Thursday, December 10, 2009

Where the Bullitt Club Got Its Name

The namesake for the Bullitt History of Medicine Club is, of course, Dr. James Bell Bullitt [1874-1964]. Dr. Bullitt served as professor of pathology at the UNC School of Medicine from 1913-1947, and as shown in the photograph here, was fond of pipe-smoking and the whittler's craft, something he practiced often, particularly during meetings.

Dr. Bullitt was well known to Dr. John Graham, who first met him in 1939 while a second-year medical student at UNC. As UNC only had a two-year program at that time, Dr. Graham's medical degree was earned at Cornell University in 1942. He joined the faculty at UNC in 1946 as an instructor in pathology, and spent his entire illustrious career at the university, being instrumental in establishing a genetics curriculum which laid the groundwork for today's Carolina Center for Genome Sciences. Dr. Graham retired in 1985 as Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and was an internationally recognized expert in blood coagulation, genetics, and human population dynamics.

In 1985, Dr. Graham was also named the School of Medicine's first Norma Berryhill Distinguished Lecturer. (The Berryhill lectures have been compiled into two volumes; the first collection, covering 1985-1999, will be made available online shortly, and the second, covering 2000-2008, is now online).

In 2002, Dr. Graham published the book, Memories and Reflections: Academic Medicine, 1936-2000. It contains 29 fascinating essays, including two biographical pieces on Dr. Bullitt. Entitled James Bell Bullitt, M.D., 1874-1964: A University of North Carolina Giant and The James Bell Bullitt Enigma: A Case of Metaphorical Siamese Twins, these have been added to the Bullitt Club web site for those interested in learning more about the man who was referred to as "Gentleman Jim" and whose creed was mens sana in corpore sano (a sound mind in a sound body). His method of examining medical students' knowledge of histological slides was governed by strict rules and led to what Graham describes as "Bullitt-English." Exams lasted exactly 30 minutes, and no more than 50 words could be used to describe both tissue and diagnosis; anyone exceeding either limit risked an "F."

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