Thursday Review: “‘Spanish Flu’: When Infectious Disease Names Blur Origins and Stigmatize Those Infected”

As important as any given fact is, it may be more important to notice what we’re being asked to do with the information.

In the American Journal of Public Health, Trevor Hoppe uses the simple fact that there is nothing inherently Spanish about the “Spanish flu” to talk about the rhetoric of naming diseases.

It was only in 2015 that the World Health Organization deprecated the use of specific places, names, occupations, etc., to name infectious diseases.1 The history of naming often makes use of some exotic or marginal place, at least relative to the Euro-American world. One effect Hoppe writes, of these naming practices is, whether intentional or not, to communicate to the broader public a causal relationship in how the disease is transmitted.2
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The Examined Life Conference 2017

The Examined Life Conference is a gathering for the medical humanities hosted by The University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine. The conference is focused mainly on the intersection of writing and medicine, and is cross-pollinated with the literary chops of organizations like The Iowa Writers’ Workshop and The Iowa Review.

Dr. David Thoele, the Director of Narrative Medicine at Advocate Children’s Hospital, has been going for years. He introduced me to the conference, and convinced me to submit a workshop.

Now that the conference is behind us, here are some thoughts as I reflect on what I took away:
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