Boston a great place for medical sightseeing #ahcj13

The conference schedule is packed with great speakers. But if you’re looking for some time away from the hotel, there are plenty of fascinating places to visit, from the Institute of Contemporary Art, a short walk from the hotel, to the beloved Fenway Park. Consider adding these stops to your sightseeing list and learn a bit about Boston’s rich medical history:

A look at some of the issues, sessions and ideas to keep in mind for those planning to attend Health Journalism 2013, the annual conference of the Association of Health Care Journalists.

Longwood Medical Area

If you have any doubt about why Boston is considered a national hub of medical care, just take a stroll down Longwood Avenue. The street is lined with leading health care institutions, most affiliated with Harvard Medical School, and there’s more in the surrounding blocks:  Boston Children’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and lots of research labs.

The sidewalks teem during the day with patients and doctors, researchers and administrators – a busy hive of medical care and invention. If you can handle the Boston weather, grab a cup of coffee and find a bench along the grassy Quad at the center of the Harvard Medical School buildings. Follow Longwood Avenue away from the medical school until you hit the Riverway, part of Boston’s Emerald Necklace.

To get there: The easiest way may be to find some friends and take a cab, but expect traffic at rush hour. By T, take the Red Line from South State to Park Street, switch to the Green Line, and get off at the Longwood Medical Area stop.

Warren Anatomical Museum

While you’re in Longwood, be sure to check out the Warren Anatomical Museum. Located on the fifth floor of the Countway Library of Medicine, the gallery makes up in intrigue what it lacks in size. Just a few glass exhibit cases house some of the collection’s most interesting pieces, including the skeleton of conjoined twins, an ether inhaler used in the early days of anesthesia, and the skull of railroad worker Phineas Gage, who survived after his head was impaled with a tamping iron and changed what we know about the human brain.

Used for decades as a teaching tool for medical students, the collection illustrates just how far medicine has come over the past two centuries. Be sure also to check out the library’s new exhibit on level L2 about injury and amputation during the Civil War.

The Countway is closed on weekends but open late otherwise. It closes at 11 p.m. on Thursday and 8 p.m. on Friday. Visitors must check in at the front desk and show photo ID.

To get there: The library is at 10 Shattuck St. If you’re already on the Quad, you can find the entrance if you walk off the green to the left of Gordon Hall, the big pillared building that faces Longwood Avenue.

Massachusetts General Ether Dome and museum

Has the ether piqued your interest? Dr. John Collins Warren, with help from Boston dentist William T.G. Morton, conducted the first successful demonstration of ether’s use during an operation in 1846. He did it in the operating theater of Massachusetts General Hospital, better known today as the Ether Dome. Now a national historic landmark, the space was the site of more than 8,000 operations performed between 1821 and 1868, under the cupola of the Bulfinch Building.

You can learn more about Massachusetts General’s role in the history of anesthesia and many other fields of medicine at the new Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation. The museum opened last year as the hospital was celebrating its 200th anniversary. It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays only. So is the Ether Dome, except when it is being used by hospital staff for a meeting. Admission to both is free.

To get there: Take the Red Line from South Station to the MGH stop. The museum is a short walk up Cambridge Street, at 2 North Grove St. To get to the Ether Dome follow Grove Street back to the White Building and ask for directions at the front desk.

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