The first deliberate attempt by a member of the Department of Internal Medicine to advance the knowledge of metabolic processes in patients was begun by Dr. L. H. Newburgh when he came to the University as an Assistant Professor in the fall of 1916. He suspected that the kidneys could be impaired by food very rich in protein. The first experiments were carried out in the Hygienic Laboratory because the department was without an experimental laboratory in the University Hospital. Shortly thereafter, the old laundry behind the hospital was renovated and in part given over to the members of the department for their investigations. Dr. Newburgh was assisted in the study of nephritis produced by diets rich in protein and its products by Dr. Theodore L. Squier, Dr. Phil L. Marsh, Dr. Arthur C. Curtis, and Miss Page 993Sarah Clarkson (d. 1931). More recently the work has been conducted by Dr. Margaret W. Johnston; and Dr. Richard H. Freyberg has been concerned with the question of the recoverability from the injury produced by the diets.
As late as 1918, the treatment of diabetes mellitus was still very unsatisfactory. Dr. Newburgh and Dr. Marsh began at that time to try to improve the dietary control of the disease, and by 1922 they were able to report that the disease could be adequately controlled in most adult patients by the plan they had developed. Dr. Floyd H. Lashmet and Dr. Newburgh undertook a study of the edema that occurs with one form of chronic nephritis. They were able to work out a plan that usually succeeds in eliminating the edema and preventing its recurrence.
Obesity is one of the most important causes of chronic illness in middle life. Earlier students had thought that the condition was often hereditary and unavoidable. This conception seemed highly unlikely. In order to study the question adequately, methods for measuring the exchange of energy and of water first had to be devised. Dr. Frank H. Wiley was of the greatest help in developing these two techniques. Dr. Newburgh and Dr. Margaret Johnston, using these new methods, then demonstrated that obesity is always caused by an inflow of energy greater than the outflow and that it can always be overcome by appropriate dietary methods.
Dr. Newburgh, Dr. Johnston, Dr. Jerome Conn, Dr. Florence White, and Dr. Elisabeth B. Stern engaged in an elaborate investigation of the normal and abnormal metabolism of carbohydrate. Dr. Coral A. Lilly for some years investigated the nature of dental caries as related to diet.
Since the opening of the University Hospital the group has had adequate laboratory space and a sufficient appropriation for current supplies. Salaries for fellow workers have always had to be obtained from sources outside of the regular budget. The work has been seriously hampered by inadequate financial support.