“Grosstober” Science Cafe to feature weird,strange,odd medical images

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October 8th, 2015

An image of Hereditary Syphilis from the Atlas of the Diseases of the Skin 1902 (courtesy UNMC McGoogan Library of Medicine)

An image of Hereditary Syphilis from the Atlas of the Diseases of the Skin 1902 (courtesy UNMC McGoogan Library of Medicine)

This month’s Science Café at the Slowdown Bar in Omaha will feature some gross, odd, and unusual medical images from the UNMC McGoogan Library of Medicine. KVNO News’ Ryan Robertson previews the “Grosstober” event.


John Schleicher is the head of special collections at the McGoogan Library of Medicine on the University of Nebraska Medical Center Campus. Erin Torell is an archives associate there, and walking into their office, you see some strange stuff.

“Gangrene from diabetes on the left foot in this one,” Schleicher said, “with infection. Oh, and then they amputated above the knee, because of the gang green.”

A moulage depicting gangrene as a result of diabetes. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

A moulage depicting gangrene as a result of diabetes. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

Schleicher was describing an artists’ rendition of a medical malady. Called a moulage, it’s a wax on plaster piece of art that was once used to teach doctors what different medical conditions looked like, so they could make more informed diagnosis.

There are around 100 moulages in the McGoogan library. The gangrene moulages are pretty disturbing, but Schleicher and Torell said they’re not the worst to look at; the moulages featuring syphilitic sores, those are the worst.

“Especially the genital syphilitic sores,” Schleicher said, “It’s a good thing that’s kind of gone away, hasn’t gone away completely, but they’re pretty scary.”

John Schleicher holds up an example of a stereoscopic card Erin Torell had found. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

John Schleicher holds up an example of a stereoscopic card Erin Torell had found. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

Schleicher and Torell will present dozens of moulages and other images of weird, gross, or unusual medical conditions for the October Science Café, sponsored by UNMC. The title of the presentation is aptly named “Grosstober.”

In addition to moulages and books from World War detailing amputations and gunshot wounds, Torell said she’d also be presenting a series of stereoscope cards, which have the same images placed next to each other in a handheld device.

“You look through the lenses,” Torell explained, “and it would create one 3D image. These were used in the classroom for educational purposes. But it has a slight 3D effect that makes them even more gross.”

Torell said some images from the archives are just too graphic to share publicly, but that doesn’t mean Grosstober won’t live up to its name.

A moulage of carcinoma of the lip. (image courtesy of UNMC McGoogan Library of Medicine)

A moulage of carcinoma of the lip. (image courtesy of UNMC McGoogan Library of Medicine)

“They can be a little, little too much,” Torell said, “They might turn your stomach a little bit, some of them. Especially the ones that are in color.”

The images at Grosstober will have a historic feel, but Schleicher said some of the conditions they depict are anything but history.

“Scabies. We have this historical image of it but it’s something that’s still around, especially in third world countries,” Schleicher said, “I heard the other day about a doctor dealing with scabies in a refugee camp in Europe with all the incoming refugees. So there are still things that are out there that maybe we don’t have to deal with so much in the in the Western world, but there are things that other people in the world are still dealing with.”

The October 13th Grosstober Science Café is at the Slowdown Bar, across from TD Ameritrade Park, in Omaha. The event starts at 7pm. You must be 21 or older to get in and pizza will be given to the first 50 people….but with pictures of things like cavernous sinus thrombosis, metastatic tumors, and carcinoma of the colon…maybe show up after the pizza is gone.

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