Jay M. Arena Papers, 1931-1995

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Arena, Jay M.
Contains the professional papers of Jay Morris Arena (1909-1996), professor of pediatrics and community health and director of the Duke Poison Control Center. Types of materials include correspondence, reports, minutes, reprints, newsletters, clippings, programs, certificates, photographs, biographical materials, and manuscript materials. Major correspondents include Wilburt Cornell Davison, Atala Davison, Talmage Peele, Thomas Thweatt Jones and members of the Duke Children's Classic advisory group. Major subjects include Duke University Hospital, pediatrics, accidental poisoning in children, poisoning prevention and safety measures, poisoning case studies, treatment of poisoning, poison control centers, American Academy of Pediatrics, Duke Poison Control Center, and pediatrics in China. Materials range in date from 1931 to 1995.
26 Linear Feet (17 cartons, 1 flat box)
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

Contains correspondence, reports, minutes, reprints, newsletters, clippings, programs, certificates, photographs, biographical materials, and manuscript materials pertaining to the career of Jay Morris Arena. Materials range in date from 1931-1995.

Biographical / historical:

Jay Morris Arena was born in Clarksburg, West Virginia on March 3, 1909 to Anthony M. and Rose Sandy Arena. He received degrees from West Virginia University (B.A., 1930) and Duke University (M.D., 1932). Arena interned at Strong Memorial Hospital, Rochester, New York (1932) and later Johns Hopkins Hospital (1932-1933).
Arena joined Duke University in 1933 as a resident at Duke Hospital. Following his residency at Duke, he worked at Vanderbilt University as an instructor in pediatrics, but soon returned to Duke University School of Medicine in 1936 to become an assistant, associate, and finally full professor of pediatrics. Arena was the secretary-treasurer of the Duke Medical Alumni Association. In 1970, Arena was also appointed professor of community health sciences.
He was a preeminent physician in the field of pediatrics and toxicology and has been credited with beginning the first poison control movement in the country. In 1953, Arena founded the Duke Poison Control Center. The center, later directed by Shirley K. Osterhout, provided information to individuals and businesses about the product safety and chronic and acute management of poisoning through referrals, correspondence, and educational speakers.
Later in the 1950s, Arena went beyond the center to persuade drug companies to develop the childproof safety cap for medicine bottles. Many companies were not interested in changing their product for fear of low sales or reputation of not producing a safe drug. But Arena persisted, and with support from Duke University, convinced a number of drug companies to begin using child-proof safety caps. A major success was in the safety closure for children's aspirin: he helped bring about a reduction in the strength of aspirin as well as in the number of tablets per bottle. As a result, the incidence of aspirin poisoning in children during the early 1980s was reduced from 25 percent to less than 5 percent of all poisoning cases.
Arena's interest in poison prevention was due in part to the influence of Dr. Wilburt C. Davison, long-time School of Medicine dean. During the 1930s, the two men had treated children suffering from the unfortunately common and caustic effects of lye poisoning. They kept a reference file on other types of poisoning. The file eventually led to an inventory of treatments for poisoning and helped to develop the Duke Poison Control Center and more than 600 poison control centers across the United States. Arena shared his expertise in poison control throughout the United States by founding and presiding over the American Association of Poison Control Centers, an association to share information between health care centers which provided poison control information.
He was the chair, vice president and president of many divisions of the American Academy of Pediatrics and president of the North Carolina Pediatric Society. He also served on the advisory board of the Council on Family Health and as a member of that group's delegation to the People's Republic of China. During his trips around China, Arena worked with other medical professionals to access the quality of care and evaluate the effectiveness of some traditional treatments as well as implementation of more modern techniques.
Between 1935 and 1979, Arena published approximately 300 articles and pamphlets on poisoning and a variety of pediatric subjects. He was the author, co-author or editor of many books : Poisoning: Toxicology, Symptoms, Treatment (1970, 1974, 1979, 1986), Child Safety is No Accident: A Parents' Handbook of Emergencies (1978), Dangers to Children and Youth: Accidents, Poison, Prevention (1971), Duke's Mixture: Davison's Saga (1968), The Peril in Plants (1970), Poisoning: Chemistry, Symptoms, Treatment (1963), The Treatment of Poisoning (1966), Davison of Duke: His Reminiscences (1980), Human Poisoning from Native and Cultivated Plants (1969, 1974), Pediatric Therapy (1964, 1975, 1980), and Principles and Practice of Emergency Medicine (1978). He also served on the editorial board of Clinical Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine, Family Practice News, Highlights for Children, Journal of American College of Emergency Physicians, Nutrition Today, Pediatric Annals, and Pediatric News.
Arena was appointed to serve with various government agencies. He worked with the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare with the Poison Control Branch of the Bureau of Medicine in the Division of Hazardous Substances and as an advisor on the Committee on Safety for Children. Arena served as an advisor and member of the United States Product Safety Commission and a chair of the Standards Committee of the National Standards Institute. As an advisory expert on the Accidents and Poison Panel of the International Pediatric Association, Arena was frequently called upon to give expert witness testimony in cases of accidental poisoning, prescription medication problems and corporate responsibility in poisoning cases. He was a member of the National Advisory Committee on Consumer Product Safety. Fraternal organizations memberships included Sigma Xi, Phi Beta Kappa, and Alpha Omega Alpha.
Arena retired from Duke University in 1979. The Jay Arena Fund in Pediatric Pharmacology and Toxicology was established in his honor. He was married to Pauline (Polly) Elizabeth Monteith. Together they had seven children. Arena died in 1996.

Acquisition information:
Accession A2003.048 (acquired, June 2003), Accession A2008.028 (transferred, May 2008), Accession A2012.068 (transferred, November 2012), Accession A2014.019 (gift by Jeannie Arena Smith, July 2014)
Processing information:

Processed by Archives staff; updated by Emily Glenn: February 2004; updated by Dawne Howard Lucas: February 2010, March 2010; reprocessed by Lucy Waldrop, Alex Dowrey, and Astrid Cook-Dail: April 2016

Organized into the following series: American Academy of Pediatrics, 1964-1992; American Medical Association, 1955-1978; Davison of Duke Manuscripts Materials, 1932-1980; Lawsuits, Expert Witness, and Consulting Files-RESTRICTED, 1959-1980; Subject Files, 1931-1995; Publications, Reprints, and Manuscript Materials, 1935-circa 1989; American Association of Poison Control Centers, 1957-1972; Duke Poison Control Center Records, 1951-1984; American Medical Association Delegation to People's Republic of China, circa 1969-1987; Duke Children's Classic, 1974-1995; Personal/Biographical, 1931-1995; Correspondence, 1963-1995.
Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
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This collection may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals or IRB approval may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which Duke University assumes no responsibility.
Collection must be screened for sensitive or confidential materials before being accessed. For further information consult with the Medical Center Archivist.

Terms of access:

Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Jay M. Arena Papers, Duke University Medical Center Archives.