Lessons from Johns Hopkins History
Johns Hopkins’ Department of Otolarlyngology–Head and Neck Surgery is steeped in rich history. But until this year, as the department prepares for its upcoming centennial celebration in 2014, much of its past had been forgotten, with lore and artifacts gathering dust in tucked-away cabinets.
Ioan Lina is working to change that. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University’s undergraduate program in biomedical engineering, Lina was looking for a way to stay connected to Hopkins, and medicine in general, while he takes a gap year before attending medical school. For the past two years, he’d performed research in the lab of Amanda Lauer, who studies hearing loss and other basic otolaryngology questions. That’s where he came to know several of the other clinicians and researchers in the department.
When Lina was asked to dig up the department’s history, he jumped at the chance. “I wanted to figure out what made this department the leader in the nation,” he says.
Part of Lina’s work involved sorting through physical artifacts signifying major departmental milestones. For example, Lina cataloged a set of some of the first transistor-based hearing aids, which doctors in the department supplied to veterans coming back from World War II.
On the more eccentric side, Lina has also been working on cataloging a collection of foreign bodies that the department’s surgeons have extracted from patients’ ears, noses and throats over the years. The collection includes items as varied as jacks, safety pins, nails and a piece of a wishbone. The oddest part of the assortment, Lina says, is the fact that many of these items were removed from adults.
“From children, it wouldn’t be surprising,” he says. “But to think an adult could have these foreign objects really took me aback a bit.”
Lina has also turned up some surprising details about milestones in the department’s past. For example, the first department director, Samuel Crowe, was planning to practice neurosurgery when Johns Hopkins’ first surgery director, William Halsted, asked him to lead the department. At that point, Crowe had no experience in otolaryngology and had received an enticing offer to follow his mentor, Harvey Cushing, to Harvard. But rather than take what might have been an easier path, Crowe threw himself into training in otolaryngology and accepted the director position after all.
Lina says learning about the department’s history is teaching him some valuable lessons he’s hoping to apply to his own career. “You can’t control the opportunities presented to you, and you’re going to face obstacles,” he says. “But if you’re persistent, that’s where success and greatness will come from.”
To find out more about the department’s centennial celebrations, call 443-287-2124
100 YEARS: The department will celebrate its centennial on June 20, 2014, with a daylong symposium and an evening gala dinner. All former residents, faculty, staff and donors are invited.