The University of Iowa has had notable programs and individuals that have achieved sustained international recognition. Included in this group would arguably be the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Professor James Van Allen. The Writers Workshop and founder Wilber Schram is a another such notable program. However, one additional program—on a national/international scale—may be included with that group because of its contributions to the health and safety of the people who provide the food, fiber, and fuel for the world. That program is the Institute of Agricultural Medicine. However, this program has not received the recognition that it may deserve. For that reason, my mentor and colleague Dr. William McCulloch and I have written this text to bring to light the history and significance of Institute of Agricultural Medicine.
Not many can say that they have spent a professional career in one place. I can. In essence, my career started as a farm kid in Johnson County, Iowa on the outskirts of Iowa City. That farm is in an oxbow of the Iowa River called “The Peninsula.” I worked there with my father and grandfather until age 23. After that time, the farm was sold to investors and taken into the city limits. My best friend from junior high school through undergraduate studies at the University of Iowa was Kent Berry. I met Kent’s father, Clyde Berry, PhD in 1964 through a family dinner event at their house. Dr. Berry was the Associate Director of the Institute of Agricultural Medicine (IAM) at the University of Iowa, College of Medicine, Department of Preventive Medicine. Because of him, I was able to extend my farming connection into a 56-year commitment at the IAM, focusing on research, teaching, and outreach toward the prevention of occupational illnesses and injuries to farmers, their families, and their workers. I remain today thankful for the wonderful opportunity given to me. It fit me just right, allowing me to continue engagement with farming, but in a different way.
In the middle stages of my career at IAM, I began to think about how wonderful this opportunity was to work with a great group of dedicated farmer-oriented health scientists. I also thought about how unique the IAM was and how it was at the leading edge of the public health and medical professions entre’ into the new field of occupational health for the industry of agriculture. Therefore, in 1999, I called a meeting of former founding members of the IAM to a dinner meeting to discuss writing a history of the IAM. Attending that meeting included me and my wife Jean, Dr. Keith Long and his wife Hazel, Lafayette (Pete) Knapp and his wife Jackie, and Dr. William (Bill) McCulloch. We discussed an outline of such a history. It fell to me to write it. Although I started collecting materials for the project shortly thereafter, I did not actually start writing until 2007, as other writing, research and teaching activities took priority.
As I began writing this project, I felt like I was re-living my personal history. I felt more comfortable as writing this as a memoir. In this way, I could include anecdotes that might create a more human story, rather than a complete documentable history. However, in places I have found it more appropriate that I write as an outside narrator. Perhaps this can be criticized as an inconsistency, but I think this is the best way to write this history. My intention in using this style is to tell the Institute’s story in a more humanistic way.
As I began writing, I realized that Dr. McCulloch (my early mentor as a young graduate assistant at IAM) was key to ensuring accuracy of the early history of the IAM. He was very active in planning, reviewing, providing images, and details of the history. More than a reviewer, he was a co-author and is credited as such.
About the Reviewers
Dr. Keith Long was also a critical link to the past. He was one of the early professors of the IAM during the foundational years. He also served as the IAM Director for a period. In 2020, at the age of 97, he was a valuable resource in providing accuracy and details of the IAM history.Dr. Long died at age 98 on January 27, 2021 before he could read the final drat of this history. As mentioned above, he had been a member of the 1999 dinner meeting that began planning this history. He is credited as a “Major Reviewer.”
Dr. Robert Wallace is also a “Major Reviewer” of this manuscript. I use that term as he had direct experience with the IAM. He was Department Head and had oversight of the IAM during the period of his tenure. He reviewed the draft in detail and provided important insight and history to the manuscript.
Dr. James A. Merchant was also a “Major Reviewer.” He was Director of the IAM following Dr. Long. Dr. Merchant provided extensive input to the manuscript, addressing omissions of programs and personnel. Dr. Merchant’s review recommendations made this a more complete and accurate history.
Holly Carver also served as a “Major Reviewer.” Holly served on the staff of the University of Iowa for over 25 years. From 1985 – 2010, Holly directed the university’s press. As of this writing (2020), Holly remains connected to the Press, reviewing manuscripts that may be published by the Press. Holly’s editorial comments helped guide the direction and literary methods of the manuscript.
Jean Donham PhD served as reader/technical editor. Dr. Donham holds degrees in English, Library and Information Science, and Educational Administration. She was invaluable in assuring that the mechanics of the writing were correct. Her input is valued and helped make a better manuscript.
This manuscript is dedicated to the founding fathers of the IAM. Matthew Kinde MD, Norman Nelson MD DrPH, Franklin Top MD, Clyde Berry PhD, Keith Long PhD, and Mr. Lafayette “Pete” Knapp.