Dissecting Grey’s Anatomy

And how it relates to our Wangensteen Historical Library

By Sarah Juntunen
Student Assistant, Wangensteen Historical Library

On September 24, 2015 yet another season of Grey’s Anatomy aired on ABC. This is the beloved television series’ 12th (and reportedly not final) season.

In honor of the season launch, I have looked back at some of the top rated episodes and their relation to items at the Wangensteen Historical Library. Warning: may contain spoilers.

Gray's Anatomy Collection
Gray’s Anatomy Collection

I have found myself, after watching a number of Grey’s Anatomy episodes, wondering if the show should have been called Murphy’s Law. However it is easy to appreciate that the show’s name was inspired by one of the most widely used medical school textbooks, Anatomy, Descriptive and Applied— known contemporarily as Gray’s Anatomy. The Wangensteen Historical Library has several copies of Henry Gray’s text, dating back to 1862.

Episode 2.26 “Deterioration of the Fight or Flight Response” begins with the quote, “Human beings need a lot of things to feel alive… but we only need one thing to actually be alive – a beating heart.”

These sentiments elude to the theme of what is to come in the episode. As many of you may remember, this is the episode that Izzie intentionally breaks the “first do no harm” code by cutting a wire that was keeping Denny’s heart condition from getting worse. By doing this, she secured a heart for Denny from the transplant list.

The Wangensteen Historical Library is home to a number of items related to cardiology and cardiac surgery. Among my favorite books is a signed copy of The Living Heart by Michael DeBakey, M.D. and Antonio Gotto, M.D.

Michael Debakey Dedication
Michael Debakey Dedication

The famous cardiac surgeon Michael DeBakey signed this copy for Dr. Owen H. Wangensteen saying “ … in grateful appreciation of his pioneering surgical developments, his academic surgical leadership, and his warm friendship.” A man who is considered a world premier cardiovascular surgeon penned these words to our library’s founder!

Dr. DeBakey’s contributions to the field include the development of new methods for the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease, he was among the first to warn patients about the hazards associated with cigarette smoking and was influential in the development of national health policy. His contributions changed the field and we are happy to take care of a book signed by this great American.

Shonda Rhimes is Grey’s Anatomy writer and also a part time life-ruiner. Episode 5.24 “Now or Never” is my most loved/hated episode and I formally request – should I end up in Seattle – that I not be treated at Seattle Grace under any circumstance! Every episode is a Shakespearean level tragedy. Could any hospital have this many catastrophes? I still can’t hear the name George without seeing him waiting for Izzie outside of the elevator.

Military Medicine Collection
Military Medicine Collection

George O’Malley’s planned departure from Seattle Grace came as a shock to many in the fifth season finale. Knowing that he needed a change, George had decided to leave Seattle Grace for the Army, and in the season finale he left in the most Shonda Rhimes-like fashion to date. If you need something to jog your memory remember Meredith yelling, “007!,” and if that doesn’t make you remember, it may be best that you continue to push this scene out of your memory.

Military history is a favorite genre for history buffs and here at the Wangensteen Historical Library we have no shortage of books related to this topic. Just like episode 24 of season five we spend a lot of time learning about our military. If you are looking for a place to learn more about Civil War and World War I military history look no further – we have you covered.

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