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New book from UP chronicles UMC’s rich history

Jackson — A hospital emergency room is often the scene of dramatic events, ranging from resuscitation of a heart attack patient to the emergency surgery needed to save a car crash victim. An intensive care unit can do just as dramatic work in a more subtle fashion using sophisticated technology. And routine medical care can keep the crises at bay with the practical know-how a doctor develops over the course of a career.

A new book from University Press of Mississippi (UP) detailing the history of the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMC) chronicles similar challenges that the institution has faced in the 50 years since its founding.

“Promises Kept” author Janis Quinn feels she was perfectly suited to writing the history of UMC. For over half its existence, she has worked in the public relations department for the facility, beginning under the first public relations director Maurine Twiss in 1974 up until her retirement in 2003. “I love the medical center,” said Quinn, who currently lives in Florence. “I wanted everyone else to learn to love it as I do.”

The release of the book was timed to the upcoming convocation at UMC celebrating their 50th year, according to Barbara Austin, director of UMC’s public affairs division. Alumni and friends of the institution, state dignitaries and former faculty and staff are among those expected to attend the event which will be on the athletic field on campus October 20 at 2 p.m.

The guest speaker for the event will be Dr. Fred Allison, a member of the medical center’s original 1955 faculty and professor emeritus of medicine at the Louisiana State University.

The book details how the medical school went from a two-year program established on the University of Mississippi campus in 1903 to the four-year campus established in 1955 to the thriving medical complex it is today, housing clinics, classrooms, and hospital space on its campus in the center of Jackson.

Quinn relied on several sources for her information, not the least of which was an unpublished history of the establishment of the dental school by her old boss, Maurine Twiss.

Other valuable material was stored in the institution’s Rowland Medical Library, named for the administrator of the original two-year school who went around in a pickup truck soliciting donations of medical textbooks for the school’s library. Interviews and articles that Quinn had done over the years proved to be a good source for personal recollections and anecdotes about the early days of UMC from professors and other faculty members. Boxes of papers that she found stacked in out-of-the-way closets turned out to be records from Dr. Norman C. Nelson, the fifth director of the medical center, Quinn said.

Particular care was given to highlight the school’s pioneering medical research, ranging from the world’s first human lung transplant in 1963. That procedure was followed by the world’s first human heart transplant in 1964. In 1999, the world’s first interventional CAT scan surgery using a radiofrequency probe to treat non-primary lung cancer was performed. Other milestones associated with the school’s integration during the civil rights era are also highlighted.

UP editor-in-chief Craig Gill noted that one of the major goals of the book was to remind Mississippians of the impact the facility has had on the state in terms of healthcare and education.

“On the education side of things, this is a success story,” Gill said, noting the numbers of UMC students that have gone on to practice in Mississippi and make their mark on other medical institutions as well.

As with all such books, there’s always the interview you wish you could have done — and Quinn knows who it would have been with. “I would have loved to talk to Dr. Blake,” she said, referring to the UMC cardiologist who read EKGs from all over the state in an attempt to aid local doctors with diagnosis and treatment. One of the first fax machines in Mississippi higher education was at the medical center for him to read EKG’s more quickly.

Contact MBJ contributing writer at Julie Whitehead at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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