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Poor Historians: Medical History Misadventures

Dr. Max, Dr. Aaron, Dr. Mike, and Alba

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Three modern emergency physicians and their show's "medical history intern" take a lighthearted, humorous quest through various stories in the history of medicine. New episodes every two weeks and a bonus episode once per month. Topics span from ancient times to relatively recent history, all related to important advancements, people, or discoveries in the history of medicine. To provide feedback, check out merch, and to support the show in other ways, head on over to our website: www.poorhi ...
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Dissecting Medical History

The Professional Gypsy

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A weekly mental vacation from life's worries by providing information formatted on medical related historical topics, events, and biographies in a fun and critically thinking way with a nurse and sometimes other history enthusiasts.
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A podcast about Medicine and History. Each Episode I'm going to talk about historical events and how they've affected Medical Science as we know it today. I'll also be interviewing an expert in each field to see what their angle is on each topic. I hope you find it interesting!
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It's probably popular knowledge that alcohol as a substance of use--and potential misuse--has been with humankind since our earliest days. In this episode, Dr. Mike explores the earliest references to alcohol and takes us through a tour of it's evolution alongside various cultures and eventual recognition as a poison that is capable of great harm. …
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Thanks to a fan suggestion, we went ahead and gave this TV series about an ER doctor turned concierge physician for the rich and famous a try. It had its moments. ----- Patreon Page (support the show) ----- Submit a Question for Non-Medical Advice Segment (website form with instructions) ----- Podcast Linktree (social media links / reviews / rating…
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We've had many requests for this topic over the years and Dr. Aaron finally took charge of it. We'll explore the crossroads of medical history and medical ethics as it applies to the case of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman who's peculiar tumor cells lived on to be the source of numerous medical discoveries--albeit without her permission.…
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In the early 19th century, pioneers on the American western frontier were dying of an unusual illness. It even claimed the life of Nancy Lincoln, mother of the accomplished wrestler (and incidental president of the U.S.), Abraham Lincoln. The cause of this mysterious illness was known to one Anna Pierce as well as the Native American populations of…
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We have a new piece of medicine infused awful cinema to check out. We reviewed Madame Web and boy was it bad, not only as a movie, but also as a portrayal of EMS medicine. Way to go, Marvel. ----- Patreon Page (support the show) ----- Submit a Question for Non-Medical Advice Segment (website form with instructions) ----- Podcast Linktree (social me…
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In the 1930's (and before), there was a mysterious cause of infant mortality. An astonishing number of newborns were victim to a mismatch between their blood type, and that of their mothers. Doctors at the time were not sure why this was happening. This is the story of the discovery of the cure for that condition and a man who went above and beyond…
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If you can believe it, watching people walk around was once a spectator sport. It was the Gilded Age and there weren't many options for sport entertainment. We'll investigate how the participants in this early sport-ish activity helped inform the more modern practices of performance enhancing substance use as we know them today. We'll touch on cycl…
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We said that episode one of this TV series was bad, medically and critically speaking. Maybe that's not fair. It was a pilot, after all. We went ahead and checked out episode 2. It was worse. ----- Patreon Page (support the show) ----- Submit a Question for Non-Medical Advice Segment (website form with instructions) ----- Podcast Linktree (social m…
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When a mysterious gastrointestinal illness starts turning into a dangerous neurologic disease accompanied by green tongues in post WWII Japan, researches scramble to find out why people are becoming sick. We'll do a deep dive on this one to figure out the cause. Sources: -https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/when-cure-is-cause-180967666/ -…
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From the discovery of this well-known medication, to the science behind its function, and spanning all the way to treatments for the underlying condition of erectile dysfunction as well as a complication of said treatments called priapism, this episode covers a lot of ground. As you might imagine, there will be discussions of male genitalia, the ex…
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The Patrons have spoken! They suggested we lend our medical expertise in a new and unique manner, by watching, reacting, and reviewing a popular medical show. We chose "The Resident" and boy-oh-boy was it bad. Whether you're a fan of that particular show or have yet to see it, this episode will let you experience all it's medically inaccurate glory…
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We invited Jerry Landry, host of the exceptional Presidencies of the U.S. Podcast onto the show today to help us discuss the clandestine surgery at sea that was done on President Grover Cleveland in the late 1800's. It was kind of a big deal. Listen to the end to hear a teaser on the upcoming Patron inspired TV show review. We'll talk about it afte…
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Charles Darwin, the famous naturalist of the 19th century, was a big fan of collecting specimens. Some of those specimens would crawl around and feed on one's blood. In this episode we'll talk about the life of Darwin and the medical history of his death, considering that a fascinating infectious disease may have been a contributing factor. Sources…
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Botox, the widely popular injectable medication, has been on the market and popular for a while now. What you might not realize is that there's an intricate and fascinating story behind the discovery of Botox, a literal bacterial toxin. This episode welcomes physician and author, Dr. Eugene Helveston to the show to discuss his book, "Death to Beaut…
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On this episode, Mike leads a discussion of the history of defining narcissistic personality disorder as a psychiatric diagnosis. Starting with Napoleon Bonaparte, and including other historical examples, we'll examine the diagnosis as defined through different perspectives in time. Enjoy this unique approach to this historic giant. Sources: -https…
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Behavioral health is certainly within the bounds of medicine and, thereby, medical history. The Stanford Prison Experiment asked the question of whether the environment of prison compelled bad behavior from those within the system. In order to study this, this 1970's university psychology experiment went to extreme lengths to turn its research subj…
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If you're like me (Dr. Max) and the words "Dropkick Murphy" conjure images of the legendary Boston-based punk rock band, you might be surprised to know the history behind that name. In this interview, Dr. Max sat down to interview Emily Sweeney, a staff reporter for the Boston Globe and author of a book on Dr. John "Dropkick" Murphy, who was not on…
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He conquered many lands, sailed many seas, and was finally awarded his own Netflix miniseries, but at the age of 32, the ruler of Macedonia known throughout the ages as Alexander the Great, died in the palace of a Babylonian king shortly after a night of partying. There have been numerous potential explanations as to what happened. In this episode …
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This is a fascinating dive into the world of genetics, set against a backdrop of a curious dermatology finding, and ending with one of the most interesting and convoluted paternity cases you may ever hear about. The Maury show has nothing on this one, trust us. Mike suggested this episode be titled "This is Chimerica!" or "Have you Heard About the …
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This episode of the Curious Case Vault has an admittedly grim premise--a patient who suffered two gunshot wounds to the head. In this discussion, Alba leads us through a case of a young Brooklyn, NY man who, in the spring of 1888, sustained what could have been a devastating injury in any time in history. In his case, we'll see how the neurosurgeon…
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Rabies is a fascinating and frightening infectious disease. It has a long history in the natural world and stories involving a case of it rarely end on a happy note. It just so happens there is at least one such story. In this episode we'll talk about one of the only documented cases of survival from this viral infection. We'll discuss the disease …
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The 1920's was a time in the U.S. when anybody with a clever sales pitch and a willingness to pull a patent could devise a concoction and call it a "medication." Unfortunately, the heyday of the "patent medicine" era coincided with the discovery of radium before the downstream consequences of radioactivity were known. The wealthy industrialist, Ebe…
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A 30 year old woman in 1842 comes down with an awful gastrointestinal illness and a physician is called. He recounts the case in this article and asks if this might have been something called "Cholera Morbus." We'll go through the case, talk about causes for this sort of thing, and do our best to guess the diagnosis. The approach to treating the di…
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This unusual, recurrent epidemic illness has popped its head in and out of the annals of history. It goes by many names: the English Sweats, coma somnolentum, Schlafkrankheit ("sleep sickness"), and the Nona, to name a few. The last time it was widespread was during the influenza pandemic of 1915-1926, but medical case studies and reports of recurr…
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Let's do a neurologic case featuring an American music legend who sought help after developing unusual headaches and a distorted sense of smell. We'll figure out what happened and who it is in this installment! Avoid clicking through the references if you wish to keep the mystery intact. References https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S0140…
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CPR (aka cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is a simple way to save a life. When a heart stops, the modern teaching is to "get on the chest" and start giving compressions. But it may surprise nobody that there were early forms of CPR. There were whole committees devoted to this topic. Some of the first ideas were definitely a rough draft. Others were d…
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We decided to throw out a little bit of a bonus episode. In what we're calling the Curious Case Vault for now, we'll go into the archives of a well-established medical journal and read a real case report from long ago--1841, to be exact. In this case, with our help as physicians, Alba will puzzle through the case of a 53 year old patient who, unfor…
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He was dubbed "The 8th Wonder of the World" in the wrestling universe. The career of Andre the Giant was legendary and interesting on it's own, but on this episode we'll dive into the history of the discovery of gigantism and acromegaly, the condition that gave Andre his astounding stature. We'll talk about other notable cases in history and how ph…
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Who do you picture when someone says the word "surgeon?" There are many common depictions of surgeons in popular media--from TV shows and other avenues of fiction. What makes up the persona of a surgeon? In her book, Cold Hard Steel, author Agnes Arnold-Forster draws upon the historical building blocks of the profession to examine our ideas of who …
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Halloween may be approaching, but this is no ghost story. This episode's unusual case takes us back in time to Paris, 1882. It is based on a patient known as Mademoiselle X, who was brought in for evaluation by a French neuropsychologist, Dr. Jules Cotard to discover the reasons for her seemingly strange behavior. What follows in this episode is an…
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When you hear the story of how syphilis research was carried out in the United States in the 20th century, you'll probably start to understand why there is a history of mistrust of the medical establishment, especially among the African American community. This episode details one of the bleakest and most shameful chapters in U.S. medical history, …
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You've heard the sayings about how hard life was back in the 18th and 19th centuries, but have you ever considered the life of a chimney sweep in London during those times? Far from the cheery character in Mary Poppins, the actual chimney sweeps of the time were children, hired into a very dangerous job. One surgeon made the association between tha…
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In the 1990's a curious thing happened. When a patient arrived very ill to the emergency department, doctors and nurses were astonished to find crystals in her blood with a foul odor. Why were they smelling the blood? Who knows, it was the 90's? Soon thereafter, multiple people in the hospital room with her started to fall ill. What might have caus…
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This is a historic episode. We'd like to welcome the newest addition to the Poor Historians Podcast crew, the exceptionally talented and enthusiastic new medical history intern, Alba! This is her first episode on the show and we're stoked to have her along on our misadventures. Here we have another mystery case. Aaron will take us through a harrowi…
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Esteemed retinal surgeon and accomplished author, Dr. Andrew Lam joined us on the show to discuss multiple foundational stories to explain how modern cardiology came to be. This comes from a chapter out of his most recent book, The Masters of Medicine which also contains other stories about the most important innovations and discoveries from a vari…
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This episode has a fun twist. Aaron and Mike will go through the case of the famous American author and mastery of mystery and suspense, Edgar Allen Poe's. They'll be presented with his final moments and hospital course, initially not knowing who we're talking about. This is a bit of a look at how physicians brainstorm medical cases to come up with…
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You've probably heard her name before but do you know the real story behind this infamous moniker? The story of Typhoid Mary is a complicated one having to do with public health, an infectious disease, and impressively human stubbornness. We'll talk about Typhoid fever, the bacteria that causes it, and how a healthy person ended up exiled to an isl…
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New episode this week with special guest @janeyjonesliteraryprincess who joined us to talk about her new book, "The Edinburgh Seven." It's the tale of seven women, led by the inimitable Sophia Jex-Blake who sought to become, along with her colleagues, the first women to be trained in medicine at the #universityofedinburgh. This is the story as well…
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These two titans of medical history were contemporaries whose scientific sparring was as interesting as it was helpful. By butting heads over topics in microbiology, Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur, used a rivalry to further our understanding of infectious disease and both contributed greatly to mitigating the impact that so many different microbes h…
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Tuberculosis is an infectious disease of historic proportions. Not only is it still around, infecting an estimated 10+million people in 2021 alone, but in a prior era, in Victorian England, having tuberculosis became something of a fashion achievement, believe it or not. In this episode, we'll explore how having this awful and deadly disease--espec…
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This episode will be a deviation from our normal format. Unfortunately, the entire episode we'd recorded for release this week was lost to the cyberspace aether. A whole episode just gone from existence. Discovering this with no time to re-record, we decided to release something previously unheard: a Poor Historians Podcast pilot episode. We had pl…
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As the resident Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) on this podcast, Max will lead his MD colleagues through an examination of the roots of osteopathic medicine from its founding by Andrew Taylor Still, its quest to re-define medicine, and its eventual growth into the medical profession it is today. If you've ever wondered why some doctors have D.O. after …
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We'll look inward this week to talk about the history of our own specialty as emergency physicians. People may not be aware that the practice of emergency medicine is relatively new in the house of medicine. Before the 1970's the ER was a very different place as you'll find out. Link to documentary called 24/7/365 on the topic discussed in episode …
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With the success of "The Last of Us" show, we thought we'd take some time to look at historically important cases of fungal infection. We'll investigate a possible explanation for all those witch trials of yesteryear as well as a common childhood fungal infection that accounted for quite the degree of social upheaval in Victorian England. Also, we'…
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