Leaders and Followers

In this world, there leaders, and then there are followers. In the world of Hailsham, this sort of dichotomy decides social status. In Kazuo Ishiguro’s book, Never Let Me Go, the students of Hailsham consistently conform to the standards oFollow The Leaderf whomever they consider to be a leader, and they avoid questioning too often, thus losing the opportunity to gain valuable information and knowledge about the world around them. Thus, by definition, the vast majority of Hailsham students are, by definition, followers. This especially true for Ruth and Kathy, but doesn’t quite ring true for Tommy, who traditionally filled the role of social outcast at Hailsham. However, when Ruth began dating Tommy, and the three were sent to the Cottages after their time at Hailsham, their stories became permanently intertwined. Continue reading

The Constant Internal Battle

Gender imbalances are a constant in our society. Albeit, there are fewer differences between the two genders – female and male – today than there have been in almost all of human history. The novel The Handmaid’s Tale, written by Margaret Atwood, is a piece of speculative fiction that focuses on the story of Offred, who is a handmaid. Through the lens of Offred found in an excerpt on page 88, the differences between gender are heightened to a state in which the children of today would not recognize, which is shown by the internal questioning displayed, and the reader gains insight of Offred’s internal struggles between wanting to rebel and wanting to survive as long as possible within the societal structure she lives in, as seen through the back and forth internal banter. Continue reading

Encouraging Underrepresented Groups to Pursue Health Sciences

My group was assigned the Texas Women’s Histories archive. In that archive are a variety of different interviews from women at the Texas Medical Center who are or have been nurses, doctors, or scientists of some sort. For our particular project, my group chose to focus on two particular women, with the goal of highlighting the need for diversity in medicine. The interviewees we chose were Dr. Lu Ann Aday, a Ph. D. who focuses on sociology and public health, and Dr. Ritsu Komaki, a radiation oncologist working at MD Anderson who originates from Japan. With the interviews of these two extraordinary women, we hope to illuminate how their gender and different ethnic, cultural, and social backgrounds have contributed to their view of medicine and public health, and how this difference could be applied elsewhere. Continue reading

Fear Itself

Fear Itself

Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” In the case of warfare, this especially true. War is more than two sides; war is one nation against another, but it is also one army against itself. Psychological warfare can do as much damage as actual physical warfare, as can be seen in the novel World War Z by Max Brooks. When I place myself in the shoes of the heads of state at the Honolulu conference, I find myself siding with Roosevelt; had I been there, I would have voted in favor of continued fighting. I would have voted against living in fear.


I say this because in the fight against the living dead, humanity could have very well gone extinct, and thus humanity needs to continue to fight to maintain the human spirit as well as the human population. Fighting on allows this to happen, because once humans are able to exterminate the zombie population, Earth can once again be “safe”.  As the account from Terry Knox proved, even space was not left untouched by the war on zombies. Success would lead to a sense of security and dominance, and can renew our sense of vitality. Without pursuing the offensive, we lose a key part of our identity and a key value. As the president of the United States asked in World War Z, “yes, our defensive strategies had saved the human race, but what about the human spirit?” (267). If human kind isolates itself and lives in continual fear of a zombie outbreak occurring, there can be no advancement. The human spirit will have died, and the zombies would have unconsciously triumphed. No, as Roosevelt said, we only have to fear fear itself. If we remove the source of the original fear (the zombies), then we remove fear entirely.

The decision to pursue the offensive also allows humans a tactical advantage in the war. By accepting only limited zones and merely maintaining them, we are on the defense. However, by actively pursuing the zombies, we switch roles and become the offensive team. As Ernesto Olguin said, “we had to reclaim the plant,” (267). We also “needed heroes, new names and places to restore our pride,” (314). Tactically speaking, we were now in a better position to win. In most sports, the offensive side is the side who scores points, which ultimately wins the game. In this war, the same is true. While there would have to be sacrifice, “it was finally the beginning of the end.” (282). In this case, the end would be the end of the zombie epidemic, which we have framed as a war. Plus, now that human kind was saved, we finally had the stability and resources necessary to wage an offensive type of warfare. With stable habitable zones, human kind could finally pool together the resources necessary to begin reclaiming land and taking out the zombie population. Even just having a Honolulu conference with the remaining world leaders is a good sign. This means that there is potentially enough coordination to wage a combined war effort. As Joe Muhammad said, “you’ve got to admit that [the war] did bring people together.” (336). As we reclaim land, this allows for the human population to expand, maintain defenses of larger territories, and access more resources, which makes our armies even stronger. Essentially, by finally being able to go on the offense, we are finally able to make a dent in defeating the source of our fear.

war         quarantine

Our fear was also artificially both inflated and kept at bay by nature of us framing the zombie conflict as a war rather than an epidemic. It was able to inflate our fear by framing the whole issue as a war. This created a sense of urgency, and a sense of fear of the enemy. War is a violent thing. Along with war comes casualty, and everyone fears becoming a casualty. War disrupts life, and social structure, and politics, and we do not like that. Humanity fears this sort of change, and thus war inflated our terror. However, this framing also kept our fear at bay. Had the zombie conflict been framed as an epidemic instead, our terror could have been even worse. We already fear an enemy we can see and stop, but many of us can hardly stomach the idea of an enemy that we can’t see or detect, and one that we cannot fight with guns or physical force. An epidemic framing may have made the population even more fearful. Because while war is horrifying, a small, insidious virus can be even more frightening. How can one protect their family, their children, neighbors, and friends from a small, non-living strand of DNA and some proteins? The honest answer is that you can’t. War was a simpler way of viewing the situation. There were two distinct sides, humans and zombies. The irony of this all, however, is that the zombies were once humans. The two sides were once one.


This idea of the enemy being oneself definitely had psychological implications for the remaining unturned humans. This is one of the reasons why it is crucial to rid the Earth of infected “Zacks”. No one wants to destroy a grandmother, a son, a former teacher, etc. On the human side, the fight against the undead was psychologically grueling. Many of those interviewed in World War Z claimed that they had to dehumanize the undead in order to be able to kill them. Because really, how different were the living and the undead? Or as Jürgen Warmbrunn stated, “That is the only measurable difference between us and ‘The Undead.’ Their brains do not require a support system to survive, so it is necessary to attack the organ itself.” (35). The whole conflict also brought up the issue of what makes up the self, the personality, and the soul. If the undead had none of these things, then what are we? Why are we here? What makes us different from a monkey or a gold fish? And even further than that, are we still a dominant species? Are our religious doctrines correct? These sort of questions could bring down the morale of many a soldier or civilian. The zombies, without even knowing it, were successfully using mental warfare against us.

When it comes down to a decision between simply maintaining the human population and safe zones, or going on the offensive and trying to reclaim territory and the human spirit, I will always side with going on the offensive. What is the point of living if one is living in constant fear? The zombies may have been intimidating, infectious, and taxing on our limited resources, but what is anything worth if humans can’t even enjoy life? What is better, living life deadened and weakened, or struggling yet persevering? I side firmly with the latter.


Book Reference:

Brooks, Max. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. New York: Crown, 2006. Print.

Image Reference:

We’re all hosts on a viral planet: New virus breaks the rules of infection



Do Not Fear by Pastor Mark Martin

The Placebo Effect

How did you and your husband respond?

Zoloft and Ritalin SR for Aiden, and Adderall XR for Jenna. It did the trick for a while. The only thing that pissed me off was that our insurance didn’t cover it because the kids were on Phalanx.

How long had they been on Phalanx?

Since it became available. We were all on Phalanx. “Piece of Phalanx, Peace of Mind.” That was our way of being prepared… and Tim buying a gun.

Pgs. 65-66 from the account of Mary Jo Miller of Troy, Montana

The particular passage I have chosen is an account from Mary Jo Miller. She is the architect and mayor of a Zombie-proof housing community. In her account, she details how her average American family encountered an attack by zombies. In the context of World War Z, the narrator has already spoken to the creator of Phalanx and heard the accounts of a variety of different sources.

Within this particular excerpt, there is an overall metaphor that can be related to economics. For example, the phrase “Zoloft and Ritalin SR for Aiden, and Adderall XR for Jenna,” implies to me that Zoloft, Ritalin SR, and Adderall XR are simply crutches. By administering these drugs to her children, Mary Jo Miller is simply avoiding the root cause of the problem. Similar to an economy, there can be crutches that the government can provide to struggling industries. The government can give out subsidies on goods, create price ceilings and floors, bailout an industry, impose trade tariffs, reduce taxes, and utilize a variety of other “solutions”. Really, by doing these things, the government is ignoring the root cause of the problem. In the 2008 market crash, the government bailed out several major banks and corporations despite the fact that these organizations were utilizing sub-prime loans or risky business practices. In this situation, Mary Jo is the government, and her children are the struggling industries. The medications act as the economic crutches that are holding up the industries.

Next, the line “pissed me off was that our insurance didn’t cover it because the kids were on Phalanx,” seemed to be quite ironic. It is ironic that Phalanx, of all medications, was the drug that caused the family to have to pay out of pocket for their other medications. Phalanx, as the reader knows after the narrator’s interview with the creator of Phalanx, is merely a placebo. It did not work on the virus that created zombies. Phalanx is an example of the failure of the FDA and government to recognize an improperly marketed and ineffective product. Phalanx is an example of greed and self-interest in the global capitalistic economy.

Following this, “Piece of Phalanx, Peace of Mind” also struck me as ironic. The phrase actually seems to be foreboding. The word “phalanx” means ‘any body of troops in close array’. The word, by nature of definition, literally means protection. In the word’s true definition, it means an army united for a common purpose. Yet Phalanx the drug is far from that. Really, in this case, its meaning more closely follows ‘an army united to make money.’ Phalanx was the by-product of greed. Its creator saw the opportunity to profit off of the fear of the virus, and utilized it to line his pocketbooks. Typically, when one has the protection of a police force and military to keep him or her safe, he or she will have peace of mind. This is true of many developed countries, where most of its citizens are kept safe by its safety forces, and thus are able to have peace of mind over their safety. However, with a contagious disease, typical safety measures are unable to keep people safe, because the attacker is something that is too small to be seen, and thus too small for a soldier to fight. “Piece of Phalanx, Peace of Mind” translates to ‘portion of the army, peace of mind,’ yet this is untrue. With this false product, any peace of mind created is unfounded.

Lastly, when Mary Jo mentions her husband Tim buying a gun to help them be prepared, it seemed to be a very American thing to do. Instead of taking precautions to avoid infectious agent contamination, their first response was to find some sort of brute force to protect them. However, a gun is not effective unless it is readily accessible and its owner truly knows how to use it. Otherwise, the gun is simply there to make its owner feel better about its potential. A gun cannot shoot itself or identify when there is a danger present. The gun represents another potential economic safety measure that seems to be helpful, but in reality is just a false hope.

Overall, this passage was quite striking in that it was the account of an average American family. The nightmare of any family during this time period must have been that zombies would come into their home and harm their children. For the Millers, this was a reality. The whole except can be tied to an overall metaphor seen in World War Z of capitalism and its downfalls. This excerpt primarily showcased economic crutches used, and how they provided false hope.







A Walk Through History

Prior to visiting the McGovern Historical Center last Thursday, I had never truly considered research possibilities outside of libraries and laboratories. To me, a place full of unique resources and abundant primary accounts seems almost too good to be true. It was actually quite amazing to be able to learn more about what an archive is, and how it functions. Without the trip, it is highly likely that I would have never stepped foot into an archive or realized how significant and useful they are.

Last Thursday, as we were guided by Sandra Yates, an archivist at the McGovern Historical Center, I felt as though I had encountered bits and pieces of the past personally. Sandra clarified my definition of what an archive was by informing us that the McGovern museum typically takes personal collections and finds ways to store them. They have personal accounting books, interviews, footage of surgeries, old surgical tools, old uniforms, paintings, architectural sketches, and much more. The McGovern Historical Center in particular has a large collection of medical archives from doctors and hospitals in Houston. To actually visit an archive was quite an interesting experience.

Prior to our visit, I had never thought much about what an archive might look like. I imagined that it might be fairly focused on paper preservation, since I know that many different types of paper disintegrate over time as they are exposed to oxygen, and that many libraries have difficulty maintaining their collections. I vaguely imagined a large warehouse full to the brim of diaries and legal documents. When I finally stepped foot into the archive, it was quite surprising to see a cozy viewing room with actual artifacts on display. I had not expected our class to be able to touch anything without gloves. However, once there, it became apparent to me that the archive we visited was much more inviting and casual than what I had been picturing in my head.

One of the most impressive features of the collection was how much had already been digitized by the McGovern Historical Center’s staff. Many of the recorded interviews have now been stored online. Many of the video footage has been transferred from film to VHS or floppy disk. The archive has definitely kept up with modern preferences in terms of information access. Plus, it means that should anything happen with the building itself (through water leakage, a fire, a hurricane, etc.), then the digitized items may still be accessible.

As we were given a tour of the archive, it became quite obvious that the McGovern Historical Center is a highly organized and well maintained collection. As our class filed through the stacks, I found myself yearning to read some of the more personal volumes, or look more closely at some of the larger objects like the briefcases and paintings. Within the small selection that Sandra and her team laid out for us, I was particularly gravitated towards the academic journals about psychology, and the materials about the artificial heart. It was incredible to me that the archive had actual footage of the recipient of the artificial heart waking up, or that we were actually able to touch the journals and pictures that had been laid out. In particular, it was interesting to me to see the contrast present between psychological treatments and beliefs during the 1950’s and now. Of all the medical disciplines, it seems that mental health has changed some of the most in the past six or so decades.

Overall, the trip we took as a class is one I will refer to often in the future as I go about my research. Archives are a resource that I had never even considered before enrolling in this course. However, I will now be able to use one should I ever need to. I believe that the general population is unaware of what archives do, and I was no different before Thursday. Truly, archives face a difficult challenge in curating unique and irreplaceable works.

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Public Health: Anticipation, Prevention, and Solution

Public health can be defined as the health of all people as a collective, with regards to chronic illness, epidemics, pandemics, nutrition, mental stability, and environment. Public health can refer to the health of a specific population, such as that of a city, or to the health of the entire human population.

In the past few years, public health has risen tremendously in popularity as an area of academic study due to outbreaks such as the H1N1 “Swine Flu” outbreak, Ebola, Zika, Avian flu, and other epidemics. Its prestige and reputation as a discipline has also been catapulted by major health issues such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, malnutrition, the Flint water crisis, and suicide. Within popular culture, books such as The Hot Zone or movies like Contagion, have made the general public aware of the ease of transmission of illness due to globalization. With increasing levels of international trade, travel, and interaction, the threat of a pandemic appears even more menacing than ever before.

Also aiding in public health’s importance are ever-improving medical advancements. Every year, medicine becomes a more exact science. This allows mankind to address health issues in new and unique ways. Already, diseases such as small pox have already been eradicated, with polio close behind.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, humans need to feel safe. Public health, along with law enforcement, hospitals, fire departments, FEMA, and other organizations, helps aid in this venture. By assisting in keeping epidemics at bay, or by sending in help after a natural disaster, public health specialists maintain the safety of the general human population. This alone makes public health a critical field within our society.

Our daily lives as humans are shaped by politics, society, the environment, and our health. My father used to joke that he got through college on his youth and coffee. This is true for many doctors, engineers, lawyers, and professionals. With a debilitating illness, it is extremely difficult or impossible to attend class, hold a job, or function normally. For most people, health is a huge factor in their success. Similar to a major environmental disaster, a war, or some sort of structural violence, epidemics and major health issues can wreak havoc on an individual’s life. From an economic perspective, long-living and healthy workers allow for faster economic growth. It is for this reason that the study of public health and the infrastructure that it provides exists – for the anticipation, prevention, and solution of medical disasters.