FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more information, contact:
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center
Communications and Marketing
Sheila Champlin – (901) 448-4957 or
Dena Owens – (901) 448-4072
The Cleo Stevenson Family Donates More Than 600
19th, Early 20th Century Health Care Artifacts to
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center
Memphis, Tenn. (April 23, 2010) – On April 30, more than 50 members of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) campus community are expected to gather at the Health Sciences Library for a reception in honor of Cleo W. Stevenson, MD, a 1943 alumnus of the UTHSC College of Medicine. Dr. Stevenson’s family has donated more than 600 medical, dental, nursing, allied health and pharmaceutical artifacts to the Health Sciences Library on the Memphis campus. The reception to acknowledge the donation is scheduled from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. on the second floor of the UTHSC Lamar Alexander Building, 877 Madison Avenue.
Dr. Stevenson, an internist, has been called one of the last old-fashioned family doctors, often making house calls and spending late hours in the office helping patients. He practiced medicine and served as medical director of the Nursing School at Methodist Hospital for 40 years. During these years, he amassed a diverse collection of artifacts, machinery, antiques and health care books (18th and 19th Century) for display.
“The Cleo Stevenson Collection is a major, historically significant addition to our campus and we are extremely grateful to the Stevenson family for this generous donation,” stated Richard H. Nollan, associate professor, Health Sciences Historical Collections at UTHSC.
Dr. Stevenson and his two brothers who were also physicians built a clinic at 1469 Poplar in the late 1940s, which stayed in operation until the late1970s. It was during the 1940s when Dr. Stevenson came across a pair of medical saddlebags that his wife’s grandfather, a doctor (Dr. John Washington McCarley), used in his practice around the turn of the century. This discovery fueled his interest in antique medical instruments, an interest he pursued for most of his life.
Initially the pieces Dr. Stevenson accumulated were kept in his office but patients urged him to display the items. Methodist Hospital constructed the first cabinet for the collection in the early 1970s. The Simon R. Bruesch Endowment to the UT Health Science Center provided the funds for the university to purchase the seven display cases for the collection.
Dr. Stevenson continued to make house calls until his retirement in 1990. He died in September 1995 at age 74.
In a 1993 article, The Commercial Appeal observed, “The collection of Dr. Cleo Stevenson conveys both nostalgic charm and an appreciation for the vast medical advances of this century…” In the same article, Ronald Brister, chief curator of collections for the Memphis Museum System, explained, “Most of the collection is 19th Century to early 20th Century, when really effective scientific medicine began to come in. The doctors were well-educated in the 19th Century but medicine did not really get scientific until the 20th Century.” Brister called the Stevenson Collection “one of those little-known secrets in the city…one of the finest private collections in Memphis.”
In addition to more common artifacts like pill boxes, eye glasses, mortar and pestles, ear trumpets, dental pliers, apothecary jars, and Singer surgical stitching instruments, items in the Stevenson Collection include:
n A lamp called a fumigator -- Used during the 1870s yellow fever epidemic, the tiny brass lamp was used to heat formaldehyde over a flame, which was supposed to counteract miasma – the “bad air” that caused yellow fever.
n Fashionable bottles for carrying smelling salts – In the latter half of the 19th Century, well-heeled ladies tended to faint frequently due to corsets so tight they could barely breathe.
n A hollow walking cane – Designed to contain several vials of medicine, so the doctor could carry it instead of a medicine bag.
n Phrenology busts – A hypothesis stating that the personality traits of a person can be derived from the shape of the skull.
n A portable amputation kit – In the 1930s amputation was still relatively common because it was frequently the only way to prevent infection. Doctors didn’t know how to control infection until World War II when antibiotics were developed. As a result, before World War II it wasn’t uncommon for someone to nick themselves shaving and die from the infection, or to pick up a splinter in a finger that turned into a raging infection and cause for amputation of an arm.
n Leech jars and various bloodletting instruments – Used in the early 19th Century when the practice was employed as an effective treatment for all manner of ailments.
n A small glass casket – Thought to be a salesman’s sample.
n Chinese Modesty Dolls – Dolls (some in ivory) with removable abdomens were used to treat women who were too shy to be examined. Instead they sent servants to point out where they were hurting.
As the flagship statewide academic health system, the mission of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is to bring the benefits of the health sciences to the achievement and maintenance of human health, with a focus on the citizens of Tennessee and the region, by pursuing an integrated program of education, research, clinical care, and public service. Offering a broad range of postgraduate training opportunities, the main campus is located in Memphis and includes six colleges: Allied Health Sciences, Dentistry, Graduate Health Sciences, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. UTHSC has additional colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy plus an Allied Health Sciences unit in Knoxville, as well as a College of Medicine campus in Chattanooga. For more information, visit www.uthsc.edu.
This study quantifies the economic impact of the UTHSC on the economy of the state of Tennessee for FY2010.
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