I was honored to be allowed to observe an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute Leisure Class instructed by our Associate Medical Officer, Dr. Trent James. This was the first installment of five. I was a 20-something in a room with the 50 and over crowd (that’s the requirement to be an OLLI member). A few glances from the 25 attendees told me I stuck out like a sore thumb.
Pains, Plagues, Pestilences and Peoples: A History of Medicine in Louisiana was the topic of the course. I walked in as Dr. James was beginning. “I will quote, plagiarize and try not to lie.” A quiet laugh told me the class appreciated his sense of humor. “The history of medicine in Louisiana is a gumbo; an iron pot of human will and spirit; ingredients from many sources; a medical roux; years of trials, pain, suffering and death; a lot of stirring and a little bit of God’s help.”
Dr. James began with the Native Americans occupying what is now Louisiana. From Caddo culture and shamans to natural herbal lore, he covered it all. When a picture flashed on the screen of an odd looking native medicine man, Dr. James quipped, “I’m sure you have some pretty weird looking physicians today as well.”
Then he delved into the European explorers and conquistadors. Ponce de Leon was discussed with his “Fountain of Youth” obsession. “And, unfortunately Viagra was not found,” he chuckled.
Questions were welcomed before a quick break. One woman asked the difference between German measles and regular measles. Another questioned if Dr. James had read The Hunger Games and mentioned the references to herbal healing. “No I haven’t read it. We will have a discussion on folk medicine in the coming weeks though. My mother was an herbalist at heart,” said Dr. James.
At the first break, a kind woman walked up to me. “Honey, how did you get in here? You aren’t old enough.” A brief explanation of my connection to Dr. James and the blog I was writing put her at ease.
A few cups of coffee and a couple cookies later, the students returned to the room. It was requested that the lights not be dimmed as much during the presentation, so the majority could see well.
He touched on the arrival of slaves, Acadians, Germans and Irish and the diversity that each contributed to the medical beliefs of the day. Dr. James concluded with the U.S. purchase of Louisiana for $15 million and set up the brief preview of next week’s session.
“Next class we will talk about epidemics. Warning: It’s a little gory.”
*Emily Mastrantonio is a Communications Specialist for eQHealth Solutions. Special thanks to Osher Life Long Institute for allowing us attend Dr. James’ leisure class.