News at Medicine - November 2016 - Dr. Nigel Rusted Lectureship in Medical Humanities


Dr. Nigel Rusted Lectureship in Medical Humanities
November 15, 2016
On Nov. 18, Dr. Steven Palmer delivered the thirteenth annual Dr. Nigel Rusted Lectureship in Medical Humanities.
 
 
Dr. Steven Palmer will deliver the Dr. Nigel Rusted Lectureship in Medical Humanities
Dr. Palmer specializes in the history of medicine, global health and Latin America. His talk is entitled Sternberg’s X Dreams: Yellow Fever, Cuban Bacteriology and the Making of US Tropical Medicine.
 
According to Dr. Palmer, in the late 1880s the best medical minds in the world converged on a new tropical medicine research facility in Havana built by Cuban doctors. They all sought to discover the bacterial agent they were sure was the cause of yellow fever.

In a final report, George Miller Sternberg, a yellow fever specialist working for the US military, cleared the field of all contenders, leaving only his own “bacillus X” as the possible culprit. The story of Sternberg in Havana is a window on the beginnings of our modern tropical medicine research complex, with mosquito-borne diseases such as zika, dengue, chikungunya, and West Nile.
 
Dr. Palmer says he’s fascinated by the “creative role in research played by physicians on the margins, in peripheral places, away from the big centres of medicine. Cuba is a great place to tell interesting stories about this. The island had a large number of physicians in the 19th century because it was the richest colony on earth due to slavery and sugar.”
 
“They were very sophisticated, rich and well connected to centres of research like the Pasteur Institute at a time when North American medicine was not so sophisticated in research terms,” he explains.
 
Dr. Palmer is hoping people will realize that preventing or curing tropical diseases that largely affect people in the global south cannot happen by imposing technocratic solutions developed in high-tech facilities in the West. “That never has worked in the past, and it never will work in the future. Essential aspects of medical solutions have to come from below, from people working inside the medical communities of the places where people suffer. It is that local knowledge of suffering and that locally-based scientific innovation, in dialogue with metropolitan centres of research in the massively wealthy West, that can bring lasting and viable medical and public health solutions.” 
 
Dr. Palmer is a professor of history and Canada Research Chair in the History of International Health (2006-2016) at the
Dr. Palmer with Dr. Jim Connor, one of the organizers of the Dr. Nigel Rusted Lectureship in Medical Humanities
University of Windsor. He is the author of Launching Global Health: the Caribbean Odyssey of the Rockefeller Foundation, and with Marcos Cueto, Health and Medicine in Latin America: A History, which was awarded the 2015 Health, Science and Technology prize of the Latin American Studies Association. Dr. Palmer is completing a book on the role of Cuban doctors and international researchers working in Cuba, in the making of tropical medicine. His current focus is on health and medicine at Expo 67, featured in a documentary film with the NFB that will be screened in 2017.

Dr. Rusted’s passion for the medical humanities prompted him to launch the Dr. Nigel Rusted Lectureship in Medical Humanities in 2003. He died March 18, 2012, at the age of 104.