Retired surgeon donates medical artifacts to Melnick Museum

Cassie Nespor, curator of the Rose Melnick Medical Museum, is pictured with some of the new items donated...

Cassie Nespor, curator of the Rose Melnick Medical Museum, is pictured with some of the items donated by retired surgeon Dr. Rashid Abdu of Canfield.

Retired surgeon Dr. Rashid Abdu of Canfield has donated his collection of more than 50 medical artifacts, some dating to the 1730s, to the Rose Melnick Medical Museum at Youngstown State University.

“These items are impressive and will fill significant holes in the museum’s collection,” said Cassie Nespor, museum curator. “I want to thank Dr. Abdu for the donation. The items will be great for displays and exhibits.”

Abdu, a native of Yemen, said he was given the items when he was a teenager by his foster father, Dr. Alfred M. Palmer, of Falls Church, Va. “I wanted to find a good permanent home for the pieces and thought the Melnick Museum was the perfect place,” he said.

Some of the items are on exhibit in a new set of display cases at the Lincoln Avenue entrance to Cushwa Hall, home to the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services. Other items will be part of exhibits planned for new display cases now being constructed on the basement, second and third floors of Cushwa.

Nespor said the donation is the largest to the museum in nearly 10 years. Among the items is a trephine set that dates to around 1780, making it the oldest item in the museum’s collection. Trephines were used to cut holes in the skull to relieve pressure from swelling or headaches, or to retrieve projectiles, like bullets.

Other items in the donation include: a large amputation and surgical kit, circa 1860, containing saws, knives and other instruments; two scarificators and four small lancets that were used to bleed patients, circa 1850; two large glass syringes circa 1860; obstetric forceps, black suture thread and a microscope, circa 1900; and a book, A Rational Method of Curing Fevers by Theophilus Lobb, published in London in 1734.

Abdu earned his medical degree from George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and came to Youngstown in 1960 as an intern at St. Elizabeth Health Center. Over the course of his career as a general surgeon, Abdu was director of Surgical Education at St. Elizabeth and a professor of surgery at the Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown. He retired in 1999 but still practices part-time at the St. Elizabeth Wound Care Center. Abdu led the campaign to create the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center at St. Elizabeth, named after his wife, who died of breast cancer in 1994.

The Rose Melnick Medical Museum was founded in 1985 by Youngstown radiologist Dr. John C. Melnick to cultivate an interest in medicine and promote medical history among the students, physicians and general public of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley. The Museum, named in honor of Melnick’s mother, Rose, includes thousands of medical artifacts documenting the history of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and nursing with a local focus. For more information, visit

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