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When Illness Goes Public


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In dissecting the illnesses of these famous people, Dr. Lerner brilliantly separates science from the mythologized, bravely battling celebrity. Riveting reading. -- Lynn Redgrave and Annabel Clark, authors of Journal: A Mother and Daughter's Recovery from Breast Cancer It's odd: When a celebrity falls ill, the illness becomes a celebrity, and public life democratized is made generally useful. Barron Lerner has created a fascinating book of this original observation. -- Roger Rosenblatt

Table of Contents

1. The First Modern Patient: The Public Death of Lou Gehrig
2. Crazy or Just High-Strung? Jimmy Piersall's Mental Illness
3. Picturing Illness: Margaret Bourke-White Publicizes Parkinson's Disease
4. Politician as Patient: John Foster Dulles Battles Cancer
5. No Stone Unturned: The Fight to Save Brian Piccolo's Life
6. Persistent Patient: Morris Abram as Experimental Subject
7. Unconventional Healing: Steve McQueen's Mexican Journey
8. Medicine's Blind Spots: The Delayed Diagnosis of Rita Hayworth
9. Hero or Victim? Barney Clark and the Technological Imperative
10. "You Murdered My Daughter": Libby Zion and the Reform of Medical Education
11. Patient Activism Goes Hollywood: How America Fought AIDS
12. The Last Angry Man and Woman: Lorenzo Odone's Parents Fight the Medical Establishment

About the Author

Barron H. Lerner is a physician and the Angelica Berrie-Gold Foundation Professor of Medicine and Public Health at Columbia University. He is the author of Contagion and Confinement, also published by Johns Hopkins, and The Breast Cancer Wars, winner of the 2006 William H. Welch Medal of the American Association for the History of Medicine and named a notable book by the American Library Association.


Physician Lerner's (medicine & public health, Columbia Univ.; The Breast Cancer Wars) new book raises more questions than it answers. The "celebrity patients" of the subtitle include sports figures Lou Gehrig and Arthur Ashe, screen stars Steve McQueen and Rita Hayworth, photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White, and former U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Rounding out the celebrities are individuals who themselves or whose families fought highly publicized battles for better treatment or treatment reform. The references are from popular magazines and newspapers, medical journals, and primary source material. Some of the most interesting information derives from letters written by fans pleading with a celebrity to use a particular product or treatment. Lerner is aware of his lack of minority representation (excepting Ashe), and his treatment of the older historic figures treads familiar ground-see Philip Marshall Dale's Medical Biographies: The Ailments of Thirty-Three Famous Persons, a serious overview profiling, among others, poet John Keats and naturalist Charles Darwin. Large public libraries and libraries supporting journalism programs will want to purchase this book. (Index not seen.)-Martha E. Stone, Massachusetts General Hosp. Lib., Boston Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Celebrities yapping about what ails them wasn't always common, however, and Lerner believes that its prevalence now indicates cultural changes worth noting... Insightful analysis. Booklist A readable and thoroughly researched book. (Rated four stars: Excellent) British Medical Journal Lerner has created a powerful prism through his thoughtful exploration of celebrity illness, highlighting societal and cultural forces that widely affect public and private health care decisions... Lerner's skills are superbly demonstrated in detailing complicated stories... fascinating analysis. JAMA Lerner offers a superb volume rich with thorough and entertaining recollections and other information not previously in the public domain... A clear, concise, and captivating treatise that holds the interest of lay readers and yet illuminates for medical professionals issues that are important to the individual patient as well as the scientific community. Journal of Clinical Investigation Lerner has done a beautiful job of tracing the degree to which celebrity patients have reflected and shaped the modern American understanding of doctors, patients, and illness. This book is a pleasure to read because of its compelling storytelling and analysis. New England Journal of Medicine Physician and associate professor Lerner is blessed with the ability to research widely and write lucidly... Well documented and indexed, this highly readable book deserves a broad audience. Choice Interesting book, and the writing is sprightly. -- Roxanna Stein RALPH: Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy, and the Humanities Engaging and intriguing... Can be enjoyed by a broad public interested in the modern intertwining of the concerns of celebrity and health. -- Steven Epstein Isis When Illness Goes Public says much about the development of ideas of illness in American culture. -- Jasmine Gartner Social History of Medicine Compelling... We can learn quite a bit about our society, culture, and values from the way celebrities' illnesses are publicly portrayed. As Lerner perceptively demonstrates, descriptions of illness and death ultimately have as much to do with how people want to imagine these experiences as with actual events... Lerner is at his best when he uses his considerable narrative skills to place these stories into their broader historical, cultural and ethical contexts. -- Michael J. Green American Journal of Bioethics In Lerner's capable hands, these dozen stories in their retelling are both colorfully dramatic narratives, ripped from the headlines (as the saying now goes) and also probing samples of historically specific contingencies and shifting attitudes. -- Chris Feudtner Bulletin of the History of Medicine These 12 stories... delight and instruct readers about our own health and eventual mortality, and these are important things to know. -- John C. Bailar, III Perspectives in Biology and Medicine Well-written, professionally documented. -- Robert S. Robins Journal of American History A major contribution to our understanding of health and illness. Abstracts of Public Administration, Development and Environment When Illness Goes Public: Celebrity Patients and How We Look at Medicine includes a great many references and keeps the reader engaged and entertained. This easily readable book will satisfy any reader's desire to learn more about famous people who have made a difference in how medicine and disease is handled in the U.S... A great read. -- Fahmida Hussain Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved

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