Course Offerings | Courses about the Pandemic for Prehealth Students

January 08, 2021

Courses about the Pandemic for Prehealth Students

Call Number: 17215
Days: TBD
Location: Online Only
Points: 1

Developed specially for undergraduates this semester, this course brings together guest lectures, coordinated and sequenced to build a cohesive picture of the COVID-19 pandemic,
from pre-eminent leaders at Columbia University, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and other institutions. The overall objective is to provide undergraduate students with a comprehensive picture of the COVID-19 pandemic so that they can be better prepared to approach career and life choices as well as to be prepared to face future pandemic threats which will happen (the only question is when). Specifically, the course combines 13 remote, asynchronous, one-hour guest lectures/week, weekly reading assignments, two required short research papers, an optional extra credit essay, and structured meetings with graduate teaching assistants. Students will be responsible only for material presented during the lectures (i.e., prepared slides) to be distributed each week.

There are no science prerequisites for this one-credit course. This is a general education course shared by all Columbia undergraduates regardless of their major.

Call Number: 13828
Days: Tues. and Thurs. 8:40 - 9:55 a.m.
Location: Online Only
Points: 3

Developed specially for undergraduates by an expert in Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School for Public Health, this course takes an interdisciplinary approach and seeks to expand the understanding of past pandemic crises and recent, lived pandemics such as COVID-19. COVID-19 has brought up urgent questions about how we can understand and historicize pandemics and trace the changing relationship between disease and its vectors, humans and their environments. This course seeks to expand the understanding of past and recent pandemics through a historical lens that traces the deep seated racial and class disparities, social and cultural stigma, and political responses and control that they were expressed and deployed during these historical crises. It seeks to understand and analyze pandemics as representing complex, disruptive and devastating crises that effect profound transformations in ideas, social and economic relations and challenge interdependent networks and cultures. Pandemics are balanced in a global-local flux between dramaturgic, proliferating, contagious outbreaks; and endemic, chronic infections that have prolonged periods of latency before again remerging through new transmissions.

They also serve as a crucial lens to analyze a range of historical connections, ensions and movements ranging from colonialism and the politics of borders, global capitalism and labor, migration and mobility, decolonization and development, and neoliberalism and global health politics.

Call Number: 11954
Days: Mon. 10:10 - 12 p.m.
Location: Online Only
Points: 4

For thousands of years people have been getting ready for the end of the world, giving rise to millenarian movements that have sometimes changed history. More than once, large
numbers of people have experienced events such as the Black Death, the Little Ice Age, colonial conquest, and “strategic” bombing that seemed very much like the end of their world. And over the last seventy-five years, governments and international organizations have made major investments in predicting and preparing for catastrophic threats. Efforts to manage or mitigate these dangers have had world-changing consequences, including “preventative” wars, and new forms of global governance. The very idea of the end of the world, in other words, has a long history, with a demonstrable impact, which provides instructive lessons as we contemplate things to come.

This course will explore this history, beginning with eschatology and millenarian movements. In part two, students will learn how different conceptual frameworks can be applied to assessing and managing risk, and understanding how people perceive or misperceive danger. They will learn how they can be applied to identify the most important challenges, drawing insights from different disciplinary approaches. The third and main part of the course will consist of comparative and connected analyses of the age-old apocalyptic threats -- war, pestilence, and famine -- in their modern forms, i.e. nuclear armageddon, pandemics, and ecological collapse. By examining them together, we can compare the magnitude and probability of each danger, and also explore their interconnections. We will see, for instance, how nuclear testing helped give rise to the environmental movement, and how modeling the aftereffects of nuclear exchanges helped advance understanding of climate change. Similarly, scenario exercises have shaped threat perceptions and disaster-preparedness for pandemics and bio-warfare as much as they did for nuclear war and terrorism.

Readings and discussions will explore how planetary threats are interconnected, and not just in the techniques used to predict and plan for them. Applying nuclear power to
the problem of global warming, for instance, could undermine longstanding efforts to stop nuclear proliferation. Climate change and mass migration, on the other hand, create new pandemic threats, as a more crowded and interconnected world becomes a single ecosystem. Yet billions spent on building up defenses have created more capacity and opportunity for bio-terrorism. Who would actually use a nuclear or biological weapon? Perhaps a millenarian group hoping to ride death, the fourth horse of the apocalypse, straight to heaven.

Call Number: 16663
Days: Tues. 2:10 - 4 p.m.
Location: Online Only
Points: 3

It is impossible to study Medical/Health Humanities now without emphasizing the COVID-19 pandemic and the social disparities it casts into relief.  This class studies how the arts can provide access to voices and perspectives on illness and health disparities that might be overlooked in news coverage, historical and sociological research on the current pandemic.

This class begins by introducing the field of Medical/Health Humanities and the critical questions and tools it provides.  We will use these perspectives to study narrative
and visual representations in different media that address the intersections of social inequity, biomedical pandemic, and aesthetic forms.  Our study of representations will be divided into four parts:

1.The last great global pandemic.Representations of AIDS epidemic highlight the impact of social stigma on public health and medical care, as well as the use of art as an agent of activism and change.  We will consider such works as Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Charles Burns’s Black Hole, short stories, and the art produced within and in response to the ACT-UP movement.

2.Race and medical inequity. We study the racialization of genetic science, and its connection new forms of white supremacy and a history of racialized health disparities.  Our readings include
Rebecca Skloot’s Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the poetry of Maya Angelou and Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and the speculative fiction of N.K. Jemison.

3.Fictional representations of pandemic that illuminate real life disparities in health and access to medical care will set the stage for our study of the current pandemic. We will read Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and Colson Whitehead’s zombie novel, Zone One.

4.Literary representations of COVID, as represented by the short stories in The Decameron Project, as well as short film and visual arts. Seminar style classes will emphasize student interests and direction.  They will be heavily discussion-based with a combination of full class and smaller breakout formats.  Assignments include an in-class presentation
and short paper on one week’s materials; a comparative narrative analysis, and an imaginative final project with a critical introduction.