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Public health pioneers

“Blazing a new trail in preventative medicine.” In 1926, that’s how the Journal of the American Medical Association described Dalhousie Medical College’s efforts under Dr. W.H. Hattie, director of the recently established Dalhousie University Public Health Clinic. Funded by a grant from the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations, the clinic was a bricks-and-mortar testimony to the surge of interest in public health that followed the influenza pandemic of 1918–1920. While built primarily to provide clinical training facilities for Dalhousie medical students, it also offered students significant exposure to the broader aspects of “social medicine,” including child welfare, venereal disease, ante-natal and dental clinics. Vaccination clinics helped to immunize the local population against all forms of viruses, including common childhood illnesses such as tuberculosis, measles and polio. If you look closely at this photograph, taken sometime in the late twenties, you can see the wall poster warning: “When you cough or sneeze or sniff /Be quick, my lad, with your handkerchief.” Today’s advice may have changed direction, as it were, though rhyming with “inner elbow” is a bit more challenging.

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