Danny Li, 14, of Victor, NY wants to make a 10-minute documentary video on Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female physician and an 1849 graduate of the medical school now part of Upstate Medical University. How’s Li going to make a compelling documentary about a doctor who was a student more than 160 years ago? Through an on-line search, Li found current medical student Marsha Peart, who is president of Upstate’s Elizabeth Blackwell Day committee and a student at the same medical school that Blackwell attended.
Upstate celebrates annual Elizabeth Blackwell Day Wednesday, Feb. 22.
Peart encouraged Li to get acquainted with Dr. Blackwell by visiting the historical collection at Upstate’s Health Sciences Library where he found and videotaped: Blackwell’s original 1849 dissertation, called “Ship Fever”; a handwritten letter describing her “membership of the institution” of medical school; photographs of other Blackwell letters too fragile to handle; and first and second editions of books written by her, including “On the Human Prevention of Rabies” (1891) and “Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women” (1895). Li also found and videotaped an oil painting of Dr. Blackwell and 19th century medical equipment used by contemporaries of Blackwell: stethoscopes, a medical bag and pharmaceuticals, including pill bottles labeled “digitalin” and “colchicine.” Li was assisted and supervised by Sharon Kim, a graduate student and library intern at Upstate.
Earlier the same day, Li videotaped his interview with Eric v.d. Luft PhD, MLS, retired curator of Upstate’s Historic Collections, and author of “SUNY Upstate Medical University: A Pictorial History.” Peart arranged for this interview, which will likely become part of Li’s documentary.
What does Li think of Dr. Blackwell? “She’s inspiring. Despite the fact that she encountered many obstacles, she pushed on and continued her work. Had it not been for her, we still might not have any females in the medical field. She’s a hero.”
Why is he making this video on Elizabeth Blackwell? Li is participating in the National History Day competition, and the documentary will be his submission.
What are Li’s career goals? To become a physician. He’s already taken a pre-college course in anatomy and physiology.
At noon Wednesday, Feb. 22, Shermian P. Daniel MD will give a talk, “Saving Lives and Surviving Setbacks,” at Upstate Medical University in honor of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. Peart and fellow 2nd-year medical student Maxine Owusu will give opening and closing remarks.
Daniel is also scheduled to be interviewed on Upstate’s weekly radio show, Health Link on Air, which airs from 9 to 10 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 26 on Newsradio 106.9 FM, 570 AM.
Upstate’s Elizabeth Blackwell resource guide
Upstate’s Elizabeth Blackwell Day activities
What is National History Day?