THE DOCTOR IS IN: Exhibit examines Aurora’s medical history

“Those doctors were setting a solid foundation for the high-quality, high-phase medical culture in the city that now present-day Aurora, and the region, appreciate and use.”

AURORA | Sometimes it takes more than an apple a day.

At least, that’s what one is led to believe upon ogling the dozens of antique elixirs, ointments and powders currently on display at the Aurora History Museum.

Faded boxes of Ben Gay, Band-Aid bandages and Boraxo powdered hand soap line display tables in the museum’s new exhibit, “The Doctor Will See You,” which opened Nov. 22. The venerable medications stand beside lesser-known remedies, like emerald tins of Columbia antiseptic powder, Squibb mineral oil and Dickinson’s witch hazel.

The new showcase is intended to detail the medical history of Aurora from the early 20th century to the construction of the city’s first public hospital in the mid-1970s, according to T. Scott Williams, director of the Aurora History Museum.

20161121-Aurora history-Aurora, Colorado

Jen Cronk, curator of collections, sets up the exhibit, The Doctor Will See You, on Monday Nov. 21, 2016 at Aurora History Museum. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

20161121-Aurora history-Aurora, Colorado

Many vintage medicine and prescription containers are on display at The Doctor Will See You on Monday Nov. 21, 2016 at Aurora History Museum. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

20161121-Aurora history-Aurora, Colorado

Many vintage medicine and prescription containers are on display at The Doctor Will See You on Monday Nov. 21, 2016 at Aurora History Museum. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

20161121-Aurora history-Aurora, Colorado

Furniture donated by the family of Dr. Wilfred Miles is on display at The Doctor Will See You on Monday Nov. 21, 2016 at Aurora History Museum. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

20161121-Aurora history-Aurora, Colorado

Jen Cronk, curator of collections, sets up the exhibit, The Doctor Will See You, on Monday Nov. 21, 2016 at Aurora History Museum. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

20161121-Aurora history-Aurora, Colorado

T. Scott Williams is the new Aurora History Museum Director on Monday Nov. 21, 2016 at Aurora History Museum. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

20161121-Aurora history-Aurora, Colorado

T. Scott Williams is the new Aurora History Museum Director on Monday Nov. 21, 2016 at Aurora History Museum. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

“Back then, even though Aurora was still considered ‘rural,’ doctors continued to follow advances in medical practice similar to their colleagues around the country,” Williams said in a statement. “Those doctors were setting a solid foundation for the high-quality, high-phase medical culture in the city that now present-day Aurora, and the region, appreciate and use.”

The exhibit marks Williams’ first opening as the official museum director. He took over in September for former executive director Jennifer Kuehner, who stepped down from her role at the museum earlier this year.

The former director of a museum at the Kalaupapa National Historical Park on Hawaii’s Molokai Island, Williams said the goal is to pique the public’s interest in the city’s medical past, and highlight the landscape of healthcare in Aurora long before the term “Anschutz Medical Campus” entered the local vernacular.

“If folks have any interest in health care, this exhibit will, hopefully, quench their thirst for what’s happened right here in Aurora,” he said.

The families of several notable Aurora physicians donated a slew of artifacts to the exhibit, including several pieces of furniture from the Aurora Medical Clinic, which was founded by Dr. Wilfred Weston Miles and Dr. Mark Decker Wood in the 1950s. Longtime Aurora Public Schools Board of Education Director Pat Lord provided materials from the practices of her late husband, Dr. Ed Lord, and father-in-law, Dr. George Lord. Ed, also a longtime member of the APS Board of Education, is credited with spearheading the effort to lure the first public-access hospital to the city, according to Jennifer Cronk, curator of collections at the museum.

“That really changed the way health care operated in the city because, previously, you had to go to Denver,” Cronk said.

Pat has volunteered at the Medical Center of Aurora’s north campus, formerly known as Aurora Presbyterian Hospital, since the facility opened in 1974.

Apart from time-honored physicians, the exhibit also features photos and artifacts from local nurses, pharmacists and doctor’s spouses.

“We explore…all of the contributions that the physicians, their spouses, registered nurses and pharmacists made to the community, beyond health services,” Williams said. “We’re talking pillars of the community.”

And although the exhibit’s timeline ends more than 40 years ago, the artifacts speak to the evolution of medicine in the city, according to Cronk.

“A lot of people couldn’t use Fitzsimons Army Medical Hospital — you needed that military tie,” she said. “I think it’s now just showing the further development of the community in that Children’s is over there, the school and the VA is going to be opening…as the city continues to grow we need further development and we’re getting it. And now it’s a world-renowned center, which is pretty fantastic.”

Williams echoed.

“We’re starting in the early 1900s,” he said. “That’s a far cry from what we’ve got now in Aurora.”

“The Doctor Will See You”

The Aurora History Museum 15051 E. Alameda Pkwy. Open 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tues. – Fri.; 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sat. and Sun. Closed Mondays. Entry is free. Call 303-739-6660 or visit auroragov.org for more information. The exhibit runs through May 7.

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