By on January 25, 2023 - 4:53pm
What do Dr. George Papanicolaou and primary sources have in common? A group of sixth graders from the Hellenic Charter School in Brooklyn, New York wanted to find out! Last month the Medical Center Archives welcomed five students who have been researching Dr. George Papanicolaou, a Greek physician and researcher who conducted pioneering research on the physiological and cytological characteristics of the female reproductive system, leading to the development of the cervical cancer screening procedure commonly known as the “Pap smear.”
During their visit, the Medical Center Archives staff took questions from the students, discussed the value of primary sources, and shared materials from the George Papanicolaou Collection, which highlights his 47-year career at what was then known as the Cornell University Medical College. Featured items included photographs of Dr. Papanicolaou and his team, slides from his research, medals and awards, original documents related to his course in cytologic diagnosis, a letter containing his signature, and the original microscope he used during his career. After viewing a VHS tape showing a dedication ceremony for an oriental plane tree grown from seedlings from Kos, the Greek island where Hippocrates lived, the group headed outside near the hospital’s emergency room entrance to see how much the tree had grown since being planted in Dr. Papanicolaou’s honor in 1997. The students also visited the bust of Dr. Papanicolaou inside the entrance of 1300 York Avenue, which was unveiled in 1979.
The students will be continuing their research in Greece, where they’ll visit Dr. Papanicolaou’s hometown of Kymi and visit a few institutions containing information about his life. Their research will culminate at the 2023 National History Day Fair Competition.
The Medical Center Archives staff were excited to share archival materials with the students and participate in their research process. Please reach out to the Medical Center Archives if you are interested in accessing the George Papanicolaou Collection for research or in setting up a tour for a primary or secondary school class!
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