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News From the Libraries: May 2023

Owen Ellard, UT Health Senior Director of Libraries, Retiring May 31, 2023

Image of Owen EllardOwen Ellard became Senior Director of Libraries at UT Health at San Antonio on February 1, 2016. Before coming to UT Health, he had served as the Chief Operating Officer of the Texas Medical Center (TMC) Library in Houston. Prior to his appointment at the TMC Library, he held directorships at the Health Sciences Library and Informatics Center at The University of New Mexico, Skeen Library at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, and Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA. He had also previously worked in San Antonio at the Sueltenfuss Library of Our Lady of the Lake University. Mr. Ellard brought with him a tremendous depth of experience in librarianship, including expertise at the interface of libraries and information technology. He holds degrees from the University of Manchester, the University of South Florida, and Pennsylvania State University, and he has been a participant in the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s leadership development program and the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Group on Information Resources (GIR) Leadership Institute.

In a recent email announcing Owen’s retirement, Dr. Jacqueline Mok, VP for Academic Faculty and Student Affairs (AFSA), best summed up Owen’s considerable contributions during his tenure.

It is with deep gratitude that I thank Owen for his many contributions to advance the Libraries, the AFSA Division, and the University across the institution’s multiple mission areas… Owen brought to the Libraries a forward-oriented approach, guiding the Libraries through significant transformations, with a clear and unequivocal commitment to outstanding service delivery. Under his leadership, UT Health San Antonio changed how the libraries operated at the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) in the Valley and utilized space in the Laredo Regional Campus, inaugurated the Libraries’ open-access collection with the digitalization of Dr. Birgit Junfin Glass’s educational resource materials, created 24/7 access to the Briscoe Library space to maximize student use of the building for individual and group study, and transitioned UT Health’s collection to a fully digital collection. The University accomplished these signal achievements, and many others, because of Owen's admirable capacity to embrace what the library of the future could be.

On behalf of the library staff, we all wish Owen the very best in retirement. As an added bonus, take a look in this issue of the newsletter for the results of a unique examination of our P.I. Nixon Medical Historical Library completed this spring by Owen’s daughter, Brigid Ellard.

Image of retirement luncheon for Owen Ellard.

To all the days here and after, may they be filled with fond memories, happiness, and laughter. -Irish Toast

Judging a Book by its Cover: An Anthropodermic Bibliopegy Study by Brigid Ellard

This spring, the P. I. Nixon Library was honored to host Brigid Ellard and support her research in book bindings. Brigid is a graduating high school senior at Basis San Antonio and this fall will be pursuing degrees in archeology and anthropology at Durham University, United Kingdom. In alignment with these interests along with an interest in mortuary practices of past and present societies, she became intrigued about bookbinding and anthropodermic bibliopegy, also known as books bound in human skin. On May 18th, 2023, Brigid Ellard presented her senior project paper titled, Judging a Book by its Cover: An Anthropodermic Bibliopegy Study.

For her project, Brigid asked the unprecedented question: are there any books in the P. I. Nixon Medical Historical Library bound in human skin? She spent 10 weeks conducting a systemic review of over 6,000 historical medical texts in the P.I. Nixon Library and found that 1,525 books were bound or trimmed in leather. Investigative macroscopic and microscopic comparison revealed most leather bindings to be of pig, goat, sheep, cow, and deer. The leather of six volumes was not easily identified and fit other criteria pointing to human skin. Leather samples less than 1mm were collected and sent to a UT Health Lab for peptide mass fingerprinting (PMF) and compared against a known animal database to identify the origin of collagen.

Final laboratory results determined that of the six samples submitted, none were found to be of human origin, which means the Nixon Library does not own any books bound in human skin. Brigid found the experience quite valuable and spoke about the controversies surrounding books that have been positively identified through PMF and the Anthropodermic Book Project. Custodians of books proven to be bound in human skin must address ethics, consent, sensationalism, and consider the overall history of medicine. The Nixon Library benefits greatly from her exhaustive inventory and research.

We congratulate Brigid on her successful research and wish her the best in her future endeavors.

Student Stress Re-Duck-Tion Contest at the Briscoe Library

As a part of library exam time relaxation for students during the first part of May, students participated in a variety of activities including Fiesta flower making and photo wall, coloring, origami, jigsaw puzzles, and a Stress Re-Duck-tion contest. To win one of 25 Stress Re-Duck-Tion prize bags, students had to find rubber ducks that library staff had hidden across all 3 floors of the library. In addition to library staff, Vik (virtual information kiosk) played a key role in the contest.

Library Hosts Connective Tissue Art Exhibit

Now on display in the Briscoe Library through the end of May are select submissions from the 2023 Connective Tissue journal. Take the opportunity when you can to view the full exhibit and pick up a free copy of the journal.

Connective Tissue is a publication of the Center of Medical Humanities and Ethics (CMHE) and is open to submissions from all students, faculty, staff, residents, and alumni from UT Health San Antonio. The journal publishes high-quality works of prose, poetry, 55-word stories, photography, and visual art. Connective Tissue is curated by a team of gifted student editors who embrace the creative talents of students, faculty, and staff from across our community.

New Resource - Pediatric Surgery NaT

The library is happy to announce that we now have a subscription to Pediatric Surgery NaT (Not a Textbook). 

Pediatric Surgery NaT guides surgeons from presentation to procedures to long term outcomes with the current general surgical care of children at your fingertips.

Designed for both practicing and in-training pediatric surgeons, NaT is updated quarterly so that the latest strategies, techniques, and procedures can be accessed by surgeons anytime, anywhere- on your mobile device or on the web.

Written by pediatric surgeons for pediatric surgeons, the Pediatric Surgery NaT contains learning objectives, images, videos, and links to MOC CME and the latest medical literature. Surgeons can download this powerful app to their smartphone or tablet to improve patient care and participate in the NaT community of practice.

You can find the resource on our database page and through the library catalog.

*On campus registration for personal account required. Mobile app is available. NOTE: ExPERT not included in subscription.

Nixon Notes: Couching for Cataracts

May is Healthy Vision Month. The CDC is encouraging everyone to take action and safeguard our eyesight by scheduling regular dilated eye exams, using protective eyewear during physical activities, and practicing workplace eye safety.

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Couching in India. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. CC BY 4.0

From ancient times to modern day, caring for our eyes has been a vital part of medicine. Did you know the oldest known eye surgery was used to treat cataracts as far back as 600 BCE? The method, known as couching, involved treating the eye with specially-made needles.

The exact origins are lost to time, and debated by historians and anthropologists, but the technique is believed to have originated in India, being first described in the collected medical text Suśrutasaṃhitā. Couching spread from India to China, and likely made its way to the Greek-speaking world by around 250 BCE, later becoming widely practiced in the Middle East, Europe, South Asia, and Africa.

The procedure involved pressing down the afflicted lens (couching the cataract) with specially made needles. Originally this procedure may have been done using sharp tree thorns but eventually metal needles were used, commonly made of copper, bronze, or iron, and occasionally silver or gold.

Patients undergoing the procedure were positioned either lying down or sitting up, with someone holding their head still while the surgeon carefully inserted the needle into the side of the eye, shifting the tool up and down to dislodge the cataract.

While couching immediately cleared the fog of the cataract, it had major drawbacks. The patient was left without a lens in the eye, causing permanent low visual acuity in the majority of cases. In addition, without the technology to remove the cataract, it would float to the bottom of the eye and remain there, potentially causing long-term complications such as blindness and infection.

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Needles such as these have been found in the ruins of Pompeii and as far west as the British Isles.

The procedure fell out of popular favor as more modern techniques like extracapsular and intracapsular cataract extraction began to develop around the 1700s in France and England. Couching is still performed in various parts of the world to this day, most often in remote areas where other care options are not available.

In modern cataract surgery the removed lens is most often replaced with an artificial one. This, combined with sanitation practices and modern tools, have made it so that over 90% of operations are successful, with very low complication rates.

Take some time to care for yourself and set up your annual eye exam this May!

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Healthy Vision Resources

Featured Ebook of the Month

Writing for Publication in Nursing and Healthcare: Getting It Right

Roger Watson, Karen Holland

Writing for Publication in Nursing and Healthcare helps readers develop the skills necessary for publishing in professional journals, presenting conference papers, authoring books, research reports, and literature reviews, and more. This comprehensive resource covers all aspects of writing for publication, including good practice in reviewing, the editorial process, ethical aspects of publishing, and the rules that govern academic writing, publishing, and dissemination.

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.