Dean of The College of Pharmacy Speaks About Civil War Medicine
In August, Don Stansloski, dean of the College of Pharmacy, visited Lakeside Chatauqua, a historic Ohio community and resort, to share his knowledge of the Civil War and the impact it had on medicine in the United States.
In a uniform of a pharmacist in the Union Army, he shared interesting before-and-after facts of the war. “Essentially, I talked to them about what the north and south were like before the civil war,” Stansloski said.
Stansloski explained many aspects of the Civil War, including the industrial environment in the north where people depended on machinery, while the south depended on slavery for agriculture. In terms of health care and medicine, the north and south were very similar.
“Prescriptions were one-of, meaning that each medicine was made from scratch for each patient. One did not buy a bottle of aspirin for example. Rather the pharmacist would take a chemical and make it into a dosage form like a capsule,” said Stansloski. “The war changed everything because suddenly there were six million people in the armies that had to be cared for all at once. You could no-longer provide prescriptions one-of anymore then you could provide weapons one-of.”
During the Civil War, the general manufacturing process greatly expanded in the United States. Stansloski explains that prior to the war, there were 19,000 manufacturing plants in the south while 22,000 plants were in New York alone.
“Before the war, there were 84 places making drugs, and after the war there were 300,” said Stansloski. “Nursing did not exist in the US before the war, but it did after.”
Stansloski also shared how the world learned about infection. Even those with the best medical care possible still suffered from illness because they did not know what infection was.
Before the war, people were routinely poisoned with mercury because it was thought to follow the best medical ideas of the time.
“There was a widespread feeling that most of the bad things that happened to us were a result of our own immoral behavior or failure to have enough willpower,” said Stansloski. “People didn’t know there were infections before the war and afterwards everyone did.”
During the war, both sides used the same medical books and some of the drugs used at that time are still used today. Many drug companies were established after the war as well.
“It was a very fascinating time. 600,000 people died and about half of them died from disease,” said Stansloski.
Stansloski has shared his knowledge of Civil War medicine with several other groups and continues to enlighten others. “I do this because I’m interested and I’m able to tell the stories.”
Written by Sarah Foltz