On a fall day in 1928, a window was left open in a London laboratory, letting in a cool breeze. Carried on that breeze were microscopic spores of mold, tiny particles that fell gently onto a work surface covered with open Petri dishes culturing Staphylococcus bacteria. One spore landed on the rich culture medium of a dish and began to grow, contaminating the experiment in progress. This contamination, to the surprise of the scientist when he returned to check on his experiment, was peculiar. The mold had not simply grown, it had also destroyed all the bacteria around it, leaving a clear boundary all around its perimeter. The scientist was Alexander Flemming, and his determination to find out what was going on in this peculiar, unexpected, serendipitous mistake would lead to the world-changing discovery of antibiotics.
Motivated by reason, civil duty, and patriotism, representatives from the Colonies gathered in Philadelphia to put their names on an historic document. That very act put their lives at risk. The date was July 4, 1776 and the document was the Declaration of Independence. Among the 56 signatories, four came from the field of medicine. In today’s post, we’ll examine these individuals and learn about their legacy beyond the document.
Evidence-based design became a focus of study in the 1980s. This movement paired design choices with structured, formal scientific research. Rather than relying on anecdotal evidence of design choices, researchers systematically tracked data on patient outcomes. One study, for example, was able to demonstrate a reduction in the use of pain medications by patients in rooms with a view towards nature.
Evidence-based design can focus on various aspects of hospital function. Decisions about design are influenced by what we know about human psychology and stress, medical treatments, infection control, financial considerations, efficiency, and human movement/traffic flow. Ultimately, the goal of evidence-based design is to improve patient outcomes, safety, and administration.
After thousands of years of medical care provided in homes and religious buildings, health care moved into the public sphere. Buildings were constructed solely for medical purposes, with patient quarters, staff facilities, and specialized equipment. However, no other era saw as much transformation in healthcare as the years between Florence Nightengale in the 1840s and the golden age of antibiotics in the 1940s. Today's post will examine the transformation of hospital spaces during this time period.
With life, there is illness. Some of the earliest examples of life on Earth, bacteria, show evidence of invasion by viruses. Our earliest recorded history includes written accounts of individuals trying to make sense of illness and injury. These early records, and the experiments and efforts that accompanied them, are the first examples of the scientific method which resulted in all our modern advances, including evidence-based design.
Exploration of the Golden Age of Microbiology would not be complete without a look at how its discoveries impacted hospitals and medical care. Today’s post takes us into the 1800s hospital, where the “good old surgical stink” was just as familiar as the blood-stained aprons worn (with some pride) by doctors. In fact, that “stink” was what led one pioneering microbiologist to make a very helpful connection.
Last week's post introduced the work of Louis Pasteur, the father of microbiology. It was not long after Pasteur proposed that microorganisms were to blame for food spoilage that someone would make the leap that infection could, too, also be caused by microorganisms. That man (who would become a great scientific rival to Pasteur) came to be known as the founder of modern bacteriology.
Just over 150 years ago, the existence of bacteria was merely a hypothesis. Many scientists still believed that food spoilage and human infections were caused by spontaneous generation, inexplicable life from lifelessness. That all changed in the mid-1800s. It is appropriate that the light bulb was invented during this time as well, for this new era in biology shone a light on a whole new world of biology: microorganisms. And one man, the Father of Microbiology, would make breakthroughs in one decade that would revolutionize chemistry, biology, and medicine.
Before we knew about germ theory and the microorganisms that caused disease, the illnesses that afflicted millions were mysteries. They acquired names that described their symptoms, their effect on behavior, or on the sheer numbers of people they killed. Without knowing anything about causes, treatment, or prevention, our ancestors feared “the wasting disease,” saw friends and relatives fall victim to “bilious fever,” and cared for loved ones stricken with “child bed fever,” “yellow jacket,” or “dysentery.”
Today is International Women's Day, a day celebrating women's achievements and bringing attention to gender parity in the workforce. In different forms, it has been observed since the early 1900s, with the first major event being a march in New York City in 1908 calling for better pay and voting rights for women. In 1977, the United Nations adopted a resolution for member nations to celebrate women's rights and achievements on a day of their choice, and started setting an annual theme in 1996. In the United States, March was named Women's History Month in 2011 by President Barak Obama. In honor of today's celebrations and calls for action, today's post will explore the issues of gender parity in healthcare professions.