How to Talk to a Doctor (as a woman)

Tianyuan Huang // Reviewing recommendations on how to see a doctor from a women’s health journal in 1911, this essay explores physician-patient communication and what the distribution of responsibilities and powers tells us about a health culture in its fast evolving historical context.

Following the Recipe: Scale, Crisis, and Revisiting Vaccine Rejection in Montreal’s Last Smallpox Epidemic

Gabrielle McLaren // Smallpox arrived in Montreal for the last time in February 1885 and caused 3,164 recorded fatalities after the city failed to control the virus’s spread. Municipal authorities even suspended vaccination campaigns after scandalously—and embarrassingly—administering a botched vaccine. The subsequent rejection of the vaccine by the city’s French-Canadian population would become the key…

Health on the (newspaper) margins

Madeleine Mant and Johanna Cole // The recent conservation and digitization of prison admission records from Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) and its predecessor, the courthouse jail, have made available a rich dataset for historical, sociological, and anthropological research regarding crime and punishment in the long 19th century in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Our research…

Gay Men and Lesbians, Alcohol Addiction, and the 1970s

John A. Carranza // In 2018, I wrote a piece on Oliver Sipple, the gay man who foiled an assassination attempt on President Gerald Ford. In the aftermath of that attempt, Sipple’s life, including his sexuality, became public. In the years since he stopped the assassination his drinking had increased, which exacerbated some of the…

“As if that ever works”: Herbal Abortifacients in “Bridgerton”

Julia Dauer // In the first season of Neflix’s period fantasy Bridgerton, Marina Thompson enters the kitchen of the wealthy house in which she is temporarily living, rummages among the jars shelved along the far wall, and brews herself an herbal tea.  This scene memorably depicts an attempted herbal abortion, and Marina’s subsequent arc includes…

Essay Series: “Illness and Francophone Literature and History”

Madeleine Dobie & Thomas Dodman // This collection of essays in Synapsis grew out of a course on pandemics in francophone history and culture that we offered in Columbia’s Department of French and Institute for Comparative Literature and Society in fall 2021. The unprecedented experience (at least in our community) of teaching in the midst…

The Road Not Taken: Thinking Beyond Vaccines

Tianyuan Huang// Truth be told, I did not see this coming. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought I would have been conducting dissertation research in Tokyo for nearly half a year by now; but I am still in New York City awaiting the lifting of travel bans, having already rescheduled flight tickets for the third…

Seasonal Time, Variant Time: Pandemic Futurity

Julia Dauer // Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists have speculated about whether cases will ebb and flow in seasonal patterns.  Just this week, NPR released a podcast episode about the anticipated intersections of flu and COVID-19 in the U.S. this winter.  The episode encapsulates the collision between two conflicting ways of conceptualizing illness: seasonal time…

Embodying public health: Dressing the part

Madeleine Mant // The Canadian Public Health Association has identified 12 “great achievements” in public health since the early 1900s: Control of infectious disease Decline in deaths from coronary heart disease and stroke Family planning Healthier environments Healthier mothers and babies Motor-vehicle safety Recognition of tobacco use as a health hazard Safer and healthier foods…