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in their words

THE AUTHO R IS A DUK E P RO F E SSO R

A Tale of Two Nicknames

OF ME DICINE A ND IMMUN OLOGY WH O HAS LIVE D IN D URH A M S IN CE THE L AT E ’ 7 0 S .

B Y DAV I D S . P I S ET S KY, M.D., PH.D.

M

ANY CITIES HAVE A nickname, but Durham is in a class all its own with two nicknames that couldn’t be more different. The Bull City derives from Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco – manufactured by W.T. Blackwell and Company – which was once the most successful brands of its kind. Reprising the bull from the British Colman’s Mustard products, two entrepreneurs named William Thomas Blackwell and John Ruffin Green used a bovine symbol as a logo for a brilliant marketing campaign for their loose-leaf tobacco. The company surged, and Durham became known as a huge tobacco capital of the country. On the other hand, the City of Medicine reflects a much different civic economy. The name is apt, given the size of the Duke University Health System and the large number of pharmaceutical and biotech companies in the area. One in three people living in Durham works in a health-related field. Durham got its start in the drug business in 1906 when two local pharmacists named Germain Bernard and C.T. Council created BC Headache Powder. Though I am in a medical field, I prefer the Bull City name. Bulls are large, strong and charging – attributes that capture the spirt of Durham today. Bulls also make great mascots for our baseball

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team. The City of Medicine moniker does not lend itself to such uses. Can you imagine a team called the Durham Health Care Providers competing in the Triple AAA International League against the RailRiders, IronPigs and Stripers? While the City of Medicine may not have all the virtues of a punchy nickname, a city committed to health care is pursuing an eminently worthwhile goal. The scope of medicine is forever changing, however, and, while the original goal was to prevent or treat illness, the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948 defined health as “not merely the absence of disease or infirmity but a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing.” The definition from WHO is expansive, aspirational and even utopian, and has given rise to the term wellness. Wellness has many dimensions – financial, intellectual, environmental, social and spiritual. Achieving goals within those realms involves programs that can go beyond those of a conventional health care system. Reflecting this more encompassing view, Duke has a wonderful Student Wellness Center – a gleaming, open structure filled with natural light to provide a place for students to “relax, reenergize and recharge” through programs that include tai chi, yoga and paint nights. There is also a beautiful garden for meditation. For employees, Duke has LIVE FOR LIFE, a wellness initiative that includes a farmers market and fitness club as well as programs for nutrition, tobacco cessation, health coaching and stress management. For its part, the City of Durham right now has many activities and venues that contribute to emotional aspects of wellness. Food, naturally, is important for wellness, not just for sustenance, but also for enjoyment – gustatory pleasure is its own form of nourishment. Durham has scores of top restaurants. New ones are forever opening, and Nana’s is making its return. For me, the macaroni au gratin (aka mac ’n’ cheese) at Vin Rouge is great comfort food that sends a signal of well-being from stomach to the brain.

Profile for Shannon Media

Durham Magazine August 2019  

Durham Magazine August 2019