Tulane Research: Fighting the Epidemic

Researchers stemming from various areas of study at Tulane University have been crucial factors in the effort to combat contagious disease epidemics around the world. In the exhibit OutBreak: Epidemics in a Connected World, the extensive efforts of the researchers are chronicled. The exhibit, which is co-sponsored by The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, is a part of the Smithsonian’s Outbreak project. As the world’s population increases, interactions between humans, animals, and the environment also increases. Hence, this project aims to increase awareness of human, animal, and environmental components that influence contagious disease epidemics. By gathering global partners to work together, the project aspires to stop outbreaks before they even have the chance to occur. The diseases featured in the Outbreak exhibit include cancer, the common cold, Ebola, HIV, leprosy, and Yellow Fever.

In response to the exhibit, vice president of research, Dr. Laura Levy, says, “From its inception, Tulane has been a leader in the fight against infectious diseases. This is an opportunity to share that story with those who may not be familiar with some of the groundbreaking advances that have happened right here in New Orleans at Tulane.”

The exhibit begins with the history of Tulane University, which was founded in 1834 by seven doctors who yearned to fight the spread of Yellow Fever, malaria, and smallpox. From that premise, the university went on to be a center of innovative research for issues of global contagion. Some of the most prevalent breakthroughs affiliated with the university are the discovery of the linkage of cigarette smoking to lung cancer, the development of tests to guarantee the safety of polio and measles vaccines, and the isolation of the common cold virus by Dr. William J. Mogabgab in 1955. The development of the first single-lens binocular microscope is also linked to Tulane. With the development of this microscope came the first documented study of cholera.

Some of the more modern-day research at the university includes the study of gene therapy in primates to assist children with genetic disorders, the development of an improved diagnostic test for Lyme disease, and continued research of diseases such as HIV and Ebola. Consequently, when the Ebola epidemic emerged in Sierra Leone, Tulane researches were of the first to respond.

The exhibit’s research was led primarily by Sally Baker, a MD/PhD graduate student in the School of Medicine. As a young ambassador for the American Society of Microbiology, she collaborated with the Office of Communications and Marketing at Tulane to put the exhibit together. When asked about the basis of the exhibit, Baker said, “Today, we continue to struggle with epidemics, such as the current measles outbreak. I thought it was important to highlight some of the work that Tulane has done in the field of infectious disease, particularly working to develop better vaccines and prevent outbreaks. We wanted to bring that knowledge to the public in an exhibit.”

Tulane University’s Outbreak exhibit is described as a regional version of a larger-scale endeavor. In 2018 – the 100thanniversary of 1918’s Great Influenza pandemic – The Smithsonian unveiled a national Outbreak exhibit in Washington, D.C. This national exhibit spans at 4,250 square feet and will remain open until February of 2021. The exhibit is fueled by the premise of the connectivity of virus and seeks to maintain that in order to suppress outbreaks, people from several different fields must band together to carry out “coordinated detective work.”

Tulane’sOutBreak: Epidemics in a Connected Worldopened on May 1 and will run until July 31, 2019. The exhibit is free-of-charge and is located in the Diboll Gallery of the Tidewater Building, 1440 Canal Street.

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Tulane Mental Health Experts Help Puerto-Rican Hurricane Victims

Tulane recently revealed that professor’s were traveling to Puerto Rico in order to obtain vital information related to disaster recovery as it relates to Hurricane Victims from Hurricane Maria.  Hurricane Maria is regarded as the worst natural disaster on record to affect Puerto Rico, and is also the deadliest Atlantic hurricane since Jeanne in 2004.  As of 28 August 2018, 3,057 people were estimated to have been killed by the hurricane: an estimated 2,975 in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria battered the island with tornado-­force winds. Massive rains brought catastrophic flooding, washing out bridges and inundating entire neighborhoods. The island’s infrastructure, already shaky, was devastated.  Power and running water were cut off for most of the population. Toilets couldn’t flush; there was no water for showers, baths, or washing clothes. People had to rely on bottled water, but supplies were limited. Phone lines and internet were obsolete. Recovery efforts were delayed because airports were shut down. Useless electric stoves had to be replaced with propane ones. Without refrigeration, food rotted and vital medicines spoiled. Most can only imagine what this sort of devastation does to a human’s mental state.  It was collective trauma for an entire population and the consequences of such trauma can linger for decades, following generations even when the memory of the actual hurricane has faded.

New Orleans is no stranger to the aftermath of Hurricane devastation.  Maybe that is why Tulane developed their Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy (DRLA) which equips students with an interdisciplinary view of the challenges and best practice approaches to leadership in the disaster resilience and humanitarian aid fields to prepare them for careers in areas such as nonprofit leadership, disaster risk and recovery, grass-root development, and more.  DRLA Director Reggie Ferreira and Charles Figley, director of the Tulane Trauma Institute, traveled to Puerto Rico at the invitation of the Foundation for Puerto Rico, a nonprofit organization that promotes economic and social development. Together, Figley and Ferreira are working with the foundation to assess Puerto Rico’s need for disaster mental health research and services, and to train NGO leaders in disaster resilience leadership, share lessons learned from Katrina and other major disasters, and help local universities develop disaster resilience and trauma courses and programs.  One of the main goals of the visit is to develop a comprehensive and collaborative resilience consortium in partnership with the Foundation for Puerto Rico. “Resilience is the ability to grow and withstand the most severe of circumstances,” Ferreira said. “The aim of the consortium will be to share resources and provide a path forward for mental health in Puerto Rico post-Maria.” On their agenda while in Puerto Rico is to also attend a memorial service for disaster victims. “The response to our visit has been amazing,” said Ferreira, who has been visiting Puerto Rico regularly since April. “The folks here have been very open and appreciative of our assistance. They are especially interested to learn more about New Orleans and disaster recovery as it relates to Hurricane Katrina.”

Hopefully, this visit helps leaders in disaster recovery transmit vital information to students, institutions, and volunteers that will help make future assistance not only more valuable but more time sensitive.  These efforts could potentially save thousands of lives impacted by natural disasters in the US and beyond.

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One Book One City Embraces Two Tulane Professors’ Works

The One Book movement is a community reading program that began in 1998 and invites everyone in a city to read and discuss the same book.  Discussions usually take place in small groups and sometimes authors participate. Its mission is to promote literacy and community, providing literacy resources to adults and emphasizing the importance of dialogue between diverse groups of people.  Tulane University has recently announced that a pair of English professors have earned the distinct honor of having their books named as the official reading selections for two American cities in 2019 participating in the One Book Movement.

One is acclaimed writer and novelist Zachary Lazar whose latest book, “Vengeance,” was selected by One Book One New Orleans.  Published in 2018, “Vengeance” was inspired by passion play “The Life of Jesus Christ” which Lazar witnessed at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, La. In the book, the narrator tries to unravel the truth behind the supposed crime of Kendrick King, an inmate he meets and befriends, who is serving a life sentence at Angola for murder.  “My book deals with some painful subjects, but it’s also about loving New Orleans, not just falling in love with it, which are two different things,” Lazar said. “I am very honored to be embraced by this city in this way.”

The other professor chosen for this honor is two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward’s novel, “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” was chosen for One Book, One Philadelphia.  One Book, One Philadelphia is a signature event of the Free Library of Philadelphia that promotes literacy, library usage, and citywide conversation by encouraging the entire greater Philadelphia area to come together through reading and discussing a single book.  Ward’s third novel, “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” is often compared to works by William Faulkner and Toni Morrison and won the National Book Award for fiction.  It was also selected as the Time Magazine Best Novel of the Year that same year.  Ward became the first African-American author and the first woman to receive two National Book Awards. She previously won the award with her 2011 novel, “Salvage the Bones.” Ward’s memoir, “Men We Reaped,” is also the One Book, One Philadelphia adult companion selection for 2019.  “I’m honored my book was chosen to be a One Book, One Philadelphia selection,” Ward said. “I’m grateful that my characters will live and breathe for the people of Philadelphia, and I hope they find something of themselves in my work.” “Sing, Unburied, Sing” chronicles a black family on an odyssey of sorts in rural Mississippi. The story features a 13-year-old boy named Jojo, whose drug-addicted mother takes him and his toddler sister on a road trip to pick up their white father when he is released from prison.

“One Book” projects are listed on the Center for the Book’s Website both by state/city and author/book title. The number of projects has grown rapidly, from 63 in 30 states in June 2002 to more than 350 in all 50 states in December 2005.   In recent years, the “One Book” concept has been supported by a number of organizations such as the American Library Association (ALA) which provides librarians, library administrators and library partner organizations with guidance and information for the successful execution of “One Book” initiatives.

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