Honors Students Explore the Culture, Context, and History of Medicine During Trip to London
For biology major Abhaya Moturu, participating in an Honors seminar that took her to the cultural, historical, and medical centers of London was a learning experience far beyond the classroom.
“Going to London gave me the rare opportunity to see sites central to medical history—from visiting the laboratory where penicillin was created to visiting the first medical school in London allowing women. We had the chance to explore how medicine advanced scientifically as well as socially,” said Moturu, who participates in the Dual Admission Program for osteopathic medicine.
Moturu was one of nine students who traveled to London during spring break 2015 as part of an Honors seminar called Medical London: Culture and Context, one example of the opportunities offered through NSU’s Undergraduate Honors Program.
Offered by the Farquhar Honors College and designed for students who excel in scholarship and desire a well-rounded college experience, the Honors Program offers hands-on exploration through engaging course work (such as travel study), in-depth research, small class sizes, faculty-student mentorship, scholarship rewards, co-curricular activities, and peer support.
Ed Stieve, Ph.D., associate professor at NSU, taught the Medical London Honors seminar and led the students on the trip to England.
In London, students gathered information for research projects by meeting with historians and authors, compiling personal journals, and visiting sites such as the Florence Nightingale Museum, the Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum (named for the founder of penicillin), the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, and exploring topics such as “Gallows, Ghosts, and Golden Boys” and “Pox and Pleasure” during walking tours.
“Students spent the first part of the semester reading about and exploring websites for specific topics related to the history and culture of Western medicine in London. Along with readings and discussions, they located specific sites in London related to the research topics they selected,” Stieve said.
“While in London, they made it a point to explore these locations, write about them in their journals, and take photos or speak with museum docents and guides about their research. They continued this research when they returned, incorporating their personal notes and observations into their work,” Stieve said.
Their work culminated in class presentations and three student presentations (two posters and one oral presentation) at NSU’s Undergraduate Student Research Symposium.
Biology major Chanice Allen, a 2015 graduate, won first place at the symposium for her oral presentation “Hangings and Body Snatchings: The Exploitation of Humans in 18th Century London in the Name of Medicine.”
The research explored the cultural and sociological intricacies of 18th Century London that allowed for the procurement of human corpses through practices such as public executions, grave robbing, and “murder in the name of medicine,” Allen said.
Others Honors students who participated in the class and the trip to London were Zara Khan, Rhea Brown, Alma Alfarra, Sierra Herbert, Meghna Mendu, Lisa Pace, and Aarabhi Rajagopal.
The trip highlights included a walking tour with Richard Barnett, Ph.D., medical historian, researcher, and author whose book Medical London: Two Thousand Years of Life and Death in London was one of the course’s required texts.
“Being able to chat and ask questions about the medical history of the city from the very person who wrote most of our required texts was a treat,” said Khan, a biology major and participant in the Dual Admission Program for osteopathic medicine. The tour revealed the history of London that most people don’t think about.
“We also visited the former lab of Alexander Fleming—which was literally the size of a common closet in which he did his famous work in discovering penicillin. When we finished our walking tour with Dr. Barnett, we found a plaque [noting the former home] of Ali Mohammed Abbas who was one of the founders of Pakistan, my parents’ home country,” Khan said.
Aside from research, students explored the culture, food, historical sites, and the transportation of London, with some students riding the subway and a double-decker bus for the first time.
“I enjoyed being able to see how diverse it is—from the food, the customs, and the people,” said Aarabhi Rajagopal, a biology major and 2015 graduate who enjoyed exploring the Science Museum, London, and the medical objects in its exhibit “Brought to Life: Exploring the History of Medicine.”
For Moturu, a highlight was visiting the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, known worldwide as a museum of comparative anatomy, pathology, osteology, and natural history.
“I was able to explore one my favorite subjects—anatomy—in great depth because of the vast collection,” Moturu said. “Reading about discoveries and the social changes brought about by medical advancements only furthered my passion for medicine and my desire to become a doctor and make a positive impact on people’s lives.”