Category Archives: Spotlight

A Thousand Ghost Maps: History in and as Health Crises


“A Thousand Ghost Maps” is a symposium that starts from the assertion that health and disease are always situated in expansive cultural landscapes, that the life of the body must be conceptualized holistically, and that illness and its responses cannot be separated from the historical and social forces of their particular times and spaces. The title of the talk is drawn from UVM Arts and Sciences’ “First-Year Read” selection for 2013-2014, Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How it Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World, a wide-ranging account of the spatial, cultural, and political reverberations of an 1854 Cholera outbreak; the panel mobilizes the book’s name and theme to suggest that health crises must always be understood as a complex interaction of pathogen and political economy, of individual body and configurations of power.

The symposium brings together at a single forum scholars of pediatric cancers and medieval history, of global health broadly construed and childhood toxic exposures, of AIDS in China and polio in Pakistan, researchers with MDs and PhDs alike. The discussant and moderator is President’s Burack Distinguished Lecturer JR McNeill, a Guggenheim and MacArthur Genius Fellow, Toynbee Prize-winner, and University Professor at Georgetown, who has recently written on the relevance of mosquito-borne illnesses in the decline of oceanic empires. Participants include Middlebury’s Svea Closser, McGill’s Sandra Hyde, UVM’s Barry Finette, Dartmouth’s Margaret Karagas, and John Aberth. The panel is organized and conceived by UVM Anthropology’s Jonah Steinberg. At the heart of the project is an interest in interrogating and understanding how history’s grand sweep is translated into individual and intimate experience and sensation, in the life of a body; the gathering is governed by the notion that even the largest movements of human beings across the planet are iterated at microscopic levels, in organs and cells themselves.

Davis Auditorium, Fletcher-Allen/UVM Medical School, Monday April 28, 11-12:30, reception to follow.

Dr. JR McNeill, University Professor, Georgetown University, Guggenheim and MacArthur Genius Fellow, and Toynbee Prize-Winner, Author of Mosquito Empires. Burack Lecturer, Moderator and Discussant
Dr. Margaret Karagas, Darthmouth College: Section Head, Epidemiology and Biostatistics; Co-Director, Epidemiology & Chemoprevention (Norris Cotton Cancer Center); and Director, Formative Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center
Dr. Svea Closser, Sociology and Anthropology, Middlebury College, author of Chasing Polio in Pakistan (Vanderbilt)
Dr. Sandra Hyde, Anthropology, McGill University, Author of Eating Spring Rice: The Cultural Politics of AIDS in Southwest China (UC Press
Dr. John Aberth, Author of Plagues in World History, The Black Death, and an Environmental History of the Middle Ages.
Dr. Barry Finette, Director, Global Health and Humanitarian Opportunity Program; Fletcher-Allen Pediatrics

Sponsored by UVM Anthropology, Global and Regional Studies, the First-Year Read Program and the TAP Program of the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office.

For more information, contact Jonah Steinberg,, or Mary Lou Shea, 802-656-1096.

In Association with the President’s Burack Distinguished Lecture of:

JR McNeill, How Hungry Mosquitoes Liberated the Americas, 1776-1898, Billings North Lounge and Apse, Monday April 28, 4 pm, Reception to follow.

Pre-med Student Group Opens Opportunities


By Thomas James Weaver

Spring semester of senior year is hectic for any UVM student staring down that Sunday, May 18, graduation date on the calendar. Christopher Thomas Veal has upped the ante in recent weeks with trips to academic medical conferences in Florence, Italy and Harvard University to present research he’s been involved with as an undergraduate.

Veal was one of just two undergrads presenting a poster at the event in Italy, the 61st Annual Society of Gynecological Investigation Scientific Meeting. The poster featured research he conducted under the mentorship of Dr. Mark Phillippe, former professor in the UVM College of Medicine and now on the staff at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Not only was I able to contribute to one of the most prestigious gynecological conferences in the world, but I was able to witness the ever-changing tide of research in women’s health firsthand. It was a phenomenal experience that has changed my life,” Veal says.

The student’s appreciation and enthusiasm for the mentorship and opportunities he’s found in his pre-med focus at UVM are palpable. And Veal has a strong desire to create the same for others. It’s motivated him to join together with like-minded students, including Fathima Samen and Rehana Pothiawala, to form a UVM chapter of the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS).

The group has quickly grown across the past year and now has approximately twenty members. Key support has come from College of Medicine faculty Dr. Elizabeth Bonney and Dr. Margaret Tandoh, and College of Medicine director of admissions Tiffany Delaney.

“It’s more than a social thing,” Veal says. “We’re facilitating connections that are helping advance the academic careers of our students.” He adds, “I hate when people think of minority as solely being race. We’re here for under-represented groups, people of lower socio-economic class, people of color, LGBTQ students.” Small picture, the group wants to open up opportunities at UVM. Big picture, they hope to play a part in giving the healthcare field a more diverse face.

The UVM MAPS chapter has connected with College of Medicine faculty and students for one-day shadowing experiences and on-going mentorships. They’ve traveled together to a conference in Maine and the recent Harvard event, connected a student with a summer internship at Brown University, and learned from a focused day together in the Rowell Hall Clinical Simulation Lab. Future plans include working with UVM medical students to help provide healthcare to migrant farm workers in Vermont.

“We’re a university that has a hospital and a medical school right on our campus. That’s something that not even Harvard has,” Veal says. “The fact that we can utilize that resource is amazing.”

Both Samen and Pothiawala graduated from Chittenden County high schools, but say they’ve discovered a much wider world even if college is just miles from home. Pothiawala has her eye on dental school someday, but brings diverse academic interests to the table with a major in management information systems in the School of Business Administration. Samen hopes for a future as a pediatric physician. She grew up in New Orleans before her family moved to Vermont, and living through the turmoil of Hurricane Katrina inspired her interest in medicine. “During the evacuation we went from shelter to shelter. I saw the doctors and nurses caring for people in that situation, and they became my heroes,” she says.

Veal is a Michigan native, who admits that aside from a generous scholarship offer, he wasn’t strongly drawn to UVM. That has changed dramatically during his years here, as he’s thrived with the mentorship he’s received from College of Medicine faculty and fallen hard for the Burlington/Vermont landscape and ethos.

Veal tells a story about a MAPS meeting with a group of admitted ALANA students. One young man’s lukewarm take on UVM — his opinion that Boston University would have more to offer — reminded Veal of himself four years ago. He shared his own experience and eventually persuaded the student to join UVM’s Class of 2018. Admittedly, that sort of admissions director’s dream isn’t going to happen every day. But it is a ripe illustration of what the fast-rising UVM chapter of the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students is all about — connecting student-to-student to make the most of all the university has to offer undergrads interested in the medical professions.

Novice Neurosurgeons Train On Brains Printed In 3-D

A simulated patient at the University of Malaya makes use of different
materials to mimic the look and feel of   human tissue. Credit / Courtesy of Vicknes Waran

There’s no such thing as too much practice when it comes to brain surgery. But it’s hard for beginner neurosurgeons to get real hands-on experience. Most residents learn by watching and assisting experienced surgeons.

Newbies can practice on cadavers or use simulators, of course. But neither of those alternatives is quite the same as operating on a real, live patient, for better and for worse.

That’s why 3-D printers might help the doctors do a better job. At the University of Malaya in Malaysia, neurosurgeons are using 3-D printers to make realistic skulls and brains that residents can use to hone their skills.

Learn more online.

Save the Dates for Puppy Happy Hour

The College of Medicine Student Council is proud to announce that Puppy Happy Hour has finally arrived! Dogs from Therapy Dogs of Vermont will be in the Dana Medical Library classroom from 6:30-7:30pm on Wednesday April 23rd. Please stop by for some puppy love!

Puppy happy hour is a stress reduction program aimed towards giving students an opportunity to take their minds off school with the benefit of therapy dogs.

Exhibit Explores Generations in Medicine

John Dodds-1

The Dana Medical Library is currently displaying an exhibit that honors multi-generation physician families in Vermont. “Multi-Generation Vermont Physician Families: Graduates of the UVM College of Medicine” highlights the Bove, Irwin, Terrien, and Upton families and is on view until April. Stop by the Library to view this informative exhibit.