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Drennan Pathology Museum

Specimens from the Drennan Pathology Museum at the Hunter Centre
Two of the specimens from the Hunter Centre's Drennan Pathology Museum.

The first specimens for this collection were acquired by the Department of Pathology for teaching over 100 years ago. Some of the specimens in the collection date to 1886, and these were probably collected by the pathology professor at the time, William Roberts.

Murray Drennan, the first whole-time Professor, was appointed in 1916, and these cases were vital to his new teaching method 'case-based learning'. He published on the pathology of goiter in New Zealand (endemic at that time due to a deficiency of dietary iodine) and collected thyroid specimens.

All the specimens are anonymously displayed and come from either surgical resections or post mortem examinations. Most specimens have a record that includes a brief clinical history and the microscopic findings.

No new specimens were added between the 1980s and 2010, while the ethical issues and adverse publicity regarding collections were debated. This related in particular to paediatric heart specimens at Auckland's Greenlane Hospital, and similar collections Australia and Britain. The debate raged over specimens that were retained for teaching, but often without parental consent.

The specimens in this collection are held under the New Zealand Human Tissue Act (1964 and 2008).

The first new specimens were added again in 2013. It is significant for the historical record of many conditions (such as tuberculosis), and significant for currently relevant conditions that would not otherwise be accessible (such as rheumatic fever).

Reference: A History of Pathology in New Zealand – Pathology in Dunedin. Academic and Hospital 1885–1970, Private 1960–1991. By DT Roberts. University of Otago Medical Library.

Contact the Hunter Centre for further information about the Pathology Museum.