Category Archives: Biology

Lyme Disease update: A second deer tick microbe causes Lyme in North America

Guest post by Alan Barbour, MD

(With Lyme disease on the move and in news, we invited Lyme Disease author Dr. Alan Barbour to contribute regular updates to the JHU Press blog. His posts will highlight the latest findings on Lyme and other deer tick-associated infections and share insights on diagnosis, treatment, and prevention that are reported in the medical literature and other sources. For more frequent short updates and tips, follow Dr. Barbour on Twitter: @alanbarbour.)

Adult_deer_tickFrom the time of our discovery of it in 1981 and for the next 34 years, B. burgdorferi was the only known cause of Lyme disease in North America. That’s no longer the case. A second species–named B. mayonii after Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic–has been identified as a human pathogen in patients in the upper Midwest. In Europe and Asia, a more complicated situation has been the norm for many years. Besides B. burgdorferi, three other species cause Lyme disease on the Eurasian continent. As discussed in the book, this is of more than academic interest because the two most common Eurasian species, B. afzelii and B. garinii, differ in important ways. Both are transmitted by ticks, but B. afzelii more commonly has a rodent as a carrier, while B. garinii has a greater predeliction for birds. In addition, B. garinii is more associated with invasion of the nervous system while B. afzelii is more likely to be confined in its manifestations to the skin. In comparison to those two species, B. burgdorferi more commonly results in arthritis in infected people.

There is only one medical journal article to date about B. mayonii in humans, so there is still much to be learned. But so far, there is evidence that B. mayonii may achieve higher levels of bacteria than B. burgdorferi in the blood during infection. This may be associated with a higher frequency of multiple skin rashes and a greater likelihood of hospitalization. The report focused on cases from the upper midwestern United States. In this region B. mayonii was identified in deer ticks, but it was less common than B. burgdorferi in ticks collected at the same locations and time. Whether B. mayonii occurs in other parts of the United States or Canada is not yet known.

Effective antibiotic treatment of Lyme disease caused by B. mayonii probably will not differ from treating disease caused by B. burgdorferi. But the discovery of a second Lyme disease species may cause a re-evaluation of some diagnostic assays. There may be enough differences between the two bacteria that an antibody test that solely uses B. burgdorferi cells as the target for the patient’s antibodies may have somewhat lower sensitivity when the patient has been infected with B. mayonii.

Since both B. mayonii and B. burgdorferi are carried by the deer tick Ixodes scapularis, the effective measures for reducing the risk of tick bites (which are described in the book) should suffice for protection against both pathogens. A possible exception among prevention options may be canine Lyme disease vaccines that are based on B. burgdorferi or one of its purified protein. Whether there is cross-protection is not known.

barbourAlan G. Barbour, MD, is a professor of medicine and microbiology at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine, a co-discoverer of the cause of Lyme disease, and a leading Lyme disease researcher. He is the author of Lyme Disease: Why It’s Spreading, How It Makes You Sick, and What to Do about It.


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Filed under Animals, Health and Medicine, Nature, Public Health

Birds are going extinct: Entire species are hanging on by their wingtips

“Deforestation and the pet trade have ravaged avian populations, and the consequences for mankind could prove dire.”

That’s how Salon introduced an excerpt recently posted from The Annihilation of Nature: Human Extinction of Birds and Mammals by Gerardo Ceballos, Anne H. Ehrlich, and Paul R. Ehrlich. The excerpt originally appeared on Earth Island Journal, and you can read it on Salon here.

Use promo code “HDPD” to receive a 30% discount when you order your copy of this important book.



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Filed under Animals, Birds, Conservation, Nature

Spring books preview: nature

Seasonal catalog cover spring 2016We’re excited about the books we’ll be publishing this spring—and we’re pleased to start off the new year with a series of posts that highlight our forthcoming titles. Be sure to check out the online edition of JHUP’s entire Spring 2016 catalog, and remember that promo code “HDPD” gets you a 30% discount on all pre-publication orders. Today we feature spring books on nature and life sciences; click on the title to read more about the book or to place an order:

schmidtThe Sting of the Wild
Justin O. Schmidt

kaysCandid Creatures
How Camera Traps Reveal the Mysteries of Nature
Roland Kays

fenolioLife in the Dark
Illuminating Biodiversity in the Shadowy Haunts of Planet Earth
Danté Fenolio

kells-westA Field Guide to Coastal Fishes
From Alaska to California
Val Kells, Luiz A. Rocha, and Larry G. Allen

snyderMarine Fishes of Florida
David B. Snyder and George H. Burgess

ransomWild Equids
Ecology, Management, and Conservation
edited by Jason I. Ransom and Petra Kaczensky

heaneyThe Mammals of Luzon Island
Biogeography and Natural History of a Philippine Fauna
Lawrence R. Heaney, Danilo S. Balete, and Eric A. Rickart

Use discount code “HDPD” to receive a 30% discount on pre-publication orders for JHUP’s spring 2016 titles.
To order, click on the book titles above or call 800-537-5487.



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Filed under Animals, Biology, Conservation, Fish, Life Science, Nature, Publishing News

Enjoying nature in Maryland during the holidays

MackayGuest post by Bryan MacKay

With Winter Solstice just past and the year end approaching (with head-scratching mild weather persisting here in the east), there are plenty of  reasons to get outside in Maryland this month. For inspiration, we once again turn to Bryan MacKay’s A Year across Maryland, his week-by-week guide to enjoying the natural world in JHUP’s home state.

Fourth Week of December: Saw-whet Owls

Winter brings to Maryland North America’s smallest and perhaps most appealing owl, the northern saw-whet. Just eight inches tall, with a large head and arresting yellow eyes, saw-whets are susceptible to predation by larger owls and other birds of prey because of their diminutive size. Hence, they choose densely vegetated habitats with a complex understory, where larger birds might have difficulty maneuvering. In Maryland, saw-whets overwinter on the Piedmont and the Eastern Shore and have been studied in depth on Assateague Island. Each year, one or two pairs may nest in extreme western Maryland.

MacKay Sawwhet owlSaw-whet owls are common in North America, breeding in summer in boreal and northern hardwood forests across the northern tier of the United States and southern Canada. Many, but not all, migrate south with colder weather. The saw-whet owl population may be irruptive; that is, in years when their prey (primarily deer mice) are abundant, they will have significantly larger broods and greater survivorship. Because the young of these irruptive broods invariably migrate, they swell the count at banding stations. For example, in 1995, five banding stations in the mid-Atlantic captured 2,596 saw-whets, most of whom were immatures, while in the previous four years, fewer than two hundred owls per year had been banded.

Like all owls, saw-whets are primarily nocturnal, hunting at night from low perches in dense cover. Unfortunately, the species seems to be more susceptible than most owls to collisions with motor vehicles. Saw-whets have eleven different vocalizations, including alarm calls and mate-attraction calls. They nest in cavities, often abandoned flicker or pileated woodpecker holes, but will use nest boxes supplied by humans if the box’s dimensions are appropriate.

Where to see saw-whet owls this week:  Saw-whets have been extensively studied on Assateague Island in winter, although you might encounter this owl anywhere in suitable habitat on the coastal plain of the Eastern Shore or southern Maryland and into the Piedmont.

Trip of the week: Christmas Bird Count

Various locations statewide. What to see and do: For more than a century, the National Audubon Society has sponsored and coordinated a census of birds known as the Christmas Bird Count, documenting winter bird populations in Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, and beyond. It’s an immense undertaking, engaged in by thousands of volunteers, sometimes braving cold temperatures and chilling winds, in search of every bird within a given search area.

MacKay Christmas bird countThe data reveal trends in populations over time, and the resulting data are invaluable to scientists and conservationists alike. You don’t have to be a hardcore birder to participate. Novice volunteers are welcome and are teamed up with one or more experienced birders. You’ll learn a lot and get a warm feeling (after you thaw out) of accomplishment at having helped our avian friends.

More information: Visit

First Week of January: Mixed Flocks of Winter Songbirds

It’s a cold winter afternoon. Under a bright sun, the forest seems pleasant and inviting. The golden light of late afternoon slants through the trunks of tulip poplars and American beech, casting a filigree of shadows on the forest floor. All is quiet. No call of bird nor trill of insect disturbs the serenity. This quietness is a surprise, for a variety of birds spend their winters in our central Maryland forests: chickadees, titmice, woodpeckers, sparrows, juncos, and even bluebirds. So where are they?

Another ten minutes of hiking reveals a seemingly identical patch of woods, but this one is alive with the chip notes, alarm calls, and drummings of several species of songbird. All of a sudden, the forest seems alive. The birds are moving, always moving, and before each bird can be identified and counted, the flock is gone from sight and out of earshot. Winter birding is like that: most of the forest is bereft of birds, but when one is sighted, it is invariably in the company of a mixed-species flock.

Mackay winter song birdWhy might birds of the winter forest form flocks with individuals of other species? After all, during the breeding season most birds are territorial with members of their own species and generally ignore members of other species. The answer likely lies with the unique survival strategies of winter birds.

Winter imposes constraints on birds that spring, summer, and fall do not. Most significantly, food is more difficult to find. Moving across the landscape in the company of a small group means that if one bird discovers a bush full of berries, the rest of the group can take advantage of the bounty, while one bird moving through the forest alone might miss that prime source of winter food.

Another advantage enjoyed by mixed-species flocks is increased vigilance for spotting predators. Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks—accipiters whose primary food is birds—may find hunting easier in winter, when leaves no longer hide their targets. For songbirds, having more eyes on the skies means that any predator is more likely to be spotted before it can attack.

Finally, some birds, including chickadees and bluebirds, share warmth, roosting together in tree cavities through the long cold night. When it comes time to bed down, birds that travel in a group don’t have to search the forest for their bunkmates.

Where to find mixed flocks of winter songbirds this week: Large tracts of mature forest, such as those along the C&O Canal, in Rock Creek Park, and most Maryland state parks often hold mixed flocks of winter birds.

Bryan MacKay is a senior lecturer emeritus in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He is the author of A Year across Maryland: A Week-by-Week Guide to Discovering Nature in the Chesapeake Region; Hiking, Cycling, and Canoeing in Maryland: A Family Guide; and Baltimore Trails: A Guide for Hikers and Mountain Bikers.

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Filed under Animals, Baltimore, Birds, Conservation, D.C., Holidays, Nature, Regional-Chesapeake Bay

Communicating Reproduction

The Fall 2015 issue of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine is a special issue, “Communicating Reproduction,” that sets an agenda for a long-term vision in this field. Tackling topics from medieval fertility charms to home birth activism, the five essays give a rich sense of current research.

bhm.89.3_frontThe issue is edited and introduced by a group from the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge: Nick Hopwood, Peter Murray Jones, Lauren Kassell, and Jim Secord. Hopwood and Jones participated in a Q&A about the issue.

JHUP: What’s the idea behind this special issue?

NH: Reproduction became very prominent and controversial in the 1970s. Especially since then, historians have contributed much excellent research to the debates. Topics have included childbirth, contraception and abortion, genetics and embryology, and population control. But, not unusually, these studies are too often fragmented between historical periods. The main frameworks, which were also set up in the 1970s, are showing their age. We need some long-term perspectives to draw together and revitalize the field.

PMJ: Communication is key because controlling reproduction and controlling communication about reproduction have always gone together. That very fact has meant that communication tends to be taken for granted. Taking it seriously means reconstructing the conditions for communication, and how it did or didn’t succeed. And this approach lends itself to thinking over the long term. People have asked some very similar questions for centuries, such as “What do male and female contribute?” and “How can we produce healthy children?” But the form of the questions and their audiences have changed dramatically. We’re interested in how that has mattered.

JHUP: How did you approach tackling such a long period of time?

NH: That’s been the biggest challenge. We’re involved in a Wellcome Trust-funded research programme, “Generation to Reproduction,” that goes from antiquity to the present day. Some of us worked together on an exhibition, Books and Babies, that covers the same timespan. So we’ve become used to pooling knowledge in an effort to see beyond our own period expertise. It was an obvious move to invite international colleagues with interests in this approach to join us for the conference that led to the special issue.

PMJ: The issue showcases work from medieval Europe to the late twentieth-century United States. My own article with Lea Olsan shows how medieval men as well as women were involved in rituals for conception and childbirth. Jennifer Richards reconstructs how women read, wrote about, and critiqued one of the most popular midwifery books in early modern England. Alicia Puglionesi investigates how sellers of books on sex and contraception in late nineteenth-century America evaded the Comstock Laws. Solveig Jülich provides insight into the making of the best-selling advice book, A Child Is Born, at a key moment in the history of medicine and the media. Her article reproduces some striking photographs that place Lennart Nilsson’s fetal photographs in context. We put one on the cover. And Wendy Kline explores the relations between countercultural print and the home birth movement in the 1970s.

JHUP: How do the articles work off each other—are there linking themes?

NH: The issue brings these various topics into dialogue through a common concern with technology. The relations between the introduction of new communication technologies and changes in reproduction have been more complex and subtle than is usually realized. This applies to the shift from an older, broader framework of generation to the modern reproduction in the decades around 1800. It also helps us appreciate the paradox that the rise of mass communication did not make everything the same, but rendered meanings even more contested and unstable than before.

PMJ: Our introduction picks out three more specific themes. From the Bible to Brave New World, stories have helped people make sense of the complexities of generation and reproduction. There are also important issues of expertise: who could say what and on what authority? And since knowledge in these areas was often passed over in silence or kept secret, we need to consider relations between knowledge and ignorance. This matters, because communicating reproduction is a story of gaps, misunderstandings, and misreadings—even, perhaps especially, in the seemingly homogenized world of the digital media today.

JHUP: What do you hope happens from here?

NH: Great work has been coming out regularly and there’s more in the pipeline. For example, here in Cambridge, Jesse Olszynko-Gryn, Caitjan Gainty, and Patrick Ellis recently organized an exciting conference on “Reproduction on Film.” But ironically, even those of us who study communication would benefit from communicating more broadly among ourselves. We’d like to think that this special issue will assist colleagues in placing studies of particular periods, media, and genres within longer and broader histories. This will add depth and multiply points of comparison, while opening up the conversation—among historians and other scholars, and hopefully with practitioners too.

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Filed under Biology, Education, Health and Medicine, History, History of Medicine, Journals, Medical Education, Uncategorized

Fall migration Is underway

Guest post by Leslie Day

day15On the next to last day of September 2015, I was walking in Fort Tryon Park in Washington Heights from the Heather Garden. Just before I got to Sir William’s Dog Run, my eye caught a movement high up in the northern red oak tree. Warblers! Knowing it’s migration time for insect- and nectar-eating birds—i.e. warblers, flickers, kinglets, hummingbirds—I never leave home without my trusty, light-weight pocket binoculars. Let me tell you, it is challenging keeping your binoculared eyes on moving warblers. The balletic pattern of one of the warblers foraging in the oak tree made me think REDSTART! These tiny birds—black and red males, gray and yellow females—flash their tails and dive up and down, in and out, gleaning insects from the leaves. I had spotted a lovely female redstart fanning her bright yellow tail and flitting, butterfly-like, from leaf to leaf.

Male black-and-white warbler.

Male black-and-white warbler.

There was another warbler with a different type of motion. Catching up to him with my eyes, I saw it was a male northern parula  warbler: a gorgeous little fellow with olive shoulders and a back, gray head, a bright yellow belly turning orange up by his neck, and a black necklace. What a find!

The next afternoon I met Kellye Rosenheim leading a tour for New York City Audubon. We met at the salt marsh of Inwood Hill Park. The park is located at the northernmost tip of Manhattan Island right next to the shipping canal that connects the Harlem River with the Hudson River at Spuyten Duyvil. So much to see there. The week before, birding with my friend Elizabeth White-Pultz, we saw a marsh wren and a pair of common yellowthroat warblers hanging out in the marsh grass, flowering goldenrod, and asters. Columbia University has their boathouse there with a new kayak dock that is used by the rowing crews and the public. Columbia has housed their boats up there since the late 1920s. Across the Harlem River you can see a giant blue and white C. In 1952, Robert Prendergrast, a Columbia medical student and coxswain of the rowing crew, painted the letter on the massive Fordham gneiss outcropping. From the marsh we walked up into the verdant hills of the park. Entering the deeply forested paths, we found black-throated blue warblers, male and female redstarts, northern flickers, and a white-breasted nuthatch.

Male wood duck.

Male wood duck.

Fall migration happens more slowly than spring migration, when literally hundreds of millions of birds take the aerial route known as the Atlantic flyway from their winter feeding grounds in South and Central America to their northern breeding grounds in the middle Atlantic states, New England, and Canada. Flying over New York City, they drop down in huge numbers into our parks to feed and rest. Sometimes they stay, nesting and raising their young until it is time to make their journey south in order to find food throughout the winter. And so it is that birds leave our area, not because it is too cold in winter—after all they are covered in a layer of down, just like our down coats that keep us warm and cozy in January, February, and March. But birds cannot find the food they need in the winter: insects and other invertebrates, fish, amphibians, small mammals. In addition to watching migrating warblers and other song birds, during fall migration you can join groups looking at migrating hawks, eagles, and owls; egrets, herons and shorebirds. And from the far north come our wintering birds, which are able to survive the cold months in New York City. Small flocks of tufted titmice, white-breasted nuthatches, and black-capped chickadees descend on our wooded parks. And in autumn and winter we make way for ducks, geese, and swans! Wood ducks, northern shovelers, hooded mergansers, ruddy ducks, snow geese, brandt geese, and mute swans flock to our wetlands to find food when their summer territories freeze over. They are not alone. More and more, we are seeing bald eagles along our coast in winter.

And of course we have our year-round birds who are able to find seed, nuts, and dried fruit even in winter: blue jays, house sparrows, crows, starlings, pigeons, cardinals, downy, hairy, and red-bellied woodpeckers, mallard ducks and Canada geese. And let us not forget our birds of prey that are here all year: red-tailed hawks, cooper hawks, sharp shinned hawks, peregrine falcons, American kestrels, great horned owls, saw-whet owls, and screech owls. New York City, as it turns out, is a birding haven throughout the seasons. So take a walk with or without binoculars and you will start to see our lovely and interesting feathered neighbors.

Leslie Day is a New York City naturalist and the author of Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York City, Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City, and Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City, published by Johns Hopkins. Dr. Day taught environmental science and biology for more than twenty years. Today, she leads nature tours in New York City Parks for the New York Historical Society, the High Line Park, Fort Tryon Park Trust, Riverside Park Conservancy, and New York City Audubon. Trudy Smoke is a professor of linguistics and rhetoric at Hunter College, City University of New York and a nature illustrator. She is the illustrator of Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City. Beth Bergman is a photographer for the Metropolitan Opera who moonlights as a nature photographer. Her photographs have appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Newsweek, New York Magazine, Opera News, and Paris Match.


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Filed under Birds, Ducks, Life Science, Nature, ornithology

Going “Beyond Illustration”

Earlier this year, the journal Bulletin of the History of Medicine published a selection of papers called “Beyond Illustrations: Doing Anatomy with Images and Objects.” The articles examine the importance and impact of the visualization of anatomy, pathology, and disease. Carin Berkowitz, director of the Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, guest edited the forum and joined us for a Q&A.

This forum has been a long time in the making. How happy are you to see it come to life?

I am thrilled to see the issue out! I think Eva Ahren and I first realized that there were a number of people working on visualization and anatomy at the annual meeting of the American Association for the History of Medicine in 2011 and began to think about the special issue then, so it has been four years in the making.


Mezzotint by Johann Michael Seligmann from a drawing by Jan Van Rymsdyk, for Charles Nicholas Jenty’s The Demonstrations of a Pregnant Uterus of a Woman at Her Full Time: In Six Tables, as Large as Nature (first German edition, Nuremberg, 1761, from first London edition, 1757). Broadsheet (627 × 443 mm). Courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London. From Carin Berkowitz’s article “Authorship, Patronage, and Illustrative Style in Anatomy Folios, 1700–1840.”

How helpful is it for a journal like the Bulletin to allow space for something like this?

I think it is quite remarkable and very important for a journal like Bulletin to include a forum like this. The journal’s editors, Mary Fissell and Randall Packard, were very supportive of our efforts, and perhaps most importantly, no one at the journal ever told us that we needed to limit the number of illustrations in the issue. As you might imagine, figures and images are essential to articles that attempt to address issues of visual and material culture, and yet they are tricky and expensive to print and therefore often restricted. My article in the issue depends on the comparison of what would normally be considered a huge number of illustrations; to give you a sense of how generous Bulletin was, in fact, there are almost as many pictures in my short article as there are in my entire forthcoming book. Nico Bertoloni Meli’s piece depends on large numbers of images as well. I think we were all surprised and very grateful that the journal gave us the opportunity to address the intersections of medicine, visual culture, and material culture properly.

What is the importance of viewing illustrations beyond that context and using them to learn about history and context?

I think that historians sometimes use pictures as decorative objects—the way that you might add a frieze to a building. What we tried to do in this issue is to think about the pictures as the primary object of study; we made them structural to our arguments. By doing that, one can see that images and objects have often shaped ideas, rather than the reverse. Meli’s article shows that the discipline of pathology really arose through and hand-in-hand with, not only the creation of specimens, but also with conventions of representation that allowed disease to be visualized. Lisa O’Sullivan and Ross L. Jones show us how a material specimen could generate not only knowledge, data, and practices, but also whole networks of practitioners and even institutions around it. Both cases offer instructive examples of the historiographical rewards that can be reaped by placing the visual and material at the center of inquiry.

Engraving by J. Grant from a drawing by Charles Bell, Plate II: “Nerves of the Neck” from Charles Bell’s A Series of Engravings Explaining the Course of the Nerves (1803). Quarto (29 cm high). Courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London. From Carin Berkowitz's article “Authorship, Patronage, and Illustrative Style in Anatomy Folios, 1700–1840.”

Engraving by J. Grant from a drawing by Charles Bell, Plate II: “Nerves of the Neck” from Charles Bell’s A Series of Engravings Explaining the Course of the Nerves (1803). Quarto (29 cm high). Courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London. From Carin Berkowitz’s article “Authorship, Patronage, and Illustrative Style in Anatomy Folios, 1700–1840.”

How has technology changed the landscape of interacting with visual displays of anatomy?

This is a good question. I won’t try to answer it with respect to modern displays, but with respect to historical ones, I fear sometimes that although it makes visual displays more readily available, it does so in a way that further decontextualizes them. We make a point in our Forum of trying to follow art historians’ conventions (rather than those of historians of science) in labelling, describing, where possible, not only the text from which an image came and that text’s author, but also the makers of the image (artists, engravers), and, importantly, the medium and size within which it was originally produced. This seems to me absolutely essential, and something that often gets stripped away even with reprinting, but all the more so with reproductions available on websites and through apps. When one loses sight of format, one fails to appreciate the possible conditions of use. Some historians, for example, have written about William Hunter’s Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus as an instructional text for practitioners, but Hunter’s original book was an elephant folio (the name tells you something about its size). A practitioner could never have used it as a ready reference, as it was hardly portable (or affordable)! Technology hasn’t introduced these problems of decontextualized reproduction, and it offers to solve other problems, like those of reproducing color for journal articles, for example, but image galleries do seem to flatten differences that are rather stark in the material objects themselves.

Where does the conversation go from this point?

Well, there’s much interesting work being done on other kinds of visual displays and material representations within medicine–on models, on photographs, on standardized charts of anatomy. I, for one, would like to see much more intersection between these sorts of conversations and those taking place in art history and visual studies, and even between history of medicine and history of science. It seems to me that there is much that communities gain from interacting, including new vocabularies and new kinds of questions. The history of medicine offers so much under-explored and fertile empirical material that there are many possibilities for future directions!

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Filed under Biology, Education, Health and Medicine, History, History of Medicine, Journals, Medical Education