From Snake Oil to Medicine: Pioneering Public Health

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Overview

Without Samuel J. Crumbine and his Kansas Department of Health, diseases festering in water sources, food and the common towel would have caused thousands of deaths in the United States. Crumbine and his associates paved the way to better treatment of tuberculosis. This well-written account leads the reader down a path of crucial medical advancements.

Samuel J. Crumbine was a medical educator without peer, who used his department of health to disseminate the latest developments he and others throughout the world were achieving in public health. He found it necessary to propagandize a skeptical and sometimes hostile public to accept the germ theory, the idea that invisible microbes were making them ill and that they should clean up their environment and their food and water sources. He had to convince the public to rely on modern medicine, not snake oil and other miracle cures for a healthy living. R. Alton Lee's historical account might offer insight in today's threat of Bird Flu and other recent medical threats for any reader.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"R. Alton Lee has written a detailed account of the professional life of a pioneer in public health, Dr. Samuel J. Grumbine. Lee not only tells the story of a life's work but shows that the events Grumbine initiated and witnessed were the roots of public health and continue to give the field direction and meaning….Lee has given us far more than a story of a rural primary care physician who succeeded on larger platforms. Grumbine used his own experience as a rural practitioner to convince President Hoover to advocate federal support for local health units, raising public health to new importance at a pivotal time."

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Journal of the American Medical Association

"Lee revisits Kansas doctor Samuel J. Crumbine and his pioneering educational campaign for public health from the post-Civil War era to the 1950s. Inspired by the Progressive reform spirit of the time, Dr. Crumbine and the Kansas Department of Health paved a way to promote pure water and food and sanitary reforms against public drinking cups and towels, rats and flies, and spitting. Despite political turmoil, the Crumbine team continued to strengthen the medical profession by instructing child hygiene programs (Warren Car) and leading national battles against tuberculosis and venereal diseases. Lee's major contribution is spotlighting a scarcely studied topic in mainstream academia: western frontier medical practices and the health reform movement disseminating the latest germ theory to the public…. Recommended. General and undergraduate collections."

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Choice

"[M]eticulously documented chronicle of Samuel Crumbine's life."

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Great Plains Research

"Lee laments that Crumbine, who was recognized by contemporaries as a visionary, is now largley forgotten. Lee's book aims to bring the Kansas doctor out of the shadows by highlighting his many contributions in the fight against disease, contaminants, ignorance, and quackery….Lee places Crumbine's career withing the larger context of progressives' efforts to reform public health at the turn of the century….How this largely forgotten Kansas doctor helped create this system is a fascinating story."

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Kansas History

"The first decade of the twentieth century saw profound changes in both the scientific bases and the institutional forms of the public health profession….From Snake Oil to Medicine tells the story of those changes through a biography of Samuel Crumbine….The focus on Kansas is welcome. Most histories of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century public health….have focused on the urban Northeast….Lee has a good eye for colorful details and telling anecdotes. The book offers many entertaining episodes that give texture to the work of officials."

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Journal of American History

"This volume merits a large audience for its revealing insights into a variety of medical topics and public health issues. The chapters are long and the writing stately, if not sprightly, but the reader needs to continue on for the insights to be gained."

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The Historian

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Product Details

Meet the Author

R. Alton Lee is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Dakota. He taught American history for the last thirty years of his career, specializing in American labor and constitutional history. After retiring in 1996, he moved to Kansas where he has been researching Kansas history.

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Table of Contents


Preface     ix
The Wild West     1
Promoting Public Health     31
Confronting the Great White Scourge     69
Improving Child Health     99
Fighting the Great War at Home     129
The Civilized East     161
Conclusions     191
Notes     197
Bibliography     217
Index     225
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