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Hicks Lectures on Civil War Medicine

April 22, 2014

On April 22, 2014, Dr. Robert Hicks, director of the Mutter Museum and Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, made two presentations on Civil War medicine.  At 3 P.M., Dr. Hicks met with Angelo State University pre-med and physical therapy students at the historical Fort Concho post hospital.  Dr. Hicks incorporated artifacts at the hospital in his discussion of Civil War medicine and the lives, illnesses, and deaths of Civil War soldiers.  At 7 P.M. Dr. Hicks then gave a lecture on Civil War medicine at the Fort Concho Stables.  Approximately 136 community members, medical personnel, and Angelo State University faculty and students attended this evening event.  The audience learned about the organization of the Union medical corps, the training of Army doctors, and the challenges they faced with sanitation, disease, and the frequent necessity for amputations.  Topics included the introduction of women into the nascent nursing profession, as well as the role climate played in soldiers’ health.  Dr. Hicks observed that a number of the practices used today in American civilian and military medicine were first derived from Civil War experiences.

Dr. Hicks, who is currently assembling an exhibition on Civil War medicine at the Mutter Museum, has a varied background:  he is the author of Voyage to Jamestown:  Practical Navigation in the Age of Discovery (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2011); supervised collections at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia; served as a cryptologist in the U.S. Navy; and has been in security and law enforcement in Arizona and Virginia.  Most recently, the Mutter Museum provided a team of medical researchers with a 1840s specimen infected with cholera.  The researchers were able to extract DNA from that specimen and subsequently mapped that particular strain—which is still with us outside the U.S.

The Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History received acknowledgement for its generous assistance in flyers mailed out, press releases, and in the introduction provided at the evening lecture.  Sponsorship partners also included the Fort Concho Foundation and the Shannon Medical Center.  This event marked the first time these organizations have collaborated, furthering the intention of the Gilder-Lehrman to advance partnerships among academic institutions, historic sites, and community organizations.

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    Dr. Robert Hicks, director of the Mutter Museum and Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, discussed the topic of medicine and the Civil War in the Fort Concho Stables as part of the History Department's lecture series commemorating the 150th anniversary of the conflict.

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