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Meharry Medical College: A Tale of Two School Newspapers

The Sky-O-Gram banner, 1934

Our first blog series of 2018 continues this week, focusing on the Historically Black Colleges and Universities represented in Amistad Research Center’s School Newspaper Collection. This week, we highlight two newspapers of Meharry Medical College. Meharry was founded in 1876 in Nashville, Tennessee as the Medical Department of Central Tennessee College. At the time, it was the only African American medical school in the South.

Amistad holds Meharry newspapers under two different titles. The first publication, released in 1934 under the title The Sky-O-Gram, is a mixture of serious articles, updates on school activities, and humorous pieces. One page will have a case study on a young car accident victim, the next a poetic “Ode to a Skeleton.” A piece entitled “Case History of Patients Suffering with Nursing Unemploydia” bemoans the struggle to find work in the depression era, while another piece introduces a new faculty member. Peppered throughout are fly-on-the-wall hospital jokes like this side-splitter:

“What’s the commotion in the operating room?”

“A young surgeon is attempting to do a blood transfusion.”

“From the looks of the tables and floor, it is a blood confusion.”

The first issue of the 1940 Meharry News is dedicated to Dr. Donley H. Turpin, Dean of the School of Dentistry.

In 1940, the school paper was seemingly relaunched as The Meharry News, and appears to take a slightly more serious bent. The first issue begins with an article entitled “Why Socialized Medicine?” by Dr. Thomas A. LaSaine. The article itself, designed as the first in a series “on a vitally important question the practitioner of tomorrow must understand,” is a thoughtful introduction aimed at the medical student audience. The author criticizes the biased and dramatic nature of the available literature on the subject, characterizing it as “highly colored pro or con harangues,” and saying, “the student who would arrive at a reasoned point of view is bewildered as he reads so much material obviously intended to touch off emotional responses to what are presented as real issues,” a criticism that could stand on the subject today. From this first article, The Meharry News postures itself as a level-headed source from which students will receive even-handed discussion of current professional concerns.

The Meharry Medical College newspapers remind us of the various roles publications can play in student life. There is a need for serious subject-based journalism geared toward those about to enter professional life. Sometimes, though, you just need a break from your studies and a bad joke or two. Long before the days of the internet, school newspapers could provide both.

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