History of medicine lecture to explore work of early bacteriologist

October 31, 2016 | Events, UToday, Medicine and Life Sciences
By Rebecca Schwan

The human body’s relationship with bacteria is complex. The microscopic organisms can help us live a healthy life or harm us by causing myriad diseases.

Researchers have long been fascinated by bacteriology, the study of bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms. Dr. F. G. Novy, a world-renowned bacteriologist and former dean of the University of Michigan Medical School, is credited for putting the field of bacteriology on firm scientific foundations. He investigated how microbes survive in nature, spread in the environment, and cause disease in animals.



Novy’s work and accomplishments in this field of science will be the focus of the Eighth Annual S. Amjad Hussain Visiting Lecture in the History of Medicine and Surgery at The University of Toledo.

Dr. Powel Kazanjian, professor and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and professor of history at the University of Michigan, will present a lecture titled “The Origins of Bacteriology in America: Life and Works of Frederick Novy” Wednesday, Nov. 2, at 5 p.m. in Health Education Building Room 100 on UT’s Health Science Campus. The event is free and open to the public.

“Novy was an organic chemist who is known as the father of bacteriology. He was instrumental in the understanding of how microorganisms cause disease,” said Dr. S. Amjad Hussain, professor emeritus of thoracic cardiovascular surgery and humanities, and former member of the UT Board of Trustees. “His work helped to define bacteriology as a distinct discipline in America and laid much of the groundwork for studying the interactions between bacteria and the human body.”

Kazanjian was selected to speak at this year’s lecture by a committee that included Hussain; Howard Newman, retired associate vice president of development; Dr. Steven Selman, professor emeritus and chair of urology; Dr. Peter White, professor emeritus of medicine; and Dr. Thomas Sodeman, division chief of gastroenterology at The University of Toledo.

“Dr. Kazanjian is well-respected as an expert in the field of infectious diseases. He has written nearly 100 research publications,” Hussain said. “His interest in the history of bacteriology, epidemics and sexually transmitted diseases fits nicely with the goals of our lecture series.”

Hussain said researchers and physicians are continually building on historical concepts in medicine to find new ways to cure disease.

“When penicillin was discovered in the 1940s, we thought it was the silver bullet,” he said. “What we learned in time is that microorganisms are vigilant and have learned how to develop resistance to available antibiotics; therefore, we are continually on a quest to find and develop new antibiotics.”

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