Friday, January 02, 2004

Boondock medicine

Our friend Bekah spent the summer in a remote area of Baja California, working in a public health clinic as a summer intern. While introducing Bekah to a friend, I explained that Bekah had spent her summer in "the boondocks" in Mexico. Bekah said the area was so remote, there wasn't a boondock to be found!

By the way, "Boondocks" comes from a Tagalog word, Bundag, meaning jungle. US soldiers stationed in the Phillippines must have brought the word home.

We gave Bekah a copy of Victor Heiser's "An American Doctor's Odyssey," published in 1936. Dig this out of your library stacks and read it. Heiser, then 16, survived the Johnstown Flood of 1889 by burling on his floating barn until it came to rest near a house with 21 other people marooned in the attic. Heiser worked his way through medical school and joined the Marines Medical Corps in the mid 1890s. He became interested in preventing disease, and was one of the pioneers of Public Health in the US and world wide--including preventing cholera in the Filipino boondocks.

Notable moments: *How a Chinese national eating a durian in a railway carriage responded to Heiser and his friend's eating a ham sandwich; *The explanation of the transmission of Hookworm disease, in Pidgin English; and the Anti-hookworm campaign in the southern US; *The development of, and the reasons for, the notorious Trachoma exam at Ellis Island (Fiorello LaGuardia, while he was US Consul at Fiume, hit upon the very simple idea of having people tested for Trachoma BEFORE they left for the US).

If you can't stomach the phrase, "White Man's Burden," this book is not for you. But it you want to read an excellent story of a man who helped make your life and millions of other people's lives safer and cleaner, check it out.--Mrs. James

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