Program Schedule

June 8 & 9 (virtual): Participants will be welcomed to the history of American Public health, and will enjoy guest lectures by Dr. David Rosner of Columbia University and Dr. Janet Golden of Rutgers University. In workshops, participants who are trained historians/educators will learn foundational public health concepts while health/public health educators will learn about historical methods and approaches. The group will then dig in to their first case study on the history of cholera in the U.S.

In-Person Sessions, The Ohio State University College of Public Health

June 12 Yellow Fever, Citizenship, Race, and Empire. This case study examines the outsized role that yellow fever, a terrifying hemorrhagic disease, played in U.S. History. Participants will explore how social constructions of race influenced the response to yellow fever; and investigate why, in 1898-1900, combatting yellow fever suddenly became a national military priority, ending in dangerous experiments on mosquito transmission led by Walter Reed.

Yellow Fever victim, n.d. [Wellcome Collection]

In the evening, lead Faculty Dr. Miranda Worthen will present on epidemiology as a scientific approach to studying disease and population health.

June 13: In “Public Health vs. The Great White Plague,” we learn about the muscular efforts that public health officials launched in the early twentieth century to control and prevent tuberculosis – then the leading cause of death. Using the tools of bacteriology to diagnose Tb with a sputum sample and a microscope, health departments educated, surveilled, and sometimes forcibly relocated Tb patients from their homes to public sanatoria. Who did these programs target and were they worth the cost to individual liberty? Participants will grapple with these questions as they dig into a major public health success story.

In an evening salon, participants will learn how to use historical health reports and other sources to do a “history lab” exercise/assignment with students.

June 14: Typhoid Mary, Typhoid Highballs, and the Columbus Experiment: Typhoid, a water-borne bacterial disease, became increasingly deadly to city dwellers at the turn of the twentieth century as urban population growth outstripped infrastructure providing clean water to municipalities. In this session, participants will undertake a walking/mobile tour of Columbus’ Victorian Village – a neighborhood of picturesque nineteenth-century homes where residents still suffered from many infectious disease outbreaks. After the tour, participants will discuss the typhoid case study further as well as methods for creating public health-themed historical walking tours. The discussion will take place at an outdoor café or restaurant – with a dinner to follow, sponsored by OSU.

June 15 “Saving Babies”: This session will address the crisis of infant and early childhood mortality in the early twentieth century U.S. Fed spoiled cow’s milk and contaminated food and water while their mothers worked in factories, shops, or homes of the rich, infants and children suffered from fatal diarrheal diseases and other deadly childhood scourges at alarming rates. What could be done to save babies’ lives? Here, we will look at examples of local campaigns and interrogate how federalism worked as an approach to this problem. The participants will also discuss engaging students in this topic by assigning them to conduct oral histories of their own elder family members about family memories related to infant health, education and training in protecting their own infants and children. We will also take a trip to the Medical Heritage Center at the OSU Health Sciences Library, and view some rare books and unusual medical artifacts. Participants may arrange additional visits to view specific items in the collection.

1918 U.S. Anti-V.D. propaganda poster [Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division]

June 16: In “Fit to Win? The Public Health Service and V.D.” we will consider the checkered history of U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS)-led efforts to study and control sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Participants will view World War I-era educational films aimed at preventing “venereal diseases” among troops, and will read related propaganda and educational pamphlets. Discussion will center on how to use visual media in teaching, and how to engage students in critically analyzing these materials around the question of the differences and boundaries (if any) between propaganda and health education. They will also discuss the USPHS study of untreated syphilis in Black men in Alabama (formerly called the “Tuskegee syphilis study”), including inclusive and respectful ways to teach this charged material while considering the diverse experiences and perspectives of students.

On June 17, we will delve into “the 1918-19 Influenza Pandemic and American Amnesia.” This case study will examine the formerly forgotten twentieth-century pandemic, including the ways that public health failed and succeeded, and why the lessons were lost. Discussion of this case study will also involve comparisons of two pandemics. Participants will be challenged to consider what is lost when we think about the “Great Flu” merely as an antecedent to COVID-19 They will then discuss and develop ideas for course exercises that utilize historical and contemporary materials to compare aspects of the two pandemics in a meaningful and fruitful way.

Diptheria Vaccine and hypodermic syringe [Wellcome Collection]

On June 18, our case study “Smallpox and Polio: From Vaccination to Eradication,” will examine the history of vaccination in the U.S., with a focus on these two diseases.  Participants will consider and compare the smallpox vaccination story to the “mid-century miracle” of polio vaccines. The group will also look into the story of smallpox eradication – and whether this was a singular event in world history or whether disease eradication (malaria, polio, Guinea worm) efforts are worth the considerable effort required and are even feasible. Discussions will also focus on how to teach the history of vaccination respectfully and inclusively, given current debates over vaccine mandates and utility, while maintaining standards of accuracy.

On June 19, the group will consider the history of disabling and traumatic illness in From Shell Shock to PTSD.” Dr. Miranda Worthen will lead the group in learning how these traumatic illnesses have been understood in different eras and the public health/prevention approaches taken to address war trauma, including the emergence of PTSD as a diagnosis in response to activism by Vietnam Veterans. It will investigate how this condition then was applied to wider populations and became a public health concern meriting population-based and preventive approaches. Given that this is the one non-infectious disease case study in the Institute, discussions will also use it to mull over the definitional question: what, exactly, is an epidemic? What are the relative merits of applying the “epidemic” or “pandemic” framework to non-infectious disease?

On June 20, the final case study, “AIDS: Stigma, Politics, and Science at the End of the American Century” will focus on the AIDS crisis that emerged in the U.S. in the early 1980s. The participants will draw upon written primary source materials and Richard McKay’s recent myth-busting work, Patient Zero and the Making of the AIDS Epidemic. They will discuss integrating into course texts the wealth of digital archival material. They will visit OSU’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, which houses “the world’s largest collection of materials related to cartoons and comics,” including materials from the exhibition “Cartooning AIDS Around the World,” which toured 29 venues in the U.S. during the 1990s. Participants will explore the use of comics as a window into the social context of the 1980s-90s AIDS crisis and explore how to use cartoons in teaching about serious public health subjects. On the final evening in Columbus, participants will attend a group dinner (sponsored by the university).

June 21 will be a half-day launch session, where material will be reviewed and participants will receive their assignments to five working groups of six members, each of which will be facilitated by a key faculty member, then will informally meet with these groups. These workshop groups will meet for eight 90-minute to two-hour weekly meetings during the fall, and will take turns “workshopping” syllabi and case studies or lectures. Participants will meet one-on-one with course faculty during the in-person phase of the Institute to begin to develop these case studies.

Ten participants will volunteer to present their case studies during the Institute wrap up day October 27 They will receive feedback from other participants and key faculty. The final virtual wrap up day will include a summary presentation by the director and key faculty, and breakout sessions where participants can reflect informally upon what they have learned from the institute and how they are using the material in courses going forward.