You’re invited to join us for a chat with author, Pam Fessler! on May 5th at 12:00 PM
The LSU School of Public Health’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee is delighted to announce that Pam Fessler, author of our May Book Club selection Carville’s Cure: Leprosy, Stigma and the Fight for Justice, will be joining us for a moderated discussion and Q&A! This event will be held on Zoom with registration.
Ms. Fessler is correspondent on NPR’s National Desk where she covers poverty, philanthropy, and voting issues. Her book, Carville’s Cure, is about the little known story of the only leprosy colony in the continental United States. Using first had accounts and historical documents, she creates an inside look at the power of stigma and the lasting effects that can have on the sick.
As a sneak peak, we were able to ask a few questions of Ms. Fessler to get to know a little more about her motivations for writing the book!
LSU SPH: What was your inspiration for the book?
Pam Fessler: As I write in the prologue, my father-in-law kept the fact that his father was taken to Carville a secret for more than 60 years because of the stigma. My father-in-law was 15 years old when his father was taken away by public health officials, and he never saw or spoke to him again and was unsure where he had been taken. He finally revealed the secret in 1998 and we tracked down that his father had been taken to the government leprosarium in Carville, LA. We visited the hospital and that’s when I learned that hundreds, if not thousands, of other families were torn apart by this disease. And that it was government policy to isolate and confine those diagnosed with leprosy, even though it is one of the least contagious diseases there is. I also learned about the extraordinary action taken by Carville patients and their allies to fight back and regain their rights and freedom. It was a tragic, but inspiring, story that needed to be told.
LSU SPH: What do you hope people take away some lessons from the book?
Pam Fessler: This is a big question! The simple answer: public health decisions can have repercussions not only on patients, but their families and communities; we sometimes base health decisions on prejudice and ignorance rather than on sound science; people can use disease to demonize those looked down upon or feared; AND humans can be pretty resilient when their freedom, rights and dignity are threatened!