They did what?

November 28, 2015

New History of Medicine class follows the healing arts from prehistoric to modern day

Most history classes talk about battles won and lost, but not about the different types of amputation saws used on the limbs of wounded soldiers.

Most science classes don’t really discuss that either, nor the bacteria that invaded soldiers on edges of those blades. That’s what makes the History of Medicine class so different.

Listed as HIST 292 Special Topics and SCI 292 Special Topics in the course catalog, the brand-new class will cover centuries of medical techniques and treatments.

Creating the class

Special topics classes at Johnson County Community College are a way for professors to explore a subject in more depth that isn’t part of the usual class offerings. Often professors suggest a topic based on their own interests and academic specialties.

For the History of Medicine class, two professors in the science department were each thinking of offering a class in medical history for students studying science or health care.

Jennifer Menon Parker and Jamie Cunningham both were considering teaching a history of medicine class, but even though they had recently moved into the same office, they didn’t immediately realize it.

“I cover the history of microbiology in one day,” Cunningham said of her Microbiology class (BIOL 230). “In pathophysiology, it’s usually the last session. There’s this feeling from me and from the students of ‘I wish we had more time for this.’”

Packages as catalyst

As Cunningham was forming her class proposal, she noticed strange packages being delivered to her officemate.

The packages were part of Menon Parker’s growing collection of historical medical instruments (currently on display in the third-floor hallway of CLB).

“It’s amazing what you can find on eBay,” Menon Parker said, laughing.

When Menon Parker shared her latest finds with Cunningham, the professors realized they both wanted the same thing: to teach a history of medicine class at JCCC.

Getting some history

They enlisted William Stockton, professor of history, to team-teach the class. Stockton, who has visited the Roman healing spas, also has an interest in the history of medicine. His historical perspective enriched the class even more, Menon Parker said.

“He brought up the idea of medicine men and shamans, asking ‘What about that?’” Menon Parker said.

The curriculum will cover the medical field from dirt eaters to present day. (Yes, you read that right. Early humans ate dirt to cure ailments. It’s not so crazy, Cunningham explains, when you realize antibiotics are derived from organisms living in dirt.)

“I think it will be very remarkable to our students to understand what was considered appropriate medical care,” Menon Parker said.

To enroll in History of Medicine, contact Sarah Boyle, associate professor of history, via email or at 913-469-8500 ext. 3482, or Jim Leiker, professor of history, via email or at 913-469-8500 ext. 3673. The course has no prerequisite, but the approval is necessary to make sure the class fits into your program of study.