A history of care: Local author traces the growth of medicine on the Birmingham underground


Today, people driving east on US 280 are used to the sight of the great Grandview Medical Center, but few remember the legal struggle it took to get there.

“It was the longest legal battle in a [certificate of need] in Alabama history, ”said Keith Granger, former Alabama regional president for community health systems (CHS). CHS wanted to move services from the old Baptist Medical Center Montclair to 280, but found its efforts challenged by Brookwood Medical Center and St. Vincent’s Health System.

In 2013, after a four-and-a-half-year trial, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in favor of CHS, which converted the building – originally intended to house the HealthSouth digital hospital – to Grandview. Since then, it has become a 402-bed establishment recognized for the quality of care in various specialties.

The story of Grandview is just one of the milestones in Birmingham’s medical history detailed in the new book, “From Steel Mills to Stethoscopes: A History of the Birmingham Medical Profession”, by local author Lynn Edge .

The book, published in January by Vestavia Hills-based Legacy Publishing, tells many tales of the medical history of the metropolitan area, from Davy Crockett’s arrest in Jones Valley feverishly with malaria, to UAB’s development of remdesivir. , a medicine used to treat coronavirus.

Along with other contributing writers, Edge, a longtime Birmingham journalist and author, sheds light on dozens of stories about pioneering medicine in the region, some well-known, but others significant but more obscure.

“One of the people I love about Birmingham is Dr. Annie Mae Robinson, one of the city’s first female physicians and an outspoken suffragist,” said Edge. “She was not about to give men rights that women did not have, and she was one of the first doctors to tell us that smoking was not good for us men or women!”

In a question-and-answer session with 280 Living, she talks about what she’s learned.

Q: What prompted you to write a book on the medical history of Birmingham?

A: Legacy Publishing approached me about the book and it sounded like something I’d like to touch on.

Q: How did you collect your information? How long did it take you to put it all together?

A: I read loads of books on the history of Jefferson County to begin with. I wanted to write the book from a perspective of what was going on in the county and how it was affecting what was going on in medicine. The Jefferson County Medical Society had kept very good records of what had happened in their meetings. It was a wonderful resource. Of course, I interviewed doctors here in town. Naturally, they had a wealth of knowledge about how medicine became such a big “industry” in Alabama. I have also read countless newspaper articles from statewide archives (and some outside of state as well). I worked on the book for over a year.

Q: You have covered a long time in history. Why was it important to go so far back and end at this point in history?

A: To tell the story of how the county became one of the world’s major medical resources, you have to talk about when it wasn’t – when the steel mills were what fueled the county’s economy. And to talk about it, you need to discuss what made the county “rich in steel”.

The natural resources that are right under our

the feet (literally) started it all. The steel industry came with medical needs, and with the medical needs came the growth of the medical industry here.

Finishing the book was such a fluid thing. When I first started writing, “pandemic” was just a word. By the time I finished we were in the middle of one. Due to the ubiquitous medical presence here, Birmingham has naturally become part of the research aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives. The history of the medical profession in Jefferson County is endless. There are new discoveries every day. I finally had to say, “Okay. The book ends here. Everything else will need to be covered in a sequel. “

Q: Did you encounter any particular difficulties in achieving this?

A: One of the most important, of course, was simply the abundance of information available. I found myself starting to write about one topic and then having to research a number of other topics because they were so closely related to my original “goal”. It was kind of like starting a road from point A to point B and finding that there were tiny trails branching off from my main road – and all of them had to be explored.

For example, I was writing a story about a first female doctor – Dr Laura Burton – in Birmingham, which you thought would be a pretty straightforward story, except for the fact that her ex-husband, also a doctor from Birmingham, murdered her. . Next, you need to explore why this happened and what happened to the female doctor who shared a practice with Dr. Burton.

When I was writing about Lou Wooster I started exploring how the local madam became a hero during the Birmingham cholera outbreak and ended up trying to find out if there was any truth to the rumor according to which she was having an affair with John Wilkes Booth.

Q: I understand you must have written about at least one of your relatives as well. Tell us about it.

A: Frank Dulaney RN I heard stories about it when I was growing up. His mother and my great-grandmother were sisters.

Frank embarked on a path when he was young and he didn’t change his goals. He always wanted to be a nurse and he became the first man to graduate from an accredited nursing school in Alabama. He became Babe Ruth’s personal nurse towards the end of Babe’s life. Her portrait hung in the lobby of Carraway Hospital. When a family member was scheduled to be at Carraway, that person would usually take the time to stop at the portrait and pay homage to Lavaughn, as the family called him. One of our family’s claims to fame!

Q: What is the most profound thing that you have learned from your work on this book?

A: Maybe life is not as easy as you might imagine. So many things are linked. If all of the major “ingredients” for steelmaking weren’t here in the county, there wouldn’t have been steel mills and there probably wouldn’t have been growth in the medical profession here.

The other thing, I guess, is “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Birmingham had an outbreak of yellow fever early in its history. There was the cholera epidemic in the 1800s. People did not know how to deal with these events. Sometimes they were told not to worry, the problem would just go away. There were some pretty offbeat suggestions on what to do about these diseases (“refrain from fiery spirits”). Seems familiar?

The same themes that you find in chapters one and two, you find them in the epilogue. Our challenge is to learn from each of these events and grow from the knowledge we acquire.

Q: How does this book connect with others you’ve written?

A: Funny. This is not really the case. Several of my other books are travel guides and I wrote a biography of Elvis Presley. I just like to dig into things and learn as I write.

Q: What’s the next step for you?

A: I’m working on a biography of Dr. Carl Marbury, former president of Alabama A&M. Together Dr Marbury and I are working on a book on “The History of the Mulatto”. I have almost finished a short story that I am writing. It started out as a little story about a girl who wanted to be a spy since she was a child and eventually became one. It took a dark turn and ended up being an uplifting tale about being careful what you want. And I was approached to undertake other projects for Legacy.

Signed copies of “From Steel Mills to Stethoscopes: A History of the Birmingham Medical Profession” are currently available at Alabama Booksmith in Homewood.



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