Monday, August 29, 2011

Michigander Monday: Dr. Howard Markel

I'm very pleased this week to welcome Dr. Howard Markel to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Tell us a little about yourself.

Dr. Markel:  I was born in Michigan and have lived nearly my entire life here, with the exception of seven years in Baltimore and a year or so in New York City. After earning my Bachelor of Arts and Medical degree at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, I was in Baltimore to complete my medical internship and residency in pediatrics and doctorate in the history of medicine at Johns Hopkins University. As much as I loved the experience, I guess I’m a Michigander at heart, because I came back to the University of Michigan Medical School as an assistant professor in 1993, and I’ve been here ever since. Today, I’m the George E. Wantz, M.D. Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine and the Director of the U-M Center for the History of Medicine. I hold additional professorships in pediatrics, history, psychiatry, and health management and policy.

As a scholar and historian I have published widely on a broad range of topics, but have especially focused on the social history of epidemic disease including the cholera pandemic of 1892-3, trachoma and typhus in the early 20th century, and the influenza pandemics of 1918 and 2009-2010. With regard to that last topic, I served as an influenza consultant to the White House in 2009, and have served as a consultant to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta on pandemic influenza planning since 2006.

Aside from frequently publishing in medical journals, I am a regular contributor to the New York Times and contribute a monthly segment called “Science Diction” on National Public Radio’s Science Friday, where I discuss the often surprising history and evolution of scientific and medical terms. In 2008, I was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, which is an independent, nonprofit organization that works outside of government to provide unbiased and authoritative advice to decision makers and the public.

Debbie:  What an amazing range of research, work, and publishing!  And, of course, we want to know all about your latest book.

Dr. MarkelAn Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine is the story of two medical giants who happened to abuse cocaine.  Freud, of course, is the father of psychoanalysis, while Halsted, who is less well known to the general reader, was the father of modern surgery. Both experimented with cocaine to help others. Freud hoped it would cure a dear friend of morphine addiction, and Halsted believed cocaine was destined to be the world’s first truly effective local anesthetic. Both used themselves as guinea pigs, and were soon ‘hooked.’

Through their shared addiction, Freud and Halsted are tragic figures, but the sum of their life achievements makes them heroes. Freud never used the drug intravenously, and very likely overcame his addiction just as he started developing the therapeutic process we know as psychoanalysis. Halsted wasn’t as lucky. He used cocaine and morphine intravenously for the rest of his life, and underwent the personality changes and alienations we now associate with the addiction process. His iron will to develop new and better surgical techniques, and to teach these to students at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine was strong enough to insure that he confined his addictive excesses to times away from the hospital.

Debbie:  What an extraordinary book!  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Dr. Markel:  As a matter of fact, I’m now researching someone who had a huge role in Michigan’s history—John Harvey Kellogg. He was a Battle Creek physician, breakfast food inventor, and international personality. If his name sounds familiar, perhaps it’s because his brother Will Keith Kellogg founded the breakfast cereal company Kellogg’s of Battle Creek—but you’ll have to read my new book when it’s published in a few years to learn more about the Kellogg brothers and the famous doings of the Battle Creek Sanitarium.

Debbie:  Can't wait to read it!!  How about any upcoming appearances?


Dr. Markel:  I have five appearances in Michigan this fall:

September 8, 7 p.m., Nicola’s Books
Westgate Shopping Center, 2513 Jackson Avenue, Ann Arbor

September 12, 7 p.m., Ann Arbor District Library
Downtown Library, Multi-Purpose Room, 343 South Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor

October 12, 5:30 p.m., Author’s Forum, The University of Michigan
Hatcher Graduate Library, Gallery in Room 100, Ann Arbor

November 8, 7:30 p.m., JCC of Greater Ann Arbor Book Festival
2935 Birch Hollow Dr., Ann Arbor

November 13, 5 p.m., 60th Annual Jewish Book Fair of Metro Detroit
D. Dan and Betty Kahn Building
Eugene and Marcia Applebaum Jewish Community Campus
600 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield

I have others scheduled around the country, and the best way to stay in touch with all my appearances is through my website http://www.howardmarkel.com/ and FaceBook page: www.facebook.com/pages/Howard-Markel/152545694809469

Debbie:  Favorite Michigan library or bookstore?

Dr. Markel:  My favorite bookstore is John K. King, Used and Rare Books, which is located on West Lafayette Boulevard in Detroit. Anyone who loves old books should make the trip to John King’s – it’s one of the best used/rare bookstores in the world.

The Hatcher Graduate Library here at the University of Michigan is my favorite library. I spent a lot of time at Hatcher over my eight years as an undergraduate and medical student. During that period of my life, it seems as if I was always either studying or reading in the stacks.

Debbie:  From my U-M days, I fondly remember the Grad Library!  Terrific library facility.  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Dr. Markel:  Would it surprise you if I answered Ann Arbor? I’ve spent much of my youth and adult life here, and I am still finding new and fun things to do, and intellectual experiences to appreciate. I think it’s the most culturally interesting city in the state, and it sets a certain rhythm to life that I find very satisfactory. That being said, Mackinac Island is appealing to me for its wonderful historical venues.

Debbie:  Both wonderful places!  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Dr. Markel:  My favorite event was here in Ann Arbor, the University Musical Society’s May Festival but sadly the last one was held in 1995. This multi-day festival started in 1894 and, sooner or later, most world-class orchestras and soloists performed for the festival. By the 1990s, times had changed and it was hard for both orchestras and ticketholders to commit to four performances in four days. I can’t think of any event or happening in Michigan that’s been able to replace it for sheer talent and memorable performances.

I’m a Detroit Tigers fan, so I can’t pass up the opportunity to attend as many home games as I can.  Among the most memorable have been the 2006 playoffs (both the Yankees and the Oakland series) and the World Series (in which we were decimated by the Cardinals).  Back when I was in medical school, I even slept outside the old Tiger Stadium to get tickets for the last two games of the 1984 World Series, in which we decimated San Diego!

Debbie:  That's dedication to your team!  How about something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Dr. Markel:  Come and visit. We won’t bite!

Debbie:  Very true!  Finally...  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a "Michigander or "Michiganian?

Dr. Markel:  When I need to identify where I am from, the first term that comes to mind is “Detroiter”.  I was born in Detroit—at Harper Hospital—and grew up in suburban Oak Park and Southfield.  During medical school, I lived for a year on the campus of the Henry Ford Hospital.   I have a lot of affection for Detroit and its environs. Detroit and its cultural zeitgeist shaped my world view. If this isn’t an old saying, it ought to be: You can take the boy out of Detroit, but you can’t take Detroit out of the boy!

Debbie:  Detroiter it is!  Thank you, Dr. Markel, for being here today for Michigander Monday!

To learn more about Dr. Howard Markel and his books, stop by his web site.  And be sure to attend one of his upcoming appearances, listed above.

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