Sunday, April 29, 2012

Final Weeks

The past few weeks have been busy in my internship as well as in other classes, which is why I have been delayed in updating this blog.  Much of the last few weeks have involved more interviews, and tracking down contact information for individuals whom I would like to interview.  I had the opportunity to interview the remaining board members, including the president of the foundation a couple weeks ago, which provided me with some good quotes for the history paper I've been working on.

One of the most interesting interviews from the past few weeks was with one of the foundation consultants, who has worked with the foundation since the early 1990s.  As a nurse practitioner, she worked at a veterans hospital during this time as well as with AIDS patients.  While this doesn't sound unusual for a nurse now, it was rare for nurses to willingly work with AIDS patients in the early '90s, due to the limited knowledge available at the time about AIDS, and the social stigma against infected individuals.  Due to her experience with AIDS patients, she worked with the foundation to develop grants to fund a counseling center, housing for AIDS patients, and a hospice program, many of which were the first programs specifically for AIDS patients in the city.  Many of these projects were put into effect by working with Howard Brown, another foundation in Chicago.  Hearing about the other foundations that Washington Square has worked with in the community has broadened my understanding of the health care environment in Chicago.

Another aspect of the foundation's history that I learned about from several of the individuals that I interviewed was the foundation's largest grant, which funded the building of a P3 containment lab.  This is an extremely advanced, rare, and expensive type of laboratory that is used to study dangerous diseases.  For anyone who has seen the movie "Contagion", a P3 containment lab is similar to the lab seen in that movie to study viruses, where scientists must wear large, airtight suits to protect themselves from the virus that they are studying:

I was also able to do a little more archival work last week.  My boss found a folder in the office full of archives from Henrotin Hospital.  This was exciting because I had had trouble finding original documents from Henrotin earlier in the semester, because most of the hospital archives are currently stored at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.  The folder included pictures from when Henrotin Hospital was being demolished, and annual reports from the early 1980s.  The annual reports were interesting because they provided me with information about the people who actually worked at Henrotin hospital, and the patient population that was served.  From these reports, I was also able to see how the relationship with Northwestern Memorial Hospital started.  In the 1983 report, it was indicated that a relationships with Northwestern would soon commence, but it was made clear that the board had no intention of selling the hospital to Northwestern.  It was interesting to see this because the hospital ended up being sold two years later.

I plan on continuing my history internship with Washington Square throughout the summer, as I continue to engage in research and work on writing about the foundation's history.  Having finished interviewing the board members, my focus will now turn to interviewing individuals from other organizations who have received grants from Washington Square in the past.  I have an interview scheduled with one grantee this week, and with the CEO of another organization next week.  I have learned a lot from this experience, and acquired many new skills that will definitely be useful in the future.  I'm excited to continue working on the project this summer!

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