From Clara Barton to Isaac Newton and dozens in between, memorabilia from 33 famous medical standouts are now on permanent display in the basement of McGovern Medical School Building. The framed collection of writings and signatures of notable scientists and physicians was generously donated by Drs. Quita Jones Cruciger and Marc Petty Cruciger. Both graduates of McGovern Medical School, Quita in 1979 and Marc in 1973, Quita also is an alumna of the Graduate School for Biomedical Sciences, graduating in 1974. Marc recently took some time to answer questions about the history of the collection and his ties to McGovern Medical School.
How did the collection begin?
In the late 1980s, my wife and I were in New York and saw a store that sold rare manuscripts. Having a few moments, we went in and were captivated by what we saw. We purchased two manuscripts on display: Einstein and Gandhi. That hooked us, and, over 20 plus years, we purchased more manuscripts, primarily focused in the fields of science and medicine. Most of the vendors were in New York, but others were in London or we frequented national exhibitions/sales of rare books. As our collection grew, we framed the documents with pictures of the scientists, essentially as you see them now. We hung them in the dining room of our Victorian house in San Francisco. They certainly elicited a great deal of interest during social events as they were quite unusual “home decoration.” There was usually someone on the wall that interested guests. A few years ago, we decided to add musical manuscripts to our collection. Being opera lovers, we concentrated on composers of that genre. To date that collection includes Mozart, Puccini and Wagner, to name a few.
Why give the pieces away?
Having accumulated a lot of manuscripts—and having no children— we started to give some thought about what to do with them. After some consideration, we decided to make facsimiles of the scientists and humanitarians and give those to McGovern Medical School, as we thought they would make an interesting and unique decoration for the medical school and, perhaps, inspire students and faculty. We also thought that it would be a distinctive aspect of the school’s tour for prospective medical students to see when they interview.
What about the originals?
In the future, we will sell the original manuscripts in order to provide funds for other projects we would like to see McGovern Medical School undertake.
Did you and your wife meet while students at UTHealth?
Quita was working the night shift as a blood collector at the old Hermann Hospital in order to finance her master’s degree in virology at The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Science. I was doing my general surgery rotation as a third-year medical student. One night I was called to do a medical student pre-op history and physical on a patient heading to surgery in the early morning. While hovered over the body, I heard a knock on the door and a voice asked, “May I draw this patient’s blood?” The voice was Quita’s, and the rest, as is often said, is history.
What are your recollections of the Medical School?
I was in the very first graduating class of the medical school (1973). There were only 22 of us. We had been “farmed out” to the other Texas medical schools for our first two years of medical school. I did those pre-clinical years at UTMB at Galveston. Because that first class was so tiny and the medical school was just getting started, we got to know the academic faculty of the departments, many of which comprised just the department heads, very well. That proximity made for unique teaching experiences and relationships.
By the time Quita started, the medical school was more mature, the classes were bigger, and the curriculum was more established. Her class was approximately 110 with 10 women and was to be the first in the newly built medical school. However, Houston had one of its many floods and the new school was so badly damaged that temporary quarters were required. Quita’s first year was spent in the ballroom of the Prudential building (formerly located on Holcombe). All classes were in the one room, including anatomy class. Because all of the medical students reeked of formalin, the life insurance employees complained, and the medical students were only allowed two brief breaks per day in the common coffee room. Their “quarantine” in the ballroom and the unfortunate effects of prolonged emersion of the class’ cadavers in rainwater made the first year of medical school particularly memorable. Eventually the medical school was ready again and Quita and her classmates were very pleased with the transition to their new home.
Where did you pursue your training?
I did the majority of my training at UTHealth — both internship in Internal Medicine and residency in Ophthalmology. In June of 1979, I had completed my residency and Quita had just obtained her M.D. Being interested in further training in neuro-ophthalmology in my case, and dermatology in Quita’s, we moved to San Francisco. Quita did her internship at Presbyterian Hospital (now California Pacific Medical Center). Quita’s dermatology residency was at the University of California at San Francisco, and that is where I did my neuro-ophthalmology fellowship. Once in San Francisco, we fell in love with the Bay Area and decided to practice medicine in that beautiful city upon completion of our post-graduate training. We are both in full-time solo practices.
Will you come to visit the exhibit?
It is our hope, of course, that we will visit the installed collection soon.
-Darla Brown, Office of Communications, Medical School