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Down with Sickness

Apr 2, 2012
by Staff

Visiting professor Surinder Paracer explores effect of disease on society

Whether you’re a college student in St. Augustine or a tribesman in some remote village, there are some things we’re all affected by equally. Visiting professor Surinder Paracer spent the last semester teaching students about one of them: disease.

“Disease is one of those universal experiences that anyone who comes into this world is affected by,” explained Paracer, whose “Diseases and Mankind” course focuses on the diseases of ancient and modern man. “The course is built around the nature of history in regards to disease and how the world’s historical events have been shaped by either disease epidemics or the diseases of some of the leaders who were critical at a particular time.”

Paracer, who received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Davis and has participated in advanced studies in biology and the history of science at the University of Massachusetts, Harvard University and Yale University, has taught the course for nearly 30 years at Worcester State University, his home college.

Students who took the course spent the semester studying the significance of such world-famous epidemics as small pox in South America, which decimated the indigenous population, the Irish potato famine, and the outbreak of yellow fever in Philadelphia in 1793. The class also examines Greek influence on Western medicine along with Indian, Chinese and other cultural healing practices.

But the course went beyond pure history, studying how disease has affected culture through social structure, science, art and philosophy.

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