Several editions of the Harriet Lane Handbook, first created in 1953 by residents at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore to help residents around the world diagnose and treat children. - MCT
For 50 years, this book has been the bible for hospital paediatrics.
In the early 1950s, six paediatric residents at Johns Hopkins Hospital sat down at a table and jotted down notes they thought would help as they began treating patients. They made copies and put them in loose-leaf notebooks. Every few years, other residents would add information about tests, results, diagnoses and drugs for children.
Hopkins residents are still editing the Harriet Lane Handbook six decades later, but now the pearls of wisdom are professionally published and distributed so widely that they’ve been translated into more than a dozen languages. Dr Branden Engorn, the chief resident at Hopkins in charge of the latest edition, says new doctors there still cling to copies.
“It was the kind of book that when you got yours, you wrote your name in black Sharpie on all corners,” he says. “If you put it down, you knew it was yours because there were so many floating around.”
He also says crops of trainees often could be identified by the colour of their copies. Engorn had a pink one in medical school at Virginia Commonwealth University, and he got a green one when he began at Hopkins in 2009. The latest edition is blue, but incoming residents might be better known by their smartphones. “The Lane”, as the book is known, now comes with an app.
Engorn says paper still rules with many doctors, and it’s common to see markings, notes and coloured tabs pasted on important pages, such as those with blood pressure readings and medication dosages that change with height, weight and age.
In all, the book is now 1,132 pages, printed in type small enough to allow the paperback technically to fit into a lab coat pocket, though some residents say it’s a bit bulky for that. Several doctors say there are now other popular references, largely online, but perhaps none as comprehensive and ubiquitous. And among the non-virtual offerings, it’s one of the cheapest at US$50 (RM160).