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200 years of medical history

Former Greenfield-South Deerfield woman heads Yale bicentennial project

Kerry Falvey recalls that she was going about her business when she was approached by Yale School of Medicine and asked to head a bicentennial book project, which would turn out to be the 246-page “Medicine at Yale: The First 200 Years.”

“They were looking for a way to mark the bicentennial during the 2010-2011 academic year,” said Falvey, who was born in Greenfield and raised in South Deerfield.

“They wanted something that was attractive and informative, something people could put out on their coffee tables and be proud.”

The graduate of Frontier Regional School, who moved to Boston after college and later to Glastonberry, Conn., said she was asked to do the research, write the book and serve as its managing editor.

Falvey said even though the project ended after two years — she was asked to start it in 2008 and finished in the summer of 2010 — it led to her becoming the chief of staff in the dean’s office at the medical school.

“I don’t have any plans to do anything else like this,” said Falvey.

“I have a background in publishing and being a production editor, so they wanted me to take the project from manuscript to printed, bound book,” said Falvey, whose husband works at Yale.

“There are parts of the book that are written by other people,” said Falvey, who wrote all but five essays.

Falvey said she “really enjoyed the project,” because she learned a lot about the evolution of medicine in the United States through her research of Yale.

She said the book is a portrayal of the evolution of medicine in America, as seen through the lens of Yale and its rich history.

Falvey said she thought it was important to do the book because as the sixth medical school established in the United States, Yale has seen many medical milestones first reached there.

She said a list of the school’s accolades include its scientists and physicians creating the first successful tissue cultures, finding the first drug to shrink cancerous tumors, and inventing the insulin pump, which treats diabetes.

There are four chapters in the book, which cover 50 years each, and about 300 images.

“I think the thing that was most surprising was that being a doctor in the early 19th century involved no training,” said Falvey. “But then, there was also the fact that Yale Medical School mirrors the history of medicine in this country.”

Falvey said she did all of the work on the book on campus.

“It was the brainchild of the dean,” said Falvey. “I just carried it out.”

She said the dean reviewed the book, reading every word, before it went to print.

“If a person has any interest at all in medicine and how it developed, this would be the book for them,” said Falvey, who was born in Greenfield in 1969 and moved with her family to South Deerfield when she was 2 years old.

She attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst after high school and then transferred to Smith College in Northampton.

“I’m very proud of the book,” said Falvey. “And I did it all by meeting the deadline and staying within budget.”

“I got to know many of the people that made Yale what it is today,” she said.

Falvey said an interesting tidbit was that each candidate only had to “produce satisfactory evidence of a blameless life and conversation” to gain a spot in the first class at Yale.

“Some things have definitely changed,” said Falvey.

Her background is in scientific publishing and Falvey had done research for a public television miniseries on the French and Indian War of 1754-1763 before she was hired for the two-year book project.

Falvey said she was thrilled when she was offered the chief of staff job, especially since she now knows all of the people who walk the hallways of Yale School of Medicine.

“I actually got so fond of the place, I was really hating having to look for another job,” she said.

For more information or to get a copy of the book, which costs $50, visit: http://yalepress.yale,edu/yupbooks/ysm200.asp. The book is also available at Barnes and Noble, the Yale bookstore and at www.amazon.com.

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