New center bridges medicine,
public health, social sciences
When Randall Packard first came to Emory in 1992 with a joint appointment
in the departments of history and international health, he was impressed
with the University's rich, academic resources in many areas including the
health and social sciences and medical anthropology.
He soon discovered "there wasn't a lot of dialogue occurring among
the various parts of the University" and began exploring ways to bridge
He met with and gained the support of many people-including the provost,
the director of The Carter Center, researchers from the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, and deans from the schools of arts and sciences,
public health, medicine and nursing. And in 1993 the Center for the Study
of Health, Culture, and Society (CSHCS) was created with Packard as its
Although physically located in the School of Public Health, CSHCS is
a Universitywide center reporting to the Provost's Office. The center's
stated purpose is to provide a forum that "brings together people from
different disciplines and perspectives to find common ground to talk about
issues of public health importance," said Packard. The center also
develops programs that reflect the innovative ideas that come out of the
different perspectives of this cross-fertilization.
Emory is an ideal place for this type of center because of the range
of resources and people here as well as its physical location. "It's
a 10-minute walk from one side of the campus to another, and CDC is right
down the road. If you get things going, people will come to them because
they don't have to travel long distances to actually interact.
"For the first three or four years, basically my job was networking-getting
people together, sitting down with them and trying to figure out how people
coming from different perspectives could come together and think creatively
about ideas and issues of public health importance," said Packard,
also a Candler professor and chair of the history department.
"The center is a place where people who have ideas can come to get
seed funding to develop an idea and move forward with it," he said,
noting that sometimes people from other parts of the University hear about
a project and participate.
Some of CSHCS's earlier activities included programs on women, health
and development, and a symposium on developing community-based tuberculosis
prevention programs in Georgia. Now CSHCS sponsors a wide variety of programs
and activities including various fellowships, a lecture series, workshops
and faculty seminars.
For instance, this fall CSHCS awarded four interdisciplinary graduate
fellowships in arts and sciences and public health. Two allow arts and sciences
doctoral students to study public health, and two allow public health students
to study complementary disciplines in one or more arts and sciences fields.
The goal is to encourage the application of the perspectives of social sciences
and humanities to issues of domestic and international public health.
CSHCS also sponsors an Emergent Illness and Public Scholarship Program,
the first of a three-year series of programs supported by the Rockefeller
Foundation and run jointly with the Center for the Study of Public Scholarship.
This program, which began this fall, looks at the way in which knowledge
about emerging illnesses is developed outside the medical establishment.
Two fellows will be at Emory this fall and and two more in the spring. The
fellows are participating in workshops and doing their own research.
In January, CSHCS will begin a three-semester faculty seminar around
the central theme "Defining the Public Health." Funded by a grant
from the Mellon Foundation, the seminars will explore how social, cultural,
economic and political factors define public health agendas within a range
of cultural settings.
"We're looking at how it is that illnesses-the sufferings of individuals-emerge
as public health issues," Packard said. The three semester seminars
will examine emerging illnesses and communities of suffering; environmental
hazards, community activism and the public health; and emerging illness
and institutional responses.
Last spring CSHCS and the Institute for African Studies hosted a dissertation
proposal-writing workshop for African students. The theme of the workshop
was "Health, Culture and Society in Africa." CSHCS has also been
active in "developing linkages with research institutes in Africa,"
Packard said, and "getting our students from various parts of the University
overseas for research opportunities."
Along with the Rollins School, the law school and a number of Atlanta-based
organizations involved in health, CSHCS co-sponsored a lecture series this
fall on health and human rights issues. The final speaker will be Barry
Levy, president of the American Public Health Association, who will discuss
the impact of war on public health and human rights on Nov. 20. More information
about the CSHCS is available at <www. emory.edu/CSHCS>.
to November 10, 1997 Contents Page