University of Vermont

Vermont Medicine “Miracle and the Martyrs” Article Receives CASE Award

Lawrie B. Morrison, M.D. and Walter Dodd, M.D.
Portraits of the two UVM physicians who were the focus of "The Miracle and the Martyrs," Lawrie B. Morrison, M.D. (at left) and Walter Dodd, M.D. (at right). Graduates of the classes of 1902 and 1908, respectively, Morrison and Dodd's portraits overlay a late 1890s cyan print of a glass-plate radiograph of Dodd's hands. Dodd became an early expert on the newly discovered X-ray process while working at Massachusetts General Hospital. This X-ray was taken as part of the effort to determine what was causing burning and severe pain in Dodd’s hands. It would later be determined that the culprit was the excessive amount of X-rays to which Dodd (and Morrison) subjected their hands and arms. Both men would undergo extensive amputations before succumbing to cancer.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District I has recognized “The Miracle and the Martyrs,” an article that ran in 2011 in Vermont Medicine, the University of Vermont College of Medicine’s magazine, with the bronze medal in the Article of the Year category of the association’s Excellence Awards for 2013.

Freelance writer Sarah Zobel authored the article, with support from Vermont Medicine editor Edward Neuert and Assistant Dean for Medical Communications and Planning Carole Whitaker.

“The Miracle and the Martyrs” detailed a nearly forgotten chapter in the medical history of both Vermont and the nation: the early years of experimentation with the use of X-rays after their accidental discovery by Wilhelm Rontgen in 1895. The discovery, which for the first time allowed physicians to see inside a living human body without surgery, seemed nothing short of miraculous. Two graduates of the UVM College of Medicine were among the pioneers who first experimented with X-rays, and helped found the modern discipline of radiology. They did so, however, at great personal cost. Only through their work and the work of other radiological pioneers did the dangers of excessive X-ray exposure become clear, and guidelines for exposure and safe procedures for patients and physicians become developed. Both UVM physicians – Laurie Morrison, M.D. (Class of 1902) and Walter Dodd, M.D. (Class of 1908) suffered gradual severe tissue damage and, ultimately, early death from radiation poisoning.

Key inspiration for the article came from alumnus and former Professor and Chair of Radiology John Tampas, M.D.’54, who worked with the Morrison family for many years to help preserve the extensive early radiological instrument collection left behind by Lawrie Morrison, M.D.

CASE District I, which covers institutions in the entire Northeast region of the U.S, as well as eastern Canada, annually bestows its Excellence Awards on individuals and schools doing innovative work in the fields of special events, fundraising, stewardship, volunteer engagement, alumni relations, student alumni initiatives, advancement services, and communications. The organization recognized this year’s award recipients at the CASE District I Awards Celebration event on January 30, 2013 in Boston, Mass.

Read the “The Miracle and the Martyrs” in Vermont Medicine.