“Containment” Explores Infectious Disease Response

April 19, 2019

Led by BRIDGES team members Graham Mooney and Rebecca Wilbanks, the Berman Institute of Bioethics convened the Robert H. Levi Symposium, “Containment: Exploring the History, Politics, and Ethics of Infectious Disease Response in a Post-Genomic World” on March 11-12.

Visit the Symposium website.

The symposium kicked off with a public event featuring remarks by Kaci Hickox and Gregg Mitman. Hickox graduated from the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and now works for Doctors Without Borders as an infection prevention and control advisor. She spoke of her experiences treating Ebola patients in West Africa and her decision to mount a legal challenge to the quarantine order that was imposed on her when she returned to the US.

Mitman is a historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the director of In the Shadow of Ebola, which was screened at the public event. The film follows a family affected by the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia. Both Mitman and Hickox highlighted the way in which politicized responses to contagious diseases can compound the harms suffered by affected communities. After the film screening Berman Institute faculty member Jeremy Greene, the chair of the History of Medicine Department, moderated a discussion that included questions from audience members.

The following day, a broadly interdisciplinary group of researchers met at the Berman Institute to develop a research agenda on the social and ethical dimensions of infectious disease response. The working group brought together scholars from across the university, including the School of Medicine, the Center for Health Security, the Berman Institute of Bioethics, and the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, as well as external experts from anthropology, sociology, literature, law, and philosophy. Topics discussed included the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where treatment facilities and medical providers have recently been under attack. These events underscore the need for culturally and historically informed approaches to providing care. Workshop participants will collaborate to disseminate the insights and knowledge generated by the workshop in peer-reviewed publications.