Local museum exhibit highlights genital issues

Posted at 1:48 PM, Sep 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-30 13:48:02-04

Tattoos and piercings in one’s nether regions. War injuries that shatter the genitals. Cancerous growths that, left untreated, become painful and possibly life-threatening.

These are the cases future urologists might not learn about in medical school.

“These are the kinds of things that can shock a young urologist,” said Tupper Stevens, museum and archives coordinator.

That’s one of the reasons behind the creation of the Extreme Urology: Practice on the Edge exhibit at The William P. Didusch Center for Urologic History. The museum is tucked inside American Urological Association headquarters in Linthicum.

“Urologists see all this crazy stuff, and they don’t always talk about it,” Stevens said. “But people are interested in it, so we thought, let’s bring it out of the closet.”

Urology has a long history in Baltimore.

Hugh Hampton Young, the father of American urology, treated businessman James Buchanan Brady, who then went on to donate money to open the James Buchanan Brady Urological Clinic at Johns Hopkins.

The clinic is still there today, a main reason why the AUA is headquartered here.

The Extreme Urology exhibit, which Stevens cautions is not for children, is open through November. It delves into gender identity, modification of genitals—an entire section features pictures of tattoos and piercings—and injuries both accidental and self-inflicted.

Plus there’s the foreign objects that have found their way inside body parts where they don’t belong (jewelry, small hardware, even a thermometer.)

In that case out of North Carolina, a patient reported an angry ex-girlfriend shoved a thermometer inside him while he was drunk at a New Year’s Eve party. A full year later, surgeons removed the object—which by then had become buried inside a large stone.

“We hope it has made people more open-minded,” Stevens said.

After all, urological issues “affect everyone at some point,” said Christine Frey, spokeswoman for the AUA.

Curator Dr. Michael Moran said cases such as those featured in the exhibit are not unusual things for a urologist to see.

“People do odd things to themselves and always have,” said Moran, a Mississippi-based urologist.

The exhibit was inspired in part by Urological Oddities, a 1948 book written by the AUA’s first historian, Wirt Brady Dakin.

While the museum’s main purpose is to educate urologists, Moran hopes some of the case studies in the Extreme Urology exhibit also serve as a cautionary tale.

“People do the dumbest things,” Moran said. “They just won’t tell anyone about it because it’s just so embarrassing. They don’t want anyone to see it.”   

The museum is more than just a showcase for bizarre medical issues and sexual fetishes. The only museum in the country dedicated to urological history, it has a comprehensive collection of medical devices dating back centuries and exhibits devoted to the profession’s pioneers.

The museum has had other risqué exhibits in the past. A few years ago, a showcase featuring a variety of vibrators had visiting urologists excited, Stevens recalled.

“They were all standing around looking at it, and I said, oh yeah, tell me that’s just the educational aspect,” she said.  

The exhibits at the museum, located at 1000 Corporate Blvd. in Linthicum, are available for individual viewing or guided tours. For more information on how to schedule a visit, visit the museum’s website.

The majority of visitors to the museum tend to be urologists, Stevens said, but they’ll get members of the general public, too, especially if there’s a particularly weird exhibit.

AUA members can also pick up mementos of their visits at the museum’s online gift shop. Items for sale include pins in the shape of cystoscopes and posters featuring images of stones.