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The Development of Medicine in Eastern North Carolina, 1849–2005

“The Development of Medicine in Eastern North Carolina, 1849–2005” exhibit, which was featured on the fourth floor of Laupus Library from May through June 2016, was created to celebrate the new online discoverability of the manuscript collections of the Laupus Library and Country Doctor Museum. The project was the result of a collaboration between Laupus and Joyner libraries, who received an LSTA grant to add new accessibility to the collections. The focus of the project was to convert the collection guides formerly only available locally into online format and to digitize over 200 items for access worldwide. The project was made possible through funding from the federal Institute of Museum of Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

The exhibit covered the development of medicine from small town, country doctors to the creation of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, while highlighting several country doctors from eastern North Carolina beginning in the mid-19th century, along with a father-son who owned and operated a pharmacy in Stantonsburg. Country doctors practiced and lived in the same town, generally rural communities, although they often served the surrounding communities as well. A country doctor often addressed a wide range of medical issues, including surgeries, and house calls were a major part of their work. Country doctors developed strong relationships and trust with their patients, holding a prominent position within the community. Early on, doctors mixed, rolled, cut, and dispensed medicines themselves. A patient did not need to go to a separate pharmacy for the pills or tinctures he or she needed to get well. Later, doctors purchased medications from pharmaceutical companies and had them available in their offices to give to patients.

Due to the lack of local medical schools, physicians in eastern North Carolina were often educated at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Baltimore, Maryland. To meet the need for a medical school and increase the supply of primary care physicians to serve the state, East Carolina University officials, the ECU Board of Trustees, community physicians, and state legislators lobbied for years for the establishment of a medical school at East Carolina University. Since 1977, when the first class of 28 students enrolled in the four-year School of Medicine, the institution has grown dramatically in its teaching, research and patient care roles. In 1999, the school was renamed the Brody School of Medicine, in recognition of the continuous support of the Brody family.

Supplemental exhibit highlighting medicine in the military was featured on the first floor of Joyner Library. To learn more about all of those represented in Laupus’s manuscript holdings, explore this digital collection or request the original materials in the History Collections Reading Room on Laupus Library’s fourth floor.