Collection Finding Aid

Duke Poison Control Center Records

Collection Number: MC.0044

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Duke Medical Center Archives in Durham, N.C. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the FAQ section for more information.


Collection Overview expand/collapseExpand/collapse

Estimated Extent Estimated Extent Estimated Extent: 10.00 linear feet; linear feet91.00 Folders; Folders2.00 files
Abstract: Contains the records of the Duke Poison Control Center, established at Duke University in 1954 and headed by Jay Arena and later Shirley K. Osterhout. The Poison Control Center provided information to individuals and businesses about the product safety and chronic and acute management of poisoning through referrals, correspondence, and educational speakers. Types of materials include correspondence, pamphlets, brochures, reports, budgets, minutes, reprints, clippings, phone logs, departmental histories, and research Files. Major subjects include the Duke University Medical Center, Poison Control Centers, poisoning in children, accidental poisoning, prevention and treatment of poisoning, Jay Arena, and Shirley K. Osterhout. Materials range in date from 1951 to 1987.
Creator: Duke Poison Control Center.
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Information for Users expand/collapseExpand/collapse

Access Restrictions
Materials are restricted due to presence of personal health information. Contact the Medical Center Archivist to begin the use permissions process.
Usage Restrictions
Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], Poison Control Center Records, Duke University Medical Center Archives.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Collections may contain Medical Center Administrative records. These include records of the officers of the University, as defined in the Bylaws, the deans of schools and colleges, and departments, institutes, and other offices as designated by the President. For a period of twenty-five years from the origin of the material, permission in writing from the director of the office of record and the Medical Center Archivist is required for use. After twenty-five years, records that have been processed may be consulted with the permission of the Medical Center Archivist.
Collection may contain Records of the Board of Trustees of the Duke University Medical Center. These include minutes and supporting documentation of the Board, its Executive Committee, and standing and ad hoc committees, and reports, studies, and the like presented solely to the Board. Records which have been existence for at least fifty years are available for scholarly research with the permission of the Medical Center Archivist. Access to records which have been in existence for less than fifty years shall be granted only by special permission, in writing, of the Medical Center Board of Trustees.
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Subject Headings expand/collapseExpand/collapse

The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings and Medical Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collectionsuch as folders or items.

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    Related Collections expand/collapseExpand/collapse

      Mark C. Rogers Papers.: Duke University Medical Center Archives.
      Jay Morris Arena Papers.: Duke University Medical Center Archives.
      Robert L. Blake Papers.: Duke University Medical Center Archives.
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    Historical Info expand/collapseExpand/collapse

    The Duke Poison Control Center was organized in 1954 as the second center in the United States. From 1954 to 1959, the center was headed by Jay Arena (M.D., Duke, 1932) with Shirley K. Osterhout (A.B, Duke, 1953 and M.D., Duke, 1957) as the first clinical doctor. After leaving the center around 1959,Jay Arena, a pediatrician, continued to be active as a national speaker and writer on poison control topics. In1959,Shirley K. Osterhout assumed the duties of medical director of the Poison Control Center. The Center was originally located in a space nearDuke Hospital's emergency room, which also contained a reference library and treatment room. The purpose of the center was to provide information to individuals about the chronic andacute management of poisoning. Staff also made referrals, answered letters aboutproduct safety, and provided speakers for educational purposes. The center provided information primarily to physicians directly, but later outreach efforts brought in calls from non-physicians, especially parents.National Poison Prevention Week activities, including a publicity and outreach fair complete withposters,stickers,brochures, andcomic depictions of children and poisons, were outreach opportunities for theDuke Poison Control Center. The center was funded by a grant from theNorth Carolina Department of Human Resources and theDuke University Department of Pediatrics. As grant recipient, the center functioned as state central poison control and wrote guidelines for various government departments on the safety of chemicals. Staff from the center also provided a permanent display at health fairs and conferences, sent out fliers, and taught poison awareness and prevention courses. In the 1970s, when the Durham, N.C. area was more agriculturally active, the center received many calls about agricultural poisonings. During the 1970s, there were about 200 calls per month. In 1977, the center handled 1,195 cases involving household, farm, commercial, andindustrial products (the most common cause ofaccidental poisonings).Farmers were most frequently poisoned with insecticides andweed killers causing the majority of problems. The second most commonpoisonings occurred during household chores, primarily when bleach was mixed with another cleaning agent. Jay Arena is credited with beginning the first poison control movement in the country. In addition to founding thePoison Control Center, he was a preeminent physician in the field oftoxicology and developer of thechildproof safety cap. His interest in poison prevention derived in part from the influence of Dr.Wilburt C. Davison, long-time Medical School dean. During the 1930s, the two men treatedchildren suffering form the caustic effects of lye poisoning, common in the 1930s. They started keeping a reference file on other types ofpoisoning. The reference file eventually led to an inventory of treatments for poisoning and helped to development more than 600 poison control centers across theUnited States. In the 1950s, Arena led the push for drug companies to develop thechildproof safety cap formedicine bottles. Many companies were not interested in changing their product for fear of low sales or reputation of not producing a safe drug. Arena persisted and with support fromDuke University and convinced a number of drug companies to begin usingchild-proof safety caps. Shirley K. Osterhout, also an assistant professor of pediatrics in theDuke University School of Medicine, taught courses in poisoning and supervised pediatric students at work in the center. Osterhout was especially concerned with packaging and product commercials and labeling information, often directing companies to correct labels which provided misinformed antidotes. During her tenure, she testified beforeConsumer Products Safety Committee and rallied against many large manufacturers to change packaging from attractive, food-like containers to those that are clearly not like food containers. Osterhout was a member of a variety of pediatric health associations. TheDuke Poison Control Center ceased operation around1997. Toxicology studies are continued through Duke University's Toxicology Program. The statewide poison control center is now located in Charlotte, N.C.

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    Scope and Content expand/collapseExpand/collapse

    Contains materials pertaining to the clinical and educational activities of thePoison Control Center atDuke University from1951-1987. Also contains materials created primarily byShirley K. Osterhout during her long tenure as medical director (1959-ca. 1997) and byJay Arena, founder, director (1954-1959), and consultant (1959-1979) to thePoison Control Center. Materials range in date from1951-1987.

    6 record storage boxes, 1 document case

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    Collection Contents

    Series Quick Links expand/collapseExpand/collapse

    Series: Correspondence, 1965-1987expand/collapseExpand/collapse

    Scope and Contents note
    Contains primarilycorrespondence between physicians, patients, the general public, and theDuke Poison Control Center.Shirley K. Osterhout is primarily responsible for the creation and organization of these materials. Materials from most years are divided into Cases, General, Other, Pediatrics, Products, and Plants. The Cases file includes correspondence requesting information and referrals, and follow-ups with other physicians. The General and Other files containreports,clippings,reviews of literature, andcorrespondenceregardingprograms and professional societies, and some meeting minutes fromDepartment of Pediatrics. The Pediatrics file containsDuke Hospital patient discharge summary records andcorrespondence with physicians (see also Case Reports and Admissions). The Products file containscorrespondencewith retailers, manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and government entities (primarily the Food and Drug Administration). Materials range in date from1965-1987.
    Box 1
    Correspondence, June-July 1965
    Correspondence, August-December 1965
    Correspondence, folder 1, January-June 1966
    Correspondence, folder 2, January-June 1966
    Correspondence, folder 1, July-December 1966
    Correspondence, folder 2, July-December 1966
    Correspondence, folder 1, 1967
    Correspondence, folder 2, 1967
    Correspondence, folder 3, 1967
    Correspondence, folder 1, January 1968
    Correspondence, folder 2, January 1968
    Correspondence, folder 1, June 1968-1969
    Correspondence, folder 2, June 1968-1969
    Correspondence, folder 1, May-August 1969
    Correspondence, folder 2, May-August 1969
    Correspondence, folder 1, September 1969-March 1970
    Correspondence, folder 2, September 1969-March 1970
    Correspondence, folder 1, March-August 1970
    Correspondence, folder 2, March-August 1970
    Correspondence, September 1970-March 1971
    Box 2
    Correspondence, folder 1, March-August 1971
    Correspondence, folder 2, March-August 1971
    Correspondence, folder 1, August-December 1971
    Correspondence, folder 2, August-December 1971
    Correspondence, folder 1, January-March 1972
    Correspondence, folder 2, January-March 1972
    Correspondence, folder 1, June-September 1972
    Correspondence, folder 2, June-September 1972
    Correspondence, folder 1, October-December 1972
    Correspondence, folder 2, October-December 1972
    Correspondence, folder 1, December 1972-April 1973
    Correspondence, folder 2, December 1972-April 1973
    Correspondence, folder 1, March-June 1973
    Correspondence, folder 2, March-June 1973
    Correspondence, folder 1, July-August 1973
    Correspondence, folder 2, July-August 1973
    Correspondence, folder 1, August-November 1973
    Correspondence, folder 2, August-November 1973
    Correspondence, folder 1, November 1973-March 1974
    Correspondence, folder 2, November 1973-March 1974
    Box 3
    Correspondence, folder 1, March-June 1974
    Correspondence, folder 2, March-June 1974
    Correspondence, folder 1, June-November 1974
    Correspondence, folder 2, June-November 1974
    Correspondence, folder 1, November 1974-January 1975
    Correspondence, folder 2, November 1974-January 1975
    Correspondence, folder 1, February-April 1975
    Correspondence, folder 2, February-April 1975
    Correspondence, folder 1, April-June 1975
    Correspondence, folder 2, April-June 1975
    Correspondence, folder 1, July-September 1975
    Correspondence, folder 2, July-September 1975
    Correspondence, folder 1, October 1975-January 1976
    Correspondence, folder 2, October 1975-January 1976
    Correspondence, folder 1, February-May 1976
    Correspondence, folder 2, February-May 1976
    Correspondence, folder 1, May-August 1976
    Correspondence, folder 2, May-August 1976
    Correspondence, folder 1, August-November 1976
    Correspondence, folder 2, August-November 1976
    Correspondence, November 1976-January 1977
    Box 4
    Correspondence, November 1976-January 1977
    Correspondence, February-March 1977
    Correspondence, April 1977
    Correspondence, folder 1, June-September 1977
    Correspondence, folder 2, June-September 1977
    Correspondence, folder 1, September-December 1977
    Correspondence, folder 2, September-December 1977
    Correspondence, folder 1, January-June 1978
    Correspondence, folder 2, January-June 1978
    Correspondence, folder 1, March-July 1978
    Correspondence, folder 2, March-July 1978
    Correspondence, folder 1, July-August 1978
    Correspondence, folder 2, July-August 1978
    Correspondence, folder 1, September-December 1978
    Correspondence, folder 2, September-December 1978
    Correspondence, folder 3, September-December 1978
    Correspondence, folder 4, September-December 1978
    Correspondence, January-March 1979
    Correspondence, folder 1, March-May 1979
    Correspondence, folder 2, March-May 1979
    Correspondence, folder 1, April-July 1979
    Correspondence, folder 2, April-July 1979
    Box 5
    Correspondence, March-September 1979
    Correspondence, folder 1, September 1979-January 1980
    Correspondence, folder 2, September 1979-January 1980
    Correspondence, folder 1, May-August 1981
    Correspondence, folder 2, May-August 1981
    Correspondence, folder 1, September-December 1981
    Correspondence, folder 2, September-December 1981
    Correspondence, 1983-1984
    Correspondence, January-June 1987
    Correspondence, July 1987
    Correspondence, August 1987
    Correspondence, folder 1, September 1987
    Correspondence, folder 2, September 1987
    Correspondence, folder 1, October 1987
    Correspondence, folder 2, October 1987
    Correspondence, November-December 1987

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    Series: Case Reports and Admissions to Duke Hospital, 1953-1985expand/collapseExpand/collapse

    Scope and Contents note
    Contains Duke hospital patient discharge summary records of individuals who experienced poisoning and sought treatment at the Duke University Medical Center between 1953 and 1979. Chief complaint, symptoms, past history, physical examination, clinical findings, and course of treatment, diagnosis, and disposition are included in these summaries. Summaries also provide commentary on surrounding social circumstances. The summaries are ordered by date, and then grouped alphabetically by type of poison. Materials range in date from 1953 to 1984.
    Box 5
    Case reports, folder 1, 1953-1965
    Case reports, folder 2, 1953-1965
    Subseries: Admissions, 1967-1979
    Box 5
    A, 1967-1979
    B - C, 1967-1979
    D - J, 1967-1979
    K - N, 1967-1979
    Box 6
    O - Pills, 1967-1979
    Pl - Z, folder 1, 1967-1979
    Pl - Z, folder 2, 1967-1979
    Box 6
    Medical Admit Notebook, 1974-1984
    Admissions, circa 1981-1985

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    Series: Patient Phone Contact Logs, 1987expand/collapseExpand/collapse

    Scope and Contents note
    Contains internalforms used to track requests for information and phone calls to theDuke Poison Control Center. The forms include general information about the patient and poison, but now include an area to record the type of container, whether it was closed or open, and what kind of cautionary label was present.
    Box 6
    Patient Phone Contact Logs, July-October 1987
    Patient Phone Contact Logs, folder 1, March-August 1987
    Patient Phone Contact Logs, folder 2, March-August 1987

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    Series: Gastrointestinal Drugs Advisory Committee, 1980-1983expand/collapseExpand/collapse

    Scope and Contents note
    Shirley K. Osterhout was a consultant to theGastrointestinal Drugs Advisory Committeeof theBureau of Drugs of the Food and Drug Administration. The Committee was charged with reviewing the safety and effectiveness of prescription drugs. Osterhout served as a liaison between the consumer and medical community, representing the consumer's concerns in matters of gastrointestinal diseases. Types of materials in this series includecorrespondence,minutes,reports, andmemoranda.
    Box 6
    Gastrointestinal Drugs Advisory Committee, 1980-1981
    Gastrointestinal Drugs Advisory Committee, 1981-1982
    Gastrointestinal Drugs Advisory Committee, 1983

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    Series: Short Writings and Clippings, 1974-1987expand/collapseExpand/collapse

    Box 6
    Phenol and boric acid, research materials and short writings, 1974-1975
    Antidotes, circa 1987
    Quarterly report, 1980
    Clippings, 1975-1978

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    Series: Jay Arena Materials, 1951-1976expand/collapseExpand/collapse

    Scope and Contents note
    Contains early materials of theDuke Poison Control Center, as created by its first director,Jay Arena, toxicologist and pediatrician. Also contains someresearch materials andcorrespondence concerning the development of the firstchild safety cap.Arena was in close contact with the staff of thePoison Control Center and was a frequent advisor toShirley Osterhout. Types of materials includecorrespondence,short writings,histories andreports, brochures,pamphlets,posters,statistics, andreports. Materials range in date from1951 - 1976.
    Box 6
    Jay Arena Writings: A Survey of Safety Closures..., undated
    Jay Arena Writings: Safety Closure Caps, undated
    Jay Arena Writings: American Children - Their Heritage of Health, undated
    Jay Arena Writings: Drug Dangers to the Fetus..., undated
    Jay Arena Writings: The Coroner's Role..., undated
    Jay Arena Writings: Poisoning in Childhood..., undated
    Jay Arena Writings: Report from the Duke..., undated
    Safety Closure Caps Correspondence, 1967
    Safety Closure Caps Correspondence, 1960-1966
    Safety Closure Cap Correspondence, 1959
    Safety Closure Cap Correspondence, 1957-1958
    Correspondence, 1965
    Correspondence, 1966
    Correspondence, 1967-1968
    Departmental History, 1961
    General Instructions for Use of the Center, undated
    Yearly Statistics, 1962-1976
    Annual Report, November 1961-October 1962
    Annual Report, 1976
    National Poison Prevention Week, 1964
    National Poison Prevention Week Borchures and Posters, 1965-1966
    National Poison Prevention Week General Materials, 1965-1966
    National Poison Prevention Week General Materials, 1965-1966
    National Poison Prevention Week Pamphlets and Posters, 1969
    National Poison Prevention Week General Materials, 1969
    White House Conference on Children and Youth, 1958-1960
    Box 7
    Symposium on Poisoning, 1964
    Symposium on Poisoning, 1966
    Television and Radio Programs, 1951-1960
    Research Files: Kerosene Poisoning, undated
    Research Files: Kerosene Poisoning, undated
    Clippings, Miscellaneous Materis, and General Resources, 1962-1968

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    Series: Oversized Items, undatedexpand/collapseExpand/collapse

    Box MCA OS 1
    Poster: Is There a Killer in Your Medicine Chest?, undated

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