Putting medicine on the map

The Rose Melnick Medical Museum has a variety of historical medical equipment on display. Photos by Elizabeth Coss / The Jambar

By Elizabeth Coss

The Rose Melnick Medical Museum found a home for its collection that looks under the microscope of history’s medical developments in Youngstown State University’s Cushwa Hall last September. 

The museum is no stranger to bouncing around locations as it was previously located within the Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown, Ohio and Melnick Hall on Wick Avenue. 

Cassie Nespor, the curator for the university’s archives and medical museum, has been tending to the collection since 2009 and said the museum was brought to YSU in 2001, but was closed for almost 9 years. 

“In 2013, the university decided to remodel [Melnick Hall] to put WYSU and the YSU Foundation in there. The collection of the museum went into storage,” Nespor said. “When the exhibit space closed on Wick Avenue, I really had to be creative about how I was going to keep fulfilling the mission of the museum.”

Nespor said she developed presentations, illustrations and classroom-usable modules for both high school and college students to keep medical history alive in Youngstown. 

Dr. John Melnick, the founder of the museum and a radiologist in Youngstown, started the collection in his retirement and named the museum after his mother in the 1980s. Nespor said Melnick was interested in learning and sharing history. 

Founder John Melnick.
Photo courtesy of Cassie Nespor

Melnick collected a variety of medical items that interested him and as such, the museum displays several X-ray machines, including one used by a Dr. Erhard Weltman in Youngstown from 1941. 

“The other cool thing about [the X-ray] machine is that it was brought to Youngstown and it’s one of the ones we know was used here in Youngstown,” Nespor said. “Dr. Erhard Weltman was fleeing the Nazis in Germany and brought this machine. [He] took it apart, packed it up in crates and brought it with him on a ship to the United States when he immigrated.”  

Medicinal developments put Youngstown on the world map in the 1960s when it was the first community in the country to use an oral vaccine against the polio virus. Prior to the oral vaccine, which used a live virus and was more effective, the vaccine was originally inserted into a patient’s bloodstream with a dead virus.

“The vaccines were made in Pittsburgh and in Cincinnati, so I think those two cities take the bulk of the credit for eradicating polio,” Nespor said. “I don’t think a lot [of people] in Youngstown know that [the city’s] medical society was the first one to use the oral vaccine.”

The museum showcases real and replica versions of iron lungs highlighting Youngstown in fighting polio. 

The Rose Melnick Medical Museum has a variety of historical medical equipment on display.
Photos by Elizabeth Coss / The Jambar

Tilisia Williams, a junior psychology major, works as an assistant for the museum and said working at the museum taught her about medical history, including Youngstown’s. 

“When I look at this stuff … I like to think about how [the iron lungs] were used and what it could have been like for not only the doctors to use but also the people,” Williams said. “The idea that this whole machine helped somebody breathe and stay alive is interesting to me.”

The museum is free and open to the public Tuesdays through Fridays from noon until 3 p.m. in Room B241, Cushwa Hall. To book a field trip or visit, check out its website