Some medical practitioners embraced the art of moving images as a modern means of communicating their work, educating other doctors, or documenting procedures.
Dr. Joseph Bolivar DeLee (1869–1942), a founder in the late 1890s of the Chicago Lying-In Dispensary (for needy women) as well as the Chicago Lying-In Hospital, the model maternity center of its day, was at times called “the #1 obstetrician, USA.” DeLee also was a serious filmmaker dedicated to the visual explication of his obstetrical techniques. He acquired professional equipment, wrote scripts, improvised sound effects, and deployed as many as a dozen women over a period of hours and days if necessary to complete a movie precisely as he felt it should be. These films were intended to teach, persuade, and fundraise for the next one. Read about DeLee’s work and see two of his films in Catherine Gainty’s MoS essay, A Bit of Hollywood in the Operating Room.
Arnold Gesell, director emeritus of the Yale Clinic of Child Development, filmed many of his studies, introducing child development not only to academics but also to lay people, nationally and abroad. The Mental Growth of a Mongol is a Gesell title in NLM’s Digital Collections, and the library holds another 25 or so titles by Gesell, as well as other productions that present Gesell’s developmental assessment tools.
Professor Dr. Robert Janker (1894–1964) spent most of his career at the University of Bonn, researching and working with x-ray technology. He was a pioneer in radiological diagnostics of skeletal systems, x-ray photograph technology, luminescent screen photography, x-ray cineradiography, and radiotherapy. He worked on developing electronic image enhancement, x-ray television and mass x-ray screening. Dr. Janker continued his work at the university during the years of the Third Reich and likely had some involvement in compulsory sterilizations carried out in that institution. He often collaborated with Dr. Norman Schenker, profiled below. NLM Digital Collections contains the pair’s Malignant Tumors of the Lungs.
Frederick Margolis (1915-1991) practiced as a pediatrician for nearly 50 years in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He developed the Allen Heart Monitor, designed for use in the operating room to keep track of the patient’s pulse. Margolis also collaborated in the making of dozens of films on health topics. According to Arizona Archives Online, which holds a collection of Margolis photographs, Dr. Margolis temporarily moved his family to Fort Defiance on the Navajo-Hopi Indian Reservation in northeastern Arizona in 1954 and worked there for two years as a U.S. Public Health Service physician providing medical services to the Navajo and Hopi. While in Fort Defiance Dr. Margolis recruited film director Rex Fleming (see profile of Rex Fleming Productions under Corporate Entities) to Fort Defiance to create public health patient education films on diarrhea, tuberculosis, and sanitation. One Margolis film in NLM Digital Collections is Joslin, Best, and Diabetes, about the physicians who discovered insulin as a life-saving treatment for diabetes and the children who benefited from this treatment. The NLM catalog holds about 25 titles that Dr. Margolis helped produce.
The NLM holds 22 titles by Brooklyn surgeon Jacob Sarnoff (1886–1961), most from his Human Body series. As Miriam Posner notes in her essay, “Sarnoff was no dabbler. A busy surgeon who helped found Brooklyn’s Maimonides Medical Center, he spent some $8,000 to $10,000 a year on his filmmaking activities…”
Norman P. Schenker
Schenker did early work with fluoroscopic (X-ray) imagery, including the films Carcinoma of the Esophagus and Malignant Tumors of the Lungs, and coauthored Short Films for Cancer Teaching in the Medical School, published in 1953.
Telford H. Work (1921–1995) was a Stanford-trained virologist and epidemiologist specializing in tropical disease. He served in the Navy, worked for the Rockefeller Foundation in India, visited scores of tropical locales for professional reasons, and hopscotched all over the world on personal and family travel as well. Dr. Work contributed to the finding of Japanese B encephalitis and the discovery of Kyasanur Forest Disease in India. He also traveled often to the USSR for joint US-Soviet discussions of tick-borne encephalitis. He later served as head of the Virology section at the CDC and was then on the faculty at UCLA. Dr. Work carried a 16mm Bolex camera with him everywhere, saying “I use my camera the way a journalist uses his notebook.” He was fascinated by birds (as vectors of disease and beyond) and the frequent appearance of birds in his footage confirms that. In addition, one sees considerable footage of native peoples—their villages and cities, unique dress, ceremonies and rituals; images of commerce, farm work, worship, animals, children at play or work, homes and businesses, and buildings under construction. All of the elements that comprise the life of a place, Dr. Work filmed. Paul Theerman writes about a Work film set in Sudan in the Medicine on Screen essay An Epidemiological Expedition into the Interior of Africa. The NLM catalog contains more than 80 films by Dr. Work.
Other Scientists and Doctors
Other notable scientists and physicians represented in NLM’s collections include thoracic surgeon Alton Ochsner, cancer researcher Sarah Stewart (see The Search for Cancer Viruses), heart surgeons Charles Hufnagel and Michael Debakey, and breast cancer specialist Francis D. Moore.