University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy lecturer, Dr. Kate Rotzenberg, and the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy welcomed first-year pharmacy students enrolled in UW’s “Pharmacy in the Health Care System” class to AIHP’s Kremers Reference Files (KRF) last month.
Dr. Rotzenberg asked her students to take a trip back in time as part of their unit on Ethics and Professional Decision-Making. The optional, for-credit assignment required students to visit the KRF to learn about three history of pharmacy artifacts. Students were then asked to write reflections on one of the three items and to describe how the artifact reflected the pharmacist’s relationship with society at that time.
114 students from Dr. Rotzenberg’s class visited the KRF over the course of a week. UW Social and Administrative Sciences graduate student and AIHP Research Assistant Maeleigh Tidd led tours of the archives and provided the students brief histories of the selected artifacts.
The “Age of Drugs” lithograph from Puck magazine was the most popular artifact with 52 student reflections, followed by a bottle of cannabis extract with 30 student reflections, and an image of picketing pharmacists from 1934 with 28 student reflections. (See below for more information about these three artifacts). Four enterprising students chose other artifacts they discovered in the KRF. To wrap up the assignment, Dr. Rotzenberg lectured about the ethical context of the relationship between society and the profession of pharmacy and how this relationship has evolved over time.
Dr. Rotzenberg was pleased with the number of students who participated in the optional assignment, saying “many students went above and beyond in their reflections, not only commenting about what the artifact demonstrated at that time, but also how the depicted issue is relevant now – especially for the cannabis and picketing pharmacist artifacts. Several students noted the similarities in strained working conditions and the resurgence of cannabis as a therapeutic entity of interest.”
AIHP and Dr. Rotzenberg enjoyed the interactive assignment and the increased involvement of pharmacy students in the historical collections. Dr. Rotzenberg observed that “the activity was an overwhelming success and will be a routine component of this course going forward.”
Puck, “The Age of Drugs”: Satirical cartoon showing the inside of an early-twentieth-century drugstore. The pharmacist (right) dispenses labelled medicine bottles to his customers. The bottles on the counter include arsenic, strychnine, opium, and cocaine. On the left, a saloon keeper leans against a column, and says (in the caption): “The kind of drunkard I make is going out of fashion. I can’t begin to compete with this fellow.”
Fluid Extract Cannabis: Prescribed in the late nineteenth century for loss of appetite, inability to sleep, migraines, headaches, pain, involuntary twitching, excessive coughing, and treatment of withdrawal symptoms from morphine and alcohol addiction. Until 1937, cannabis products were legal to sell in pharmacies and drug stores, as long as they were properly labeled and regulated. During the 1930s, however, mainstream attitudes toward cannabis changed negatively and helped lead to the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which essentially outlawed the drug.
Picketing Pharmacists: The pharmacists Union of Greater New York organized drugstores in the Bronx in 1934. Several drugstore owners, including Meyer A. Feinberg, refused to sign union contracts. The Pharmacists Union called a strike against the owners who held out and pharmacists (as seen in the picture) picketed the non-union stores. The Union’s demands were for a closed shop, for registered pharmacists to receive a minimum wage of $32.50/week, a 54-hour work week, and one week paid vacation.
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