Milt Lum’s primary and extensive task on the Diary Project is to follow William Steinway’s health throughout the 34-year span of his diary. Lum has developed a spreadsheet of William’s health-related issues that is used to track William's many mentions of his physical condition.
William’s diary entries have many references to his state of health; he recorded his complaints throughout but was not extensively descriptive. These complaints were interspersed with comments regarding his other extensive business, social, and family affairs. To develop a better perspective of William’s health and to follow temporally the changes in the frequency of his health complaints, Lum developed a spreadsheet of William’s health-related issues. For each year of the diary, Lum records William’s own words, his general state of health, references to upper or lower extremity complaints, gastrointestinal or respiratory disorders and the remedies and physicians involved in treating his maladies. Using this format, researchers interested in looking at William’s health over time will be able to track the progress of his health problems over time and by organ system. They will be able to evaluate the efficacy of the various therapeutic interventions and gauge their success by his response. Medicine during the 19th century was largely empiric and based on the current knowledge at that time. Through William’s diary entries one is given a view into the medical practices of that period wholly from the perspective of the patient. Gout and rheumatism were general descriptive terms for joint and muscular pain that were commonly used by the practitioners of the 19th century. Lacking laboratory and radiological confirmation, determining what afflicted William through his life would be purely speculative, but by following William through his daily bouts of pain and discomfort and periods of remission, it is possible to better understand how he weathered the discomfort of his infirmities and provide some insight into his character.
Lum was born in Hawaii while it was a territory and saw it become a state in 1959. He left the Islands after receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of Hawaii to attend the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Following his residency in pediatrics at Milwaukee Children’s Hospital, he moved North to Alaska, where he spent 29 years practicing medicine in different roles. He served as a US Public Health service physician working with Alaskan natives, an epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control, and then 17 years in private practice. He also served in the Alaska Army National Guard, which provided him the impetus to join the regular Army at age 58. He is currently assigned to the pediatric department at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, placing him in close proximity to his three grandchildren and 98-year-old mother-in-law. Lum lives with his wife, Doris, in Friendship Heights, Maryland.