Message from the Chair, Frank Torre, Fall 2013

ftorre@springfieldcollege.edu

One of the best benefits of working at a small college is summer vacation. Since Springfield College offers a very limited summer program, most of the faculty enjoy an extended time away from work. I had planned several week long trips to visit the New England Coast and family. I do not want you to think that I spend all summer being an idle dolt. Summer for me is also a time to rethink my teaching and the courses that I have taught.

In my search for better ways for me to teach General Chemistry, I read many articles on “flipping the classroom”. The March 25, 2013 issue of C&E News had a wonderfully enlightening article entitled “Flipping Chemistry Classrooms” which spotlighted the work of Gabriela Weaver from Purdue University and others who are using this method of instruction. I spoke to Gabriela who has been involved in this work for over three years and became more convinced that his was something I would like to try. I also read and watched videos produced by Matthew Stoltzfus from The Ohio State University who has lectured about the techniques and make several videos available on YouTube. Armed with this knowledge and the support of our information technology staff, I am in the process of getting ready for the start of the fall semester. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has flipped their classroom as I would like to organize a symposium for the ACS meeting in Dallas, TX.

Last week I had my first experience with surgery that required the use of general anesthetic. While in the recovery room, I started thinking about the significant contributions that chemists have made to medicine. I remembered a visit I made some years ago to the Museum of Science in Boston, specifically to a replica of the operating theater in Mass General Hospital around 1846. There was a chalk board on the wall with the amount of time it took for an appendectomy (9 min) or leg amputation (6 min). Before the advent of anesthetics, surgery was carried with the patient conscious. Skilled surgeons were those that could perform the procedure very quickly. Dr. William Morton, an American dentist, demonstrated in 1846 the extraction of a tooth from a patient who was under the influence of ether-induced anesthesia. Following Morton’s work, chloroform was made popular by Queen Victoria of England, who in 1853 gave birth to a child while anesthetized by chloroform.

Nowadays, many surgical procedures are performed on patients who are anesthetized by application of gaseous anesthetics. These drugs are administered to obtain various states of consciousness, muscular relaxation, and sensory deprivation. The effectiveness of the anesthetic gases depends upon their ability to directly dissolve in the bloodstream and circulate to the brain.

In my classes, I often start with a five minute “chemical story” that emphasizes the importance to chemistry in our everyday lives. The stories are always very well received by my students who love to see the relevance of chemistry. “Anesthetics” will be one that I will add to my collection.

I look forward to seeing you at the ACS meeting in Indianapolis, September 8-12, 2013.

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