Hello there! My name is Peggy Korpela. Pleased to meet all of you 🙂 I’m a first year School of Public Health student, and a new SPH student blogger. I’m in the Health Behavior and Health Education program, heading for my Masters in Public Health (M.P.H.) My Bachelors degree is in Human Biology with a minor in Bioethics, Humanities, and Society. I run a blog called thebiobabe that features science, health, medicine, and politics and I’m also a submissions editor for SciNote.org.
So in thinking about writing my first blog post, I decided to introduce myself by way of my 2 favorite Public Health/Biology books. Without further ado, here they are:
I love The Ghost Map because not only is it extremely well written nonfiction, but it’s about one of the most revolutionary discoveries in the history of public health, right up there with the vaccine and fluoride in the water. The narrative follows Dr John Snow, a scientist and physician, and Reverend Henry Whitehead as they each track London’s 1854 Cholera epidemic. The reverend follows the trail of the disease as he attempts to support his sick and dying parishioners, all the while noticing that their deaths all have a common element- they drank from the Broad Street water pump not many days before. Dr. John Snow was a radical scientist for his time, believing that Cholera did not come from miasma ,the dense and damp air pollution that plagued the city of London for decades, but rather from something else unseen. His method of tracking the outbreak is now a basic principle of Epidemiology- he used a map. Through his collaboration with the reverend, he was able to visualize all the deaths in the Broad street area and when he combined it with his knowledge of the dead’s symptoms and patterns of behavior, Snow stopped the epidemic in its tracks. This book really reinforced my desire to pursue some aspect of public health when I first read it two summers ago, before I even got into UofM SPH. Reflecting on the book now that I’m here, I find it reminds me to not be afraid to be intellectually rebellious and curious like Dr. Snow, and to remember that a core value of public health work is concern for the safety and well being of all, as the Reverend Whitehead believed.
Guns, Germs and Steel completely changed how I look at the history of the world and biological history too. The pressing question the book seeks to answer is “Why has the history of humanity unfolded as it has?” and the entire book meticulously and expertly answers it. Diamond , a Professor of Geography at UCLA, asserts that the reason that Eurasian peoples advanced quickly and eventually colonized most other places on Earth is not due to some sort of inherent superiority, but because of advantages of geography in Eurasia after the last Ice Age. He uses evolutionary biology, anthropology, ecology and geography to lay out the types of crops and animals that Eurasians would’ve had access to, what makes them easy to domesticate, and how peoples in the rest of the world (The Americas, Australia, Africa) may not have had those equivalents. He connects these ideas to the creation of technology and the spread of disease and germs within larger societies and history as we know it.This is book really appeals to me because all of the work on the natural history of the world teaches us about unfolding of human history and dynamic global interactions we have today, which have a direct impact on the health of all of us.
So that’s it for me and my books. I look forward to sharing more with all of you in the coming year!