Bodies Found Buried Beneath University of Mississippi Medical Center: Mental Health Plight akin to Racial Discrimination

In Medical Apartheid, Harriet Washington details how African-Americans, during and post-slavery, were disproportionately victimized by grave robbers and unauthorized autopsies and dissections. This issue of informed consent was not considered for African Americans because they were considered less than oeople. That being said, pseudoscientists were intrigued by eugenics and used this to justify shoddy treatment and immoral, non consensual experimentation on blacks. A central theme to the literature examined earlier in this course refers to a lack of consideration for the proper burial of African American corpses. African Americans were treated disproportionately bad in life, and this did not stop in death. Black bodies were considered expendable, according to Medical Apartheid, as grave robbing was common in African Americans cemeteries while black prisoners were often executed and used as cadavers. There was no consideration for the individual as a person, as scientists viewed them as only being of use dead, as cadavers to help understand the human body and develop medicine for the benefit of whites.

In, Nina Golgowski explains the discovery that at least 7000 bodies were found buried beneath the former Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum which was in operation between 1855 and 1935. This time period, which overlaps with Medical Apartheid, saw African Americans as not the only people to be mistreated. People with mental illness have long been stigmatized, and during this period, the mentally ill were summarily dismissed and categorized together despite having varying conditions. Prior to the discovery, there were many people who wondered where their ancestors had disappeared to.  Upon the discovery, many people still wondered where their ancestors could be found in the records which led people to regularly email Dr. Molly Zuckerman (who presided over excavations) asking about them. None of the emails included happy stories, as “It was always tragic.” The stories of African Americans and the mentally ill were similarly tragic. The way the mentally ill were summarily dismissed after death was similar to how African Americans were. Both were centers of scientific inquiry and in each group of victims, the families were never notified of death and their burials were equally ill considered. This suggests that discoveries about the atrocities perpetrated against downtrodden groups of people in past centuries are still coming to surface and that the complete histories of these people are not yet completely and clearly mapped out. In this sense, we are still living history, which is a theme central to Zone One.

Forgetting who you were

In a previous post of mine, I delved into the fact that Mark Spitz is not the real name of the main character in the novel Zone One, but that he allows others to call him that. He was called that, because he is superb at killing skels, and would rather go swimming through a sea of the un-dead rather than cross the water to the side of safety. The idea came to me when I was perusing Taha’s post, accessed here about losing your identity.

Although that post talks about teeth with losing your identity, the thought came to me about another reason why Mark Spitz would allow himself to be called that in this time of chaos. Before the apocalypse happened, and the world was separated into these domes of safety, Mark Spitz was a kid who wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t the shining star pupil in the classroom. “His aptitude lay in the well-executed muddle, never shining, never flunking, but gathering himself for what it took to progress past life’s next random obstacle.”(Whitehead 11).

In his past life he wasn’t anyone of importance and just did the bare minimum, but in this one, he has a purpose where he is admired by those around him, and is appreciated for his skill of killing. What if another reason that he allows himself to be called Mark Spitz is because he wants to forget his non-achiever self, and remain in the persona he is in right now? By going by someone else, he is essentially erasing his lazy life away and becoming this high-achiever, and being repeatedly called Mark Spitz is a reminder of the person he is now and not to regress back to his life of just coasting by.

Of course, when the apocalypse is over and all the skels have been eradicated it will be a new world, where he can make a new world for himself if he wants, but he doesn’t have to go back to his original self. He can become someone new, as the new world  won’t need Mark Spitz, the excellent Skel killer in a world where skels are a thing of the past.

The AIDS Crisis

Last Tuesday, I attended the talk “Activism and Resilience During and Since the AIDS Crisis.” Mr. Matthew Burns, Dean of Students at the University of Rochester and a member of the Out Alliance gave the talk. Although this talk was mainly about the history of AIDS and how the disease affected the LGBTQ+ community, Mr. Burns talked about a lot of issues that we have talked about in class. Continue reading “The AIDS Crisis”

Medical Issues at African Burial Ground National Monument

To wrap up my experience at the African Burial Ground National Monument, I want to end on how despite all my anticipation of seeing parallels to Zone One, that I was able to see some examples of abuses during my trip that seemed to have been directly taken out of a page from Medical Apartheid.

The museum portion of the monument does an exceptional job in showing the hardship slaves faced on a daily basis and how these hardships eventually took a physical toll. The museum begins to describe the health effects of slavery by showing how being overworked resulted in the early onset of many medical issues such as “osteoarthritis, osteophytosis and schmorl’s nodes.” These issues were shown to have placated slaves at a much earlier age than they would have normally been expected to exhibit them due to the work they did. In addition to these issues, many of the remains buried at the site showed general signs of muscles tearing from the bones they were attached to. When a muscle tears from a bone it leaves signs of trauma on a skeleton and this is usually caused by long and hard “strenuous work (that) causes muscles to grow larger” and for “their boney attachments (to) also enlarge.” Researchers were able to make these claims after they found evidence of these issues in both male and female workers buried at the site. Without proper treatment, these ailments could cumulate and lead to other issues which as we know could become debilitating, result in death or force one to risk visiting a doctor. Continue reading “Medical Issues at African Burial Ground National Monument”

“Do Not Resusitate,” a Debate or an Order?

In the future, I would like to be a part of the medical field, giving my undivided attention in helping those in need, by trying my best to save lives, both ethically and morally correct. With that being said if CPR saves lives, why would anyone want a DNR order? I find this topic to be very interesting because I know that there is a clear answer, but my instincts and need of wanting to help others, go against that answer. After reading, “An Unconscious Patient with a DNR Tattoo”, I’m not sure if I’m left more aware of the topic or more confused.

Continue reading ““Do Not Resusitate,” a Debate or an Order?”

Employer/Student Study

In a 2015 employer/student survey done by Hart Research Associates, which was presented at the beginning of the syllabus, there were several key findings which ultimately relate back to Geneseo Learning Outcomes Baccalaureate Education: GLOBE. Firstly, the researchers found that employers overwhelmingly endorse broad learning as the best preparation for long term success as these skills are important for a wide range of potential occupations. These broad skills must cut across majors and be demonstrated proficiently. These desirable skills include written and oral communication skills, team-work skills, ethical-decision making, critical thinking, and the ability to apply these skills to real world applications. These overlapping skills presented in the research as well as GLOBE include critical thinking, communication, creative thinking and leadership and collaboration. The Geneseo mission statement also clearly articulates that the most important skills Geneseo attempts to improve cut across all majors. This is a central principle to liberal arts schools in general.


Later in the study, the researchers assess “How much more likely your company is to consider hiring a recent college graduate if they have had this experience, completed this course?” The results indicate that a study abroad program was actually the least appealing while an internship was the most. This goes back to the consistent reference of medical voluntourism. While we came to the collective realization that many students simply study abroad to distinguish themselves from others, this study suggests that there are more lucrative avenues for making oneself appealing to employers. Students allegedly travel to help both their resumes as well as the indigenous people. Throughout the semester, we have questioned the latter assumption as we find that many medical voluntourist programs create adverse effects as students either lack training and/or a deep respect and understanding of the people they are ‘helping’. However, this study shreds doubt on the other assumption, that study abroad programs make students a lot more appealing employers. While it may help, the study finds that time would be better well spent by either honing skills (through senior thesis writing, or taking writing course) or developing real experience (internships, apprenticeships, projects). The most essential, key finding however was that acquiring specific knowledge and skills for a specific occupation before entering the field was not the best path for long-term success. This means that building general skills applicable across fields is superior to learning specific skills. This course is therefore preparing us for future employment as improving writing and general communicating skills, as well as critical thinking, has been central to this course through the blog posting and in class discussions.


The Forbidden Thought

In dystopian works (especially those set in zombie apocalypses like Zone One), the idea of the “forbidden thought,” also known as giving up and committing suicide, is so deeply ingrained and common into the setting that it is often overlooked (or at least I know I have). This is usually due to the focus on a main set of heroic characters that fight tooth and nail against these blood-thirsty zombies. However, Colson Whitehead combats this familiar theme with his very own Mark Spitz. Continue reading “The Forbidden Thought”

United We Stand

As a child, my favorite response about where I came from was “It’s the melting pot of the world,” and I still stand by that phrase today. While my race is Chinese, I consider my ethnicity to be Chinese-American. The interrelationship between these two words is what defines the very core of my being because one cannot exist without the other. Throughout my life, the traditions and values from both my Chinese home and my American education have reflected and overlapped with each other to ultimately create one well-integrated upbringing. In combination with my constant exposure to other cultures, I grew up constantly finding the middle ground to any problem or situation. Contrary to the phrase “no man’s land,” there should be no uncertainty or fear for two cultures to meet, especially in the medical field. Continue reading “United We Stand”

Collective Course Statement: How We Met Learning Outcomes Working Through It

On the Geneseo website, Geneseo’s Mission Statement is followed by GLOBE: Geneseo Learning Outcomes for Baccalaureate Education. These learning outcomes are sought after by all professors in all academic fields at Geneseo. In crafting our final collective course statement, which relates GLOBE and the work we’ve done in class concerning medical voluntourism, we are informing prospective study abroad students about the implications their travel will have on the indigenous people they seek to help. There are many motivations for going abroad, some are intrinsic and some self-seeking and career related. Nonetheless, motivation is less important than the actual results.


In working together in individual groups, and ultimately as a collective group, we demonstrated key learning outcomes as they are presented on the website. The eight outcomes highlighted are as follows:

  1. Critical Thinking
  2. Communication
  3. Quantitative, Computational, and Symbolic Reasoning
  4. Informational and Digital Literacy
  5. Creativity and Creative Thinking
  6. Leadership and Collaboration
  7. Diversity and Pluralism
  8. Global Awareness and Engagement

This end of year assignment deals with numbers 1,2,5,6,7 and 8 specifically. Assessing these learning outcomes through this assignment actually improves these skills, in a meta way. Most of the course statement is about medical voluntourism as we refer to various readings throughout the semester. Taking this information and regurgitating it for future study abroad students in a concise way where students understand and respect the indigenous populations requires critical thinking. Communication skills were also central to this assignment as taking the thoughts of over 25 students and condensing it into less than two pages of concise information required communication among sub groups as well as communication between these groups, and ultimately all students in the class at the end. Combining all this information in a cohesive way also required creativity as well as leadership and collaboration. This collective statement is a collaboration in itself and through group work, people had to display leadership (being scribes in group discussions) as well as a respect for the leaders. As there is a diversity of opinion and experience across the class, coming together was essential. The most operative learning outcome, global awareness and engagement, was developed through the content of the statement itself. Shaping what it requires to be a good global citizen when voluntouring was central to the statement, and this is the skill that was most notably improved on for me because other assignments had dealt with the other outcomes where global awareness and engagement is rarely, if ever the focus, of my English and Psychology courses. All skills listed above are important and were mostly honed through the development of the course statement, however the final one was most significantly improved.