Original Document
Original Document
Dr. Florence Seibert, on the early history of Henry Phipps Institute, 1968.

The Henry Phipps Institute was located in the southeastern Philadelphia in the heart of a foreign and Negro population. It had been founded in 1903 through the joint efforts of Henry Phipps, a wealthy partner of Andrew Carnegie, who wanted a charitable outlet for his wealth, and Doctor Lawrence F. Flick, a doctor who visioned a hospital and clinic for "The Study, Treatment and Prevention of Tuberculosis," even though most doctors at that time thought tuberculosis was inevitable and incurable. At first the Institute was established as a private institution at 238 Pine Street, but by 1910 it became a part of the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1913 it was moved to the large brick building built by Mr. Phipps at the corner of Seventh and Lombard Streets, and here it added dignity to this neighborhood, where I am sure it stood as a shrine to the sick who came for help. In early years patients were hospitalized on the several open-air wings of the building, and there were clinic and social service rooms as well as considerable space devoted to laboratories, where a number of investigators were carrying on the "Study" of this baffling disease.

At the time we came to the Institute, Doctor Charles J. Hatfield was Executive Director, and there was a Committee of University Trustees and an advisory council composed of well-known national anti-tuberculosis leaders who helped to guide the policies of the Institute. The porches were then enclosed, and there were no longer any bed patients, but several thousand patients visited the clinic annually to be examined and treated by a large staff of doctorsThere were about nineteen public health nurses who made daily visits into the homes of these South Philadelphia patients to instruct them in proper health care and diets.

The clinical and sociological work was directed by Doctor Henry R. M. Landis who himself was a victim of the disease. Through his humane understanding and respect for the moral rights of every patient, he molded the Clinic into a place of succor for all people afflicted with this disease. No distinction was made because of color or creed. The list of the patients included Irish, Italian, Chinese, Jewish, Polish and Negroes, as well as native Americans. He recognized especially the seriousness of the problem of tuberculosis among Negroes, of whom there were many in this neighborhood. He believed that Negro doctors and nurses could reach these patients better than white doctors and nurses, and a number of them entered into every phase of the Institute's activities and became an integral part of the staff, making it even in the early twenties a model of integrated effort.

As time passed and more Negroes came to the clinic for help, more Negro doctors and nurses were added to the staff. Their training was the same and they were expected to be as keen, tactful, and as well groomed at all times as their white colleagues and they shared equally in all facilities. There were Negro as well as white assistants in all departments, and there was a common bond of serious purpose in the whole staff who shouldered, each according to his ability, the burdens of the sick with an impartiality that surmounted any thought of individual superiority. All were working hand in hand to outwit the wily tubercle bacillus.

This experiment in cooperation was so successful that a Negro Bureau of the Philadelphia Health Council and Tuberculosis Committee was formed, and Doctor Landis was made chairman with a Negro staff of ten physicians and twelve nurses under his supervision. This plan became a model and has been adopted throughout the nation. In the Institute there was no need for the word integration. When one stands before the mercy of God, he does not ask, "Who is my neighbor?"

Throughout the years countless visitors from all parts of the world, attracted by the prestige of the Institute and that of Doctor Long, came to spend time in the clinic. In fact at one time, there were as many as fourteen fellows of all colors and creeds, and from such distant lands as Pakistan, India, China, Australia, Finland, France, England, Haiti, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, etc. The simple smorgasbord lunches for the entire staff and visitors, held daily in our library, were forums for international discussions.

The atmosphere in this laboratory was uniquely conducive to the further study of my tuberculin protein molecules and their use in the diagnosis of tuberculosis among its patients. Still working on grants given by the National Tuberculosis Association, I was now urged to isolate the diagnostic product directly from Old Tuberculin (OT) which had been used by doctors for skin testing since Koch's discovery, rather than from the unheated culture filtrates, which as a protein chemist, I had been doing in Chicago.

This Old Tuberculin (OT) was really like a soup made by cooking up the live tubercle bacilli and extracting the protein substance from their bodies while they were being killed. The dead shells of the bacilli were then filtered away and the clear germ-free extract was concentrated by sucking away the water by the process described earlier as ultrafiltration. The problem now was to pick out the protein from this mixture and we did this like we had done previously in making TPT, that is precipitate it out by adding trichloracetic acid. In this case we called it PPD, instead of TPT, meaning Purified Protein Derivative, because it represented a form of the protein which had now possibly been degraded by the heat.

This PPD seemed to be a desirable product for diagnostic purposes and we were soon busy preparing large quantities of it to satisfy the great demand. While uninfected people did not react, or sometimes only slightly, practically everyone infected with the tubercle bacillus gave the reaction. However, not all of those who did react were sick or even later became sick from the disease. Which ones were in danger could only be determined by the X-ray, and, therefore, both technics, tuberculin test and X-ray, were used on all patients.

Cooperation between the National Tuberculosis Association (N.TA), the two drug concerns, and ourselves, kept us busy sending PPD to laboratories and investigators throughout the world, and especially to countless college health officers for the purpose of skin-testing college entrants in all parts of the United States.

Credit: Florence B. Seibert, Pebbles on the Hill of a Scientist (St. Petersburg, Florida: Saint Petersburg Printing Company, 1968).
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