A permanent exhibit honoring Daniel Drake, MD, and the recipients of the Drake Medal, the College of Medicine’s highest honor, was unveiled on May 18.
Measuring 12 feet wide, the exhibit is located in the main Medical Sciences Building corridor opposite the Winkler Center for the History of the Health Professions. It has a brief biography of Drake and a timeline listing many of his major achievements including his founding of the Medical College of Ohio in 1819. The college became part of the University of Cincinnati in 1896 and today is the UC College of Medicine. In 1819 Drake also founded Cincinnati College, which evolved into the University of Cincinnati.
"Dr. Drake was one of the most influential physicians, educators and scientists of 19th century America. We owe our existence to him and the City of Cincinnati owes him nearly as much,” said Dean Thomas Boat, MD. "This is a fitting tribute to both Dr. Drake and those who have followed him and proudly wear their Drake Medals.”
Three-foot diameter sculpted resin replicas of both sides of the Drake Medal are prominently featured in the center of the exhibit along with a history of the medal. The medal was conceived by the college’s Dean Robert Daniels, MD, as part of a year-long tribute in 1985 for the bicentennial of Drake’s birth. The medal was designed by Cyril Kupferberg, the college’s associate dean for management and finance at the time. Measuring three inches in diameter, the 24 carat gold-plated pendant with festive UC-red ribbon was first awarded on Jan. 30, 1985, to nine eminent college faculty members.
The Drake Medal was later made a part of the college’s annual Honors Day celebration along with a dinner honoring the latest recipients. In 1988 Dean John Hutton, MD, established two distinct categories for honorees; one is for distinguished contributions to medical research while the second lauds those for excellence as a clinician-teacher. Hutton also broadened eligibility from current faculty to living College of Medicine alumni and residency graduates.
All 69 Medal recipients’ names are listed in the exhibit. The 2013 recipients Taylor Asbury, MD, Robert Rakel, MD, and Peter Stambrook, PhD, are each featured with inclusion of a portrait and biography; these features will be replaced annually by new medalists. The exhibit has room for future awardees through 2056.
In his remarks at the annual Drake Dinner, Rakel noted how impressed he was by the exhibit and how glad he was that the college erected a display honoring Drake. He recalled that one of his role models, renowned physician Sir William Osler, MD, "felt Drake was not appreciated by the people of Cincinnati and refused to visit Cincinnati until a monument was erected to Drake.”
Plans for the exhibit were launched two years ago by Interim Dean Andrew Filak Jr., MD, and funds were raised from donations by Drake Medal recipients and friends of the College of Medicine. It was designed by Seth Lucas and Lucy Cossentino-Sinnard of the university’s office of planning, design and construction. It is constructed of rear screen printed metallic blue acrylic panels with a metal laminate frame. Its design coordinates with the college’s Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award plaque, which is mounted nearby. It joins nine portraits of former College of Medicine deans that hang nearby, and other historical exhibits are expected to later adorn the main corridor.
Drake not only is celebrated as the founder of the medical college and university, but he also had a hand in establishing many other Cincinnati institutions, including the Cincinnati Lancaster Seminary, Cincinnati Public Library, the Western Museum, Commercial Hospital and Lunatic Asylum (known today as University of Cincinnati Medical Center), and the Western Medical and Physical Journal. He also established the Cincinnati Eye Infirmary and the Kentucky School for the Blind in Louisville.
The recipient in 1805 of the first medical diploma west of the Alleghenies, Drake was a strong civic champion for Cincinnati and one of the most influential physicians, educators, authors and scientists of 19th century America. Osler said of Drake: "In many ways Daniel Drake is the most unique figure in the history of American Medicine. He literally made Cincinnati …. He founded nearly everything that is old and good in that city.”
Drake argued for raising the standards of medical education through broader preliminary training, teaching at the bedside of patients and hospital training. His book Practical Essays on Medical Education and the Medical Profession in the United States (1832) was called "the most important contribution ever made to the subject in this country” by noted medical historian Fielding Garrison, MD. A pioneer of medical topography and self-trained as a keen observer, Drake conducted research that was extensive and meticulous. He traveled throughout the western and southern reaches of the young United States to study local natural and medical history and explore its impact on health. The results were his magnum opus Principal Diseases of the Interior Valley of North America (1850).
Drake also served on the medical faculty at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and the Louisville Medical Institute. He died in Cincinnati in 1852.