Friday, February 11, 2011

Paul S. Russell, MD, Museum highlights evolution of MGH medical innovation

Under construction: An architect's vision of the lobby of the new museum

As a highlight to the MGH bicentennial year, the hospital will open the Paul S. Russell, MD, Museum of Medical History and Innovation, named in honor of longtime MGH physician Paul S. Russell, MD, a pioneer in the field of transplant surgery and chair of the MGH History Committee. Currently under construction on the corner of North Grove and Cambridge streets, the museum will be a two-story building, including a rooftop garden, that will serve as a "gateway" to the hospital campus for patients, visitors and the community.

"I know going way back that people have been interested in having a museum, and now is the perfect time to open one since the MGH is celebrating its 200th anniversary," says Russell. "There is so much to tell and a great sweep of interest, not only on the clinical side but also on the research and community side -- specifically around how the hospital has continued its tradition of caring for its neighbors, which today can mean in our community or around the world."

To help share the rich past and exciting future of the MGH, the museum will feature rotating exhibits based on thematic topics. Peter Johnson, director of the Russell Museum, offers insight into several of these themes.

"Each exhibit will have a general theme, such as the founding of the MGH on the idea that Ôwhen in distress every man becomes our neighbour," says Johnson. "Another theme would be the idea that the campus itself reflects the innovation and evolution of patient care and medical practice. When one looks at the buildings from both an architectural and anthropological standpoint, it is apparent that they were designed to reflect the current understanding at that time -- whether it be convalescing in a patient room or performing surgeries in a medical theater."

Johnson explains that another exhibit theme will address how medical innovation can result from times of crisis, such as the inventive medical techniques born out of the need to save lives in suboptimal conditions in times of war.

"As a result of the Cocoanut Grove fire in 1942, the MGH received many burn patients, and during this time advances in burn care were made. Likewise, battlefield medicine draws upon man's ingenuity and creativity to spur on new medical techniques, ideas and advances. The museum will showcase some of these areas of progress as well as the general evolution of medicine at the MGH then, now and in the future."

For more information about the museum, which is slated to open in late 2011, contact Johnson at

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