Liberal Arts and STEM Collide in Flax Lecture Series – Technique
Price Gilbert Memorial Library Room 1280, September 1, 2022 – an obscure date and obscure place in the minds of many, but at 5 p.m., beyond Price Gilbert’s first floor multi-coloured double glass doors, about 75 students and staff from Tech and surrounding universities were shed light on a matter unfamiliar to many.
Professor Polly J. Price of Emory University School of Law is a public health law expert and legal historian.
Taking her combined interests, she shed light on her most recent book, “Plagues in the Nation: How Epidemics Shaped America” as the first payment from the School of Public Policy’s Meg & Sam Flax Lecture Series.
A few hours before the start of the actual conference, a small group was invited to attend a seminar with Price to discuss a specific public health issue: Ttuberculosis (TB).
Price explained that even in a bubble, the highly contagious deadly disease was quite difficult to treat, however, the number of reported cases dropped significantly once COVID-19 pandemic has started.
This decrease, however, was probably not due to an actual decrease in the number of cases, but to a lack of testing, reporting and availability to track increasingly mobile patients. Price elaborated in no uncertain terms the seriousness of the situation.
“TB is one of the deadliest infectious diseases in the world. According to the World Health Organization’s latest Global Tuberculosis Report, pandemic-related disruptions have caused case notifications to plummet and tuberculosis mortality to rise for the first time in more than a decade.”
Adding to this dilemma, TB is a public health issue that falls under the purview of 2,684 local state, local and tribal health departments across the country.
In this system of federalism, each department is able to govern as it sees fit with little interaction between them, although an outbreak in a community can easily spread. to another.
Here, with the plethora of multi-faceted moving parts on the table, is where the interactive party has started. Price challenged the group to work together to think about practical changes that could be made to involve federal protocol and financial assistance in the fight against TB.
Under Price’s leadership and after much trial and error, the diverse – albeit small – group agreed on several policy changes that could lead to the implementation of policies.
One included federally funded homeless shelters (because the disease disproportionately affects people without homes) that would be required to comply with a national standard of cleanliness and disease prevention.
Although the program may seem simple, Price herself said that “nothing like this has been done before”, indicating the ambitious nature of the project.
Afshan Hasnain, a third year PUBP commented the seminar.
“I was a little nervous when I arrived because my main interest is law and I have no background in public health, but it was great to see how much the two subjects overlap. I felt like Professor Price had provided enough information to less informed people that we could all participate in the problem solving process. As a future decision-maker, it was a great experience,” Hasnain said.
Liberal arts majors may find themselves at odds with the Institute’s emphasis on STEM, but events like these conferences strive to show the intersection between the two, integrating the field to create “STEAM.” – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.
Asked about the value of on-campus events that focus on disciplines beyond the traditional STEM arena and add to student enrichment, the Director of Law, Science and Technology (LST) and event coordinator Chad Slieper said that “LST strives to serve as a campus hub for exploring issues at the intersection of law, science and technology. Professor Price’s examination of the role the law plays in responding to public health crises is a timely and relevant topic given what we have all been through with the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020. In addition to our pre-law focused activities, LST looks forward to serving as a platform for students, faculty, and the wider community to examine other contemporary issues where law, science, and technology mutually influence each other.
For the second part of the evening, the conference focused more directly on the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, Price gave a historical overview of disease prevention and treatment beginning with smallpox.
She noted that the public has long faced a strange combination of hysteria over disease and skepticism about sources of community contagion.
Amid all the talk of deadly epidemics, if there was anything attendees took comfort in, it was the fact that nothing under the sun is new. In the same way that resistance to vaccines and quarantine measures has been observed in recent years, a similar trend has been observed during the epidemics of smallpox and yellow fever.
And just as there was public debate then and now, issues often find their way to legislative and judicial bodies.
Listed price Jacobson v. Massachusettsa historic case during the smallpox epidemic.
The ruling, issued by the Supreme Court of Georgia, ruled that local health officials can order mandatory vaccinations when a “significant threat to the vitality of the community is present.”
Going even further, the court said that the individual may be required to sacrifice life, liberty and liberty if the continuation of society depends on it.
The conference was a comprehensive overview of the history of disease and law in the United States, attracting people with and without public health training.
Adiba Syed, a freshman PUBP with an interest in public health research policy, shared his thoughts.
“I am interested in the pursuit of health policy, so this event allowed me to see one aspect of it through epidemiology… An important point that struck me is that there are advantages and disadvantages drawbacks to how the unique system of federalism in the United States leads to decentralization of our health care system.
Syed went on to describe the conference’s real-world applicability.
“It’s useful because it’s essential to address issues at the local level, but with larger issues it can be difficult to reach a mutual consensus. All in all it was very informative and challenging… In a short time time, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about how epidemics have been dealt with in America,” Says Syed. “If it goes well with my schedule, I would like to attend the next conference in the series.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of the series is that it showcased the role that the Ivan Allen College of the Liberal Arts fulfills at Tech.