Prof helps fix a his­tor­i­cal gap

Modern Healthcare - - ASIDES & INSIDES -

Out­liers has to con­fess: We love Os­car! And we paid ex­tra at­ten­tion to one of this year’s big Academy Award con­tenders, but not only be­cause of its cin­e­matic mer­its. It seems Steven Spiel­berg’s “Lin­coln,” which features Daniel Day-Lewis as Amer­ica’s 16th pres­i­dent, led one sci­en­tist to do some re­search. And what he turned up helped make a bit of his­tory.

Af­ter Ran­jan Ba­tra, a pro­fes­sor of neu­ro­bi­ol­ogy and anatom­i­cal sciences at the Univer­sity of Mis­sis­sippi Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Jack­son, saw “Lin­coln” in Novem­ber, he did some se­ri­ous Googling. The na­tive of In­dia was cu­ri­ous when his adopted state rat­i­fied the 13th Amend­ment, which abol­ished slav­ery and whose 1865 pas­sage by Congress makes up much of the film’s drama. “Af­ter a while, you re­al­ize this is a part of his­tory you really don’t want to be on the wrong side of,” says Ba­tra, who be­came a U.S. cit­i­zen five years ago.

His Web surf­ing led him to us­con­sti­tu­tion.net, where he was sur­prised to find that Mis­sis­sippi had never for­mally adopted the amend­ment, and the state Leg­is­la­ture hadn’t even passed it un­til 1995. Af­ter that, a glitch led to a fail­ure to no­tify the U.S. ar­chiv­ist. That meant the 13th Amend­ment wasn’t of­fi­cial in the Mag­no­lia State. Ba­tra and oth­ers still don’t know what caused the glitch. “I look at it as silly; in 2012, I don’t think any­body in the Leg­is­la­ture would op­pose this mea­sure,” Ba­tra says.

He told a col­league, Ken Sul­li­van, an anatom­i­cal ma­te­rial spe­cial­ist for the med­i­cal cen­ter’s body do­na­tion pro­gram. Sul­li­van’s po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions helped launch an ef­fort to make the amend­ment of­fi­cial in Mis­sis­sippi. That hap­pened on Feb. 14, two days af­ter Lin­coln’s birth­day.

News of Ba­tra’s deeds has at­tracted some at­ten­tion, of course. He even re­ceived a phone call from Spiel­berg’s of­fice, as the famed moviemaker wants to send Ba­tra a let­ter of thanks. Ba­tra is re­luc­tant to take any credit, and said he wishes some­one else had led the ef­fort years ago. “It makes you re­al­ize that even if you’re one per­son look­ing at a com­puter in a room and you see some­thing that it’s pos­si­ble to see that into ac­tion and start a chain of events that can ac­tu­ally ac­com­plish some­thing,” he says.

GETTY IM­AGES

Ra­jan Ba­tra’s ef­forts led to mak­ing a lit­tle con­sti­tu­tional his­tory.

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