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History, the JDNA, and the Future

Borger, Angela L.

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Journal of the Dermatology Nurses’ Association: 3/4 2021 - Volume 13 - Issue 2 - p 89-90
doi: 10.1097/JDN.0000000000000611
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Growing up in Gettysburg, PA, obviously made history a central part of my childhood. I figured everyone had childhood opportunities to walk on battlefields, play around monuments, and hike through sacred land. Although I am now a little ashamed to say, I have to admit, history has not always been my favorite subject (here's looking at you, math!). When I was younger, I found the memorization of dates, all seemingly always related to a war, battle, or particular event, not to be that intrinsically interesting. Maybe I was just too young to appreciate the importance of knowing the history of events of my country or state. Or maybe the people teaching me were never able to teach the topics in a way that the past events seemed influential or applicable to my current, everyday life. It has taken me a very long time to realize that I really like, maybe even love, history.

What I've realized is that I like history when people tell a story so well that you do not even realize you are learning history in the first place. Admittedly, I still do not care for military history all that much. Let me share with you three of my favorite books that incorporate subjects and themes I enjoy learning about, while teaching about the history of the topic and the time in which the events took place. Several years ago, long before the current pandemic, I read John M. Barry's (2004), The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History. Despite that our current pandemic might challenge the implications of the title, I liked that this well-written book gave narration to the events of that part of our history while combining the interrelated topics of history, medicine, pandemics, public health, and public response. At the time, I was fascinated by this read. Little did the world know what would come in 2019, right? A similar pandemic is now occurring, one that has affected the world in its entirety. However, do we not study history partly so that we learn from the experiences of those in the past, as well as study their responses and reactions, to be better prepared for potential future scenarios? My hope is that astute scholars of history will be able to offer solutions for today.

The second book that combines several of my interests is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2010). Since my initial reading, this book has found critical acclaim, having won numerous awards and being turned into a motion picture. I am sure most of you are familiar with the story of Henrietta Lacks whose cervical cancer cells helped create the immortal cell line called HeLa. This cell line, which was derived from cervical cancer cells taken from Ms. Lacks without her consent, is the oldest cell line in history. This book shares with the reader the history surrounding the development of this cell line and frames it in the context of medical history. This book was filled with examples of history, articulates medical advancement, discusses the topic of informed consent, and addresses larger social issues, and it was so well written that even a person who was a self-professed, not-a-big-fan of history was taken in. I really enjoyed learning about something that, before reading, I had no idea about. That's good history.

The last book to share with you is one that I am still working on reading. It's called Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread, & Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking by Joseph Dabney (1998). Apparently, I take my car to get fixed at a rather progressive car repair facility, one that is complete with a lending library. I first encountered this book there, and every time I needed car service, I would read a few more pages. Yes, my car is older, and I have spent many hours inside their waiting area, but they keep my car running well and have complimentary drinks, snacks, and books! What else could a customer ask for? At any rate, this book is a winner of the James Beard Foundation Cookbook of the Year Award, and I can see why. I finally got my own copy of the book last year. Dabney's work is a moving story of the folklore history of food in the Appalachian area, detailing cuisine in that area, starting in pioneer days, and providing culture content, recipes, and accompanying history. It discusses the generational and geographical aspects of food and tradition. But remember, I have not quite finished it yet; I bet there's more great history in the book yet to come.

So why am I sharing these personal favorite examples of history with you, the readers of the Journal of the Dermatology Nurses' Association (JDNA)? Because I am asking all of you to get excited about history, too! I have shared with you that I think about the JDNA quite a bit, and after talking and listening to generous, experienced colleagues, I think it's important that we talk about the history of the JDNA. The JDNA is in its 13th year, and I have been involved for most of that time. With excitement, I share with you that we are planning a project to document the history of the journal to date. We are still in the planning stages, but it is the intention to document the Journal's history, from the beginning, so that this collective knowledge will always be available for dermatology nurse readers. Documenting and recording the history of the JDNA will allow future generations of dermatology nurses to have accurate information about the Journal's past. Accurate documentation, which any nurse would agree is paramount, is important for historical purposes. I want people involved with the organization in the future to be able to clearly see where the Journal started and what progress has been made over time. We should document the progression, the innovations, the changes, the accomplishments, and, yes, even our less successful endeavors. Knowing where the Journal has been will be a good starting point to know where we will be going.

It is the intention to compile the historical information over the next year or so and then share with readers during the 15th anniversary year. So, if you were involved with the JDNA in the past or have special thoughts or memories about the last 15 years, please feel free to share your knowledge about the history of the Journal. Our plan is to reach out to individuals who were previously, or are currently, involved in JDNA leadership and document their knowledge and memory of the beginning years. We hope to interview former editorial board members and plan to reach out to past Editors in Chief. Documenting the Journal's history will help tell the story of dermatology nurses. Studying the past history of the JDNA will position the Journal so that we can help to more accurately plan for changes in the future and continue to address comprehensively the complex learning needs of future readers.

Do you have a favorite memory of the JDNA? Do you have an article that was particularly meaningful to your clinical practice? Which special issue or feature has been your favorite? Do you have a story about the history of the JDNA? If so, we'd love to hear from you. We want to hear how the JDNA has been a part of your clinical development and what role it has played in your dermatology nursing education. Please feel free to reach out to share your memories.

As always, looking forward to hearing from you.

Angela L. Borger


[email protected]


Barry J. M. (2004). The great influenza: The story of the deadliest pandemic in history. Penguin Books (USA).
Dabney J. E. (1998). Smokehouse ham, spoon bread, & scuppernong wine: The folklore and art of southern Appalachian cooking. Cumberland House Publishing.
Skloot R. (2010). The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. Crown Publishers (Random House, Inc.).
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