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On December 12, 2012, NYAM welcomed Carla C. Keirns, MD, PhD, of Stony Brook University School of Medicine to deliver the 2012 John K. Lattimer Lecture. The event, entitled “Putting Asthma on the Map: Weather, Pollen, Pollution and the Geography of Risk,” was part of the lecture miniseries “A World Not Quite Fatal: New Views on the History of Environmental Health,” presented by the NYAM Section on the History of Medicine and Public Health.
In her talk, Dr. Keirns provided a history of medical responses to and research concerning the causes of asthma. Topics ranged from Henry Hyde Salter’s theory in 1860 that each case is a distinct issue of a person’s fit to their environment, to studies initiated by mothers in the 1980s and ‘90s linking vehicle exhaust to childhood asthma, to a 2004 case in which New York city and eight states sued power plants in the Midwest, seeking serious cuts in carbon dioxide emissions. Dr. Keirns also presented the concept of asthma being a “disease of civilization” (related to factors including air pollution and sedentary lifestyles) versus a “disease of poverty” (related to factors including poor housing, lack of health care access, and exposure to violence), ultimately concluding that “it’s impossible to separate” these two categories as well as other environmental factors.
Carla C. Keirns, MD, PhD, is on the faculty and clinical staff at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, where she serves as a core faculty member in the Center for Medical Humanities. Dr. Keirns's scholarship combines methods from medicine, ethics, sociology, history, and health services research to explore the impact of illness on individuals, their families, communities, and society both in the present and across lifetimes and generations. She is the author of Measured Breath: A Short History of Asthma, which the Johns Hopkins University Press is publishing in 2013.
The Lattimer Lecture was endowed by John Kinsley Lattimer, PhD, in 1986. An internationally known urologist, educator, and a collector, he was Chairman Emeritus of the Department of Urology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He attended Columbia University through all of his schooling, published hundreds of papers, and was known for establishing the field of pediatric urology.
The upcoming lectures in this miniseries are “Our Bodies, Our Nature: Breastfeeding & Maternal Ideology in mid-20th Century America” on January 17, “Ecological Imperialism Revisited: Entanglements of Disease, Commerce and Knowledge in a Global World” on March 4, and The Lilianna Sauter Lecture: “Lead Wars: The Politics of Science and the Fate of America's Children" on April 16.
Posted on December 14, 2012
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