….

                                                                       Charles H. Mayo, M.D.
                                                                       From “Surgery of the Sympathetic Nervous System”  
                                                                       Ann. Surg., 96:481-487 (Oct.), 1932

The Center for the History of Medicine was created in 2006 with the following goals:  to build the infrastructure necessary for the long-term preservation and archiving of Mayo’s historical materials, to coordinate the institution’s medical history activities, and to support historical research about the institution.  The Center also provides resources to aid students, trainees and staff who wish to teach, research and write about medical history and to develop academically in the field of medical history.

Herman BoerhaaveEvolving from discussions to get Mayo medical students involved, a medical history interest group was conceived.  The name given to the group was the Boerhaave Society named in honor of Herman Boerhaave.  According to Wikipedia, Herman Boerhaave was a “botanist, humanist and physician of European fame.  He is regarded as the founder of clinical teaching and of the modern academic hospital.  His main achievement was to demonstrate the relation of symptoms to lesions.  In addition, he was the first to isolate the chemical urea from urine and was first to describe Boerhaave syndrome, which involves tearing of the esophagus, usually a consequence of vigorous vomiting.  His motto was “Simplex sigillum veri; Simplicity is the sign of truth.”

The Society exists to facilitate and promote medical history research among medical students in order to preserve the knowledge of the achievements, failures, and struggles of medicine throughout history and to make future physicians cognizant of the foundations upon which they practice.

In 2008, John Bois (currently a cardiology fellow at Mayo) was named the first president of the Society and each year thereafter a new president is selected.  The first meeting was held in April 2008 with Dr. Bruce Fye presenting Historiography 101 to 26 medical students.   Since the beginning of the Society, numerous medical students and Mayo faculty have presented on various history of medicine topics.  Students who have a specific area of interest are mentored by a faculty member with a similar interest or knowledge of the topic.  From the research done by the students, several have had their work published, accepted for a poster presentation, or have presented at a national meeting.

Renee Ziemer
Coordinator, Mayo Historical Unit

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