Giant interpretive art panels depicting two local luminaries are now on permanent display at a revitalized community park located in the Cooper Plaza neighborhood in Camden City. The artwork honors the late Bascom Waugh, MD, (1909-1992), and the late Lewis L. Coriell, MD, PhD, (1911-2001).
At a Monday morning dedication ceremony at the site, known as Triangle Park, staff from Cooper University Hospital and the Coriell Institute for Medical Research joined Waugh and Coriell family members, local officials and community members to honor Dr. Waugh and Dr. Coriell for their pioneering work in the field of medicine. The event also marked the opening of the third revitalized community park in the Cooper Lanning Square neighborhood.
“We’re proud of the progress we’ve made in revitalizing this neighborhood,” said George E. Norcross, III, Chairman of Cooper’s Board of Trustees. “This park is a shining example of residents, employees and government leaders working together to create a safe, vibrant community. I’m hopeful that the success we’ve had in Cooper Lanning Square will be replicated in other areas throughout the City of Camden.”
During the dedication ceremony, John P. Sheridan, Jr., President and CEO of Cooper, reflected on the inspiring, yet vastly different contributions to the field of medicine made by Dr. Waugh and Dr. Coriell. “Many notable physicians and researchers have spent time in Camden since Cooper Hospital opened its doors more than a century ago,” he said. “But the accomplishments of these two men, in particular, profoundly impacted the lives of the generations that followed.”
In 1950, Bascom Waugh, MD, became the first African-American doctor to join the medical staff at Cooper. A World War II Veteran, Dr. Waugh was a flight surgeon for the 332nd Fighter Group, the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. According to a 2007 Air Force School of Medicine report, Dr. Waugh was one of the first two African-American doctors to be trained alongside Caucasian physicians in the Army’s School of Aviation near San Antonio. He joined 17 other African American flight surgeons supporting the approximately 1,000 Tuskegee-trained pilots, and he was one of only six who served in combat during the war. When he returned from the war in 1946, Dr. Waugh opened a family medicine practice in Camden, where he worked for more than 50 years until he died in 1992.
“Dr. Waugh not only provided medical care to thousands of Camden City residents, he was an inspiration and role model to African Americans from all over the region who were interested in healthcare careers,” added Sheridan. “With his courage and determination, he broke racial barriers during a time when discrimination was common – even in the field of medicine. Dr. Waugh was a war hero, a hero to his patients, and a hero in the civil rights movement in our country.”
Dr. Lewis L. Coriell was already world-famous by the time he became a member of the Cooper Hospital Board of Managers in 1969. Working in his lab in Camden in the early 1950s, he discovered that gamma globulin, a protein found in the blood, could temporarily immunize children from the scourge of polio. With that discovery, Dr. Coriell ran the field trials of the original Salk polio vaccine. In 1956, he founded the Coriell Institute for Medical Research in Camden, within blocks of Cooper, where he discovered how to maintain human cells in culture to keep them from being contaminated. Under his guidance, the Institute became the largest human cell depository for research into genetic diseases. Today, it has more than a million cell cultures, kept alive at extremely low temperatures.
“Dr. Coriell was a brilliant researcher and physician, as well as a prolific visionary,” said Sheridan. “It’s been said that when he attended his first Cooper Board meeting, he brought along a study entitled ‘A Medical-Dental School in South Jersey’ to support his argument that South Jersey needed an allopathic medical school, and Cooper was the best place for it. Today, only a few blocks from here, construction is underway for the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University. South Jersey’s first and only allopathic medical school will open in 2012.”
The interpretive panels were created by renowned artist John Giannotti, a sculptor, painter, monument designer and former Chair of the Department of Fine Arts at Rutgers University in Camden. His art and design have been exhibited at galleries throughout Europe and the United States. His monumental bronze sculptures are in public and private collections in the U.S., Italy, Venezuela, Australia, and Japan, where his bronze monuments of Walt Whitman and Madame Curie stand in sculpture parks at Soka University in Tokyo. Castings of the Whitman monument now stand at Rutgers University in Camden and at the Whitman Birthplace Museum in Huntington, New York.
Among Giannotti’s many public art works in the Delaware Valley are the 15 foot bronze sculpture in Haddonfield of Hadrosaurus Foulkii, the first dinosaur discovered in the United States; the 12 foot epoxy/bronze statue of Matthew Henson, co-discoverer of the North Pole, at the Camden Shipyard and Maritime Museum; and the bronze Monokefalos Eagle, honoring the fallen of the Pontian Massacre, installed in 2008 at St. Sophia near Valley Forge.
Triangle Park is located at the corner of Haddon Avenue and Newton Street in Camden, a short walk from Cooper University Hospital and the Coriell Institute for Medical Research. The art work was funded through the Cooper Plaza Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit.