Ursuline News

UD Reads: A Community Reading Initiative

For the second year in a row, Ursuline is participating in UD Reads, a community reading initiative.

The initiative is a University of Dallas (UD) project including students in the Diocese of Dallas, Irving Independent School District, and other select schools.

Dr. Hillary Kasbarian and Dr. Harriet Furton’s Biology classes are reading Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World!

The Ghost Map is a national bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book, and an Entertainment Weekly Best Book of the Year.

Johnson centers the story on the 1854 cholera outbreak in London, the fastest growing city in Europe at the time.  As the cholera outbreak takes hold, a physician and a local pastor are spurred to action - and ultimately solve the most pressing medical riddle of the time.

Dr. Kasbarian and Dr. Furton are using the book as a supplemental text with their science classes to demonstrate the use of the scientific method.

 “I enjoyed reading about how Snow (the main character) used the scientific method to track down and target the cholera outbreak,” said Bridget O’Neil ’20. “If it wasn’t for him or his investigation, it would have continued to spread.”

The book demonstrates the value of the scientific method to debunk the prevailing myth of miasma (foul-smelling air) and reveal the true cause of the cholera epidemic.

“This method is practiced by students in our science classes to help them gain skills in scientific reasoning,” said Dr. Kasbarian.

Dr. Furton agrees, “the book really presents how the scientific method was applied to find out the source of the infection.”

Her class has also discussed how the disease still exists in some places around the world and is easily treatable with IV fluid. The problem, however, is IV fluid availability.

“Reading about cholera provides a new perspective on the disease,” reflected Claire Weber ’20. “It is interesting to compare to modern-day methods of treating the disease.”

Students will additionally be completing a semester project in Dr. Kasbarian’s class that will utilize the “point of view” by the student as one of the figures in the book.

Finally, in correlation with the book’s theme, the Biomedical Club also invited alumna Alexa Juarez ’10, Project Coordinator working on the National Harm Reduction Technical Assistance and Syringe Service Program Monitoring and Evaluation Project, to campus to talk about her travels and work with infectious diseases.

“It was great to be back at Ursuline and to share my experiences as a bioengineer and public health professional,” Juarez said. “I was excited to show the girls that working in the healthcare field could be through many different career paths outside of a doctor or nurse.”