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E-Seminars: Public Health


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The following state-of-the-art learning experiences were developed at Columbia University by distinguished faculty members working closely with our skilled instructional technology staff. Three to five hours in length, these in-depth multimedia e-seminars are free to Columbia students, faculty, and staff.

America's Battle for a Cure: The Culture and Politics of Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment
Taught by: Barron H. Lerner, M.D.

To understand a disease, you must first understand the culture in which that disease exists. Understanding breast cancer in the United States requires understanding the war metaphor that defines it. In this e-seminar, Barron Lerner, Associate Professor of Medicine and Public Health at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, reveals how America's fight against breast cancer has shaped our treatment of the disease from the turn of the nineteenth century to today.

Columbia Learning Experiences

Biography of the AIDS Epidemic: Creating an Oral-History Project E-Seminar 1, From Idea to Interview: Launching an Oral-History Project
Taught by: Ronald Bayer and Gerald Oppenheimer

To construct a collective biography of the early AIDS doctors, Ronald Bayer, Columbia University professor of public health, and Gerald Oppenheimer, associate professor of clinical public health, turned to oral history. After extensive preparation, interviewing, and editing, they published AIDS Doctors: Voices from the Epidemic, an historical account of the epidemic through the eyes of the doctors who experienced it.

In this first of two e-seminars, From Idea to Interview: Launching an Oral History Project, Professors Bayer and Oppenheimer take the student on a tour through the planning of their oral-history project. Through anecdotes, constructive advice and tips, collected readings and resources, and sample planning documents, the student will follow the development of the project from inspiration to interview preparation. Upon completing both seminars, the student will have learned the process and potential uses of an oral-history project and will be equipped to embark on an oral-history project of his/her own, or to make skillful use of existing oral histories.

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The Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Guide to Surgery
Taught by: Eric A. Rose, M.D. and leading Columbia surgeons

Far too often, patients blindly accept a recommendation to have surgery. Whether overwhelmed by an abundance of confusing medical information, unwilling to question their physician's advice, or simply too afraid to consider the implications of surgery, many patients never truly evaluate their surgical options. In this e-seminar, Eric A. Rose, Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Surgeon-in-Chief at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, empowers patients with the necessary set of tools to make informed decisions about surgery. For those patients who do choose to undergo surgery, this e-seminar also offers access to leading Columbia surgeons discussing 12 important surgical procedures.

Columbia Learning Experiences

Introduction to Cardiac Care
Taught by: Benjamin H. Lewis, M.D.

Heart disease is America's leading killer. More women than men die each year from heart disease. Yet far too few of us really understand our hearts—how they work, how to care for them when they're healthy, and how to treat them when they're not. In this e-seminar, Benjamin H. Lewis, M.D., associate professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and a practicing cardiologist, teaches medical consumers about their hearts. "The Healthy Heart," a multimedia excerpt from the e-seminar, uses medical illustrations, audio, Flash animation, and authentic diagnostic imagery to illustrate how the healthy heart functions—how it circulates blood throughout the body while maintaining its own health.

Using clear, simple language enhanced by medical illustrations and diagnostic imagery, Dr. Lewis introduces users to their hearts. He begins by diagramming how the healthy heart functions—how it circulates blood throughout the body while maintaining its own health. Dr. Lewis then looks how to best care for the heart, detailing the range of available diagnostic tools, significant differences in diagnosing and treating women versus men, and optimal preventative measures. Finally, Dr. Lewis takes an in-depth look at how to treat some of the leading forms of heart disease, including coronary artery disease, valvular diseases, and hypertension.

Columbia Learning Experiences

Medical Ecology: Environmental Disturbance and Disease
E-Seminar 1, Normal Environment: How Things Got This Way

Taught by: Dickson Despommier

In an age characterized by a rapidly changing environment, in which emerging and re-emerging diseases continue to confront us, how can we predict the next major threats to human health? Are we, in fact, aiding the spread of disease by destroying the barriers that keep us from it? In his eight e-seminars on Medical Ecology: Environmental Disturbance and the Origins of Disease, Columbia Professor of Public Health and Microbiology Dickson Despommier illuminates the connections between the disruption of ecosystems and eruptions of human disease. In this first of eight parts, Normal Environment: How Things Got This Way, Despommier explains the interconnectedness of life on earth by exploring the evolution of life itself, and the cycles of nutrients that link us to all the other life on the planet.

Minimal prior knowledge of science is required for this course, including basic concepts of atoms, molecules, and cells.
Columbia Learning Experiences

Medical Ecology: Environmental Disturbance and Disease
E-Seminar 2, Normal Environment: The Way Things Are Now

Taught by: Dickson Despommier

In an age characterized by a rapidly changing environment, in which emerging and re-emerging diseases continue to confront us, how can we predict the next major threats to human health? Are we, in fact, aiding the spread of disease by destroying the barriers that keep us from it? In his eight seminars on Medical Ecology: Environmental Disturbance and Disease, Columbia Professor of Public Health and Microbiology Dickson Despommier illuminates the connections between the disruption of ecosystems and eruptions of human disease. In this second of the eight parts, Normal Environment: The Way Things Are Now, Despommier describes the producer-consumer interactions that drive ecosystems, the types and characteristics of ecoregions of the world, and the often undervalued "free" services (and attempts assign them a value) that ecosystems provide for us.

Columbia Learning Experiences

Medical Ecology: Environmental Disturbance and Disease
E-Seminar 3, Normal Environment: Stratospheric Problems

Taught by: Dickson Despommier

In an age characterized by a rapidly changing environment, in which emerging and re-emerging diseases continue to confront us, how can we predict the next major threats to human health? Are we, in fact, aiding the spread of disease by destroying the barriers that keep us from it? In his eight seminars on "Medical Ecology: Environmental Disturbance and Disease," Columbia Professor of Public Health and Microbiology Dickson Despommier illuminates the connections between the disruption of ecosystems and eruptions of human disease. In this second of the eight parts, "Normal Environment: The Way Things Are Now," Despommier describes the producer-consumer interactions that drive ecosystems, the types and characteristics of ecoregions of the world, and the often undervalued "free" services (and attempts assign them a value) that ecosystems provide for us.

Columbia Learning Experiences

The Politics of Health Care
E-Seminar 1, The Roots of Health Care in the United States

Taught by: Michael S. Sparer

Although many Americans express concern and often anger about the state of the nation's health-care system, far too few of us understand why and how the system functions. In this six-part e-seminar series, Michael S. Sparer, associate professor of public health at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, demystifies health care in the United States.

In this first e-seminar, Professor Sparer exposes the foundations of health care in the United States. He looks at how America's culture of independence and innate distrust of government inspired the nation's early reliance on market solutions for health-care provision. Beginning with the American Revolution and continuing through World War II, the e-seminar offers a fascinating look at how health care evolved from the birth of the nation to the cusp of the modern era.

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The Politics of Health Care
E-Seminar 2, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Legacy of the New Deal

Taught by: Michael S. Sparer

Most Americans get their health-care insurance through their employers. But what happens to those Americans who fall outside this system? What happens to the unemployed, the elderly, and the disabled, and to employees who do not receive health insurance from their employers? Who pays for their health care?

Michael S. Sparer, Associate Professor of Public Health at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, addresses these questions in the second e-seminar in his six-part series The Politics of Health Care. Professor Sparer introduces Medicare and Medicaid, the two leading public health-insurance programs. Today, Medicare provides health insurance to around 39 million low-income Americans at an annual cost of $217 billion, while Medicaid covers 40 million elderly and disabled Americans at a cost of more than $200 billion. Professor Sparer explores how these programs came to be enacted, looking at the legacy of the New Deal as a counter to America's cultural preference for limited government. Finally, he focuses on each program in detail, explaining how Medicare and Medicaid are funded and administered, whom they aid, and how the programs have evolved since their enactment in 1965.

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The Politics of Health Care
E-Seminar 3, The Uninsured

Taught by: Michael S. Sparer

Today, more than 40 million Americans lack health insurance—increasing their risk of receiving poor-quality health care and of becoming ill. The uninsured in America are less likely to receive necessary diagnostic tests and more likely to forego recommended therapies. For example, uninsured children are less likely to be treated for ear infections than children who have health insurance. Similarly, uninsured women are less likely to undergo regular mammograms to screen for breast cancer, while uninsured men are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer at a later stage of the disease.

So who are the uninsured? How do they fall between America's private, employer-sponsored health-insurance system and government-sponsored programs such as Medicare and Medicaid? In the third e-seminar in his six-part series, The Politics of Health Care, Michael S. Sparer, associate professor of public health at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, focuses on the plight of the uninsured in the United States. He reveals the current composition of America's uninsured population and examines the health and financial consequences of lacking health insurance. Finally, Professor Sparer reviews previous attempts to aid the uninsured and explores current proposals intended to reduce their ranks.

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These learning experiences were developed by Fathom in cooperation with Columbia University, and are hosted by Fathom. They are typically one hour or less in length, and are offered free of charge.

End-of-Life Decisions
Taught by: Kenneth Prager , Stephan Mayer , Julia Quinlan , Tikva Frymer-Kensky , Brian Lehrer

In this e-seminar experts on end-of-life issues discuss the ethics of deciding when to prolong the lives of patients. They debate the relative merits of living wills and whether a person can ever predict the scenario of death in sufficient detail to provide doctors with helpful guidelines. Presented as a lively debate, this e-seminar addresses many of the fundamental bioethical and legal questions that all doctors, patients and families will face when making informed end-of-life decisions.

Columbia Learning ExperiencesFathom

Women's Health: Not For Women Only
Taught by: Marianne J. Legato, M.D.

Until recently, medical understanding of women's health stemmed largely from research on men--their anatomy, disease progressions and drug interactions. But women are not "little men." Differences between men and women extend to every system in the body. This e-seminar describes how gender-specific medicine can improve medical care for both men and women.

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