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News From the Libraries: July 2023

Library Room Reservation Update: Virtual Interview Rooms

Due to a declining use of rooms for the purpose of virtual interviews, plans are underway to reduce the number of Library 3rd floor Virtual Interview (VI) rooms. The three group study rooms that are currently set up for individual virtual interviews (or individual testing) will be returned to general use during the later part of July. A new VI room will be set up in a different group study room location on the 3rd floor, room 3.032, located to the left of the library entry doors. The new VI room will allow for more privacy and room light control and will be equipped with a desktop computer with keyboard and monitor, a free-standing webcam, task lighting, and soundproofing wall panels.

Reservations can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and for up to 4 hours at a time M-F between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. After hours and on weekends, the room will be locked for security reasons but may be available by special request for individual interviews or testing outside of normal business hours. As soon as the VI equipment is moved to the new location, the room number change will be shown in the Library Room Reservation System. For more information on room reservations, please see the Library Spaces page.

For questions or comments, please contact Peg Seger, Briscoe Library Associate Director for Outreach and Community Engagement, at

New! Multimedia Learning Resources

This month we're bringing you new ways to learn. Now available through the library catalog is a plethora of streaming content from AccessMedicine, AccessSurgery, and JAMAEvidence.

Offerings includes educational videos, podcasts, lectures, audio files, and more, covering a range of health topics from surgery to clinical examinations. Captions and transcripts are included.

You must be on campus or using the VPN to access the content but the media and transcripts can be downloaded to your computer for offline use.

Browse through the streaming offerings in our catalog:

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Health Providers in Colonial America

The American colonies were a rough place to live, including when it came to health care. Diseases like smallpox and measles spread easily. Overcrowding lead to dysentery. Broken bones, bodily wounds, and infections could be deadly. Childbirth was a huge danger. University-educated physicians were in short supply, as they were hesitant to migrate from Europe. The majority of those who carried the title of doctor instead trained under an apprenticeship. This, combined with general mistrust of physicians and cost concerns, lead to colonists often relying on other types of care.

Surgeons and barber-surgeons

Illustration of a barber-surgeon extracting a tooth in front of a crowd, 1785Both surgeons and barbers were authorized to perform surgery, serving an apprenticeship of seven years. Barber-surgeons provided hair cutting and shaving services but also oral care, such as pulling teeth and other ailments. Surgeons focused on bloodletting, amputations, tumor removal, the removal of bladder stones, and other serious conditions. These procedures were often dangerous, with a high mortality rate, leaving the patient with a very difficult choice to make.


Apothecaries learned through apprenticeships. They often served in the role of physician, though their main purpose was the mixing of medicines and tinctures to treat sickness. Mixing could be imprecise; there were no standard drug lists and they had to rely on materials shipped from England, which could arrive late or not at all. In those cases they fell back on local ingredients. Tinctures and medicines were important in colonial life. Some remedies were similar to modern medicine, such as using calamine for skin irritations or chalk for heartburn. Many preferred the apothecary's mixture to the physician's treatment, as they tended to be cheaper and less aggressive. Apothecary shops also sold cooking spices, candles, and other household goods, much like modern drugstores.


Midwives rarely had formal training in medicine but were the go-to for assisting with births, physicians being called only in dire situations. Births at the time took place at home and there was a high mortality rate for both women and infants. Midwives were usually older women with children of their own. Their experience let them assist at the time of birth and they also provided some amount of maternal aftercare. Midwives were not well respected by physicians but a skilled one was highly valued by her community, often being given a salary or free housing. Women also tended to prefer their practical experience over a physician's knowledge. Midwives were never short on work, some reportedly delivering thousands of babies during their careers. Despite a lack of medical training they also assisted with other common maladies: such as broken bones or burns and at times assisting patients through sickness.

Clerics & Ministers

Though not physicians by training, these individuals often helped to fill the role and provided what treatment they could when other options weren't available. Ministers were often the most educated people in their communities and sometimes had access to a few medical books. In addition, given their community-centered role, they were well aware of goings-on that could affect healthcare, like births and deaths. They often tried to combine their treatment of the body with spiritual healing.

Scan from inside of Every Man His Own Doctor

Medicine Men

Some colonists believed that each land or climate produced their own sicknesses, leading them to seek the aid of Native American healers. Their knowledge of local flora was unmatched and some of their preparations have been incorporated into the National Formulary. Much like ministers, they also sought to combine spiritual with physical healing.

Self Care

Medical treatment could be expensive, forcing many colonists to self diagnose and treat their maladies. Some families grew gardens of herbs and other plants for medicines and neighbors and family could be called upon for help during sickness or births. There was also an insistence on self-reliance and many tried home remedies before seeking outside care, sometimes guided by books or pamphlets. Every Man His Own Doctor, published in 1736, was one such book which included advice on treating common maladies of the day.

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Reference Books

If you'd like to read more about the history of medicine, reach out to Diane Fotinos, Archivist in the P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library.

History of Medicine Lecture: Early Medical Practice in 19th Century Texas

Screenshot from Moore's lecture

Early Medical Practice in 19th Century Texas

Charleen M. Moore

Presentation by Charleen M. Moore, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus in the Department of Cell Systems and Anatomy at UT Health San Antonio. This presentation on early medical practice focuses on Galveston, San Antonio and the German settlements of the Hill Country in the 19th century. Dr. Moore describes the common diseases and injuries that affected the early settlers and the training of early physicians in this area. Part of the P.I. Nixon History of Medicine Spring 2021 Lecture Series.

View the entire lecture in our Digital Archive.

Featured Ebook of the Month - American Health and Wellness in Archaeology and History

Book cover of American Health and WellnessAmerican Health and Wellness in Archaeology and History

Dale L. Huchinson

In this book, Dale Hutchinson traces the history of American health care and well-being from the colonial era to the present, drawing on evidence from material culture and historical documents to offer insights into the long-standing tension between traditional and institutionalized cures, as well as the emergence of the country's unique brand of medical consumerism. Hutchinson outlines three major trends that have influenced the course of American medicine--the convergence of different ancestral traditions, the formalization of the medical industry, and the rise of individual choice.

Check out the book through EBSCO Ebooks, provided by the Briscoe Library.

Did you know the library has ebooks? Browse our collections that cover everything from the health sciences to literature.