Ashley's Reviews > Polio: An American Story

Polio by David M. Oshinsky
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Apr 04, 10

bookshelves: history, work-public-health
Recommended for: students, history buffs, public health workers,
Read from March 19 to April 04, 2010, read count: 1

I just adored this book. Non-fiction accounts of medical research as a page-turner? Yes, please! Oshinsky masterfully discusses polio in its medical, political, and social context. I found the history of March of Dimes fascinating-- I had no idea about Basil O'Conner and his reasons for pursing polio (or that he was drafted into the cause sort of against his will). Their use of PR techniques for medical advocacy was fascinating and clearly set the blueprint for much medical funding today. Also, I had no idea about the rivalry between Sabine and Salk or just how much of a scientific-outsider Salk really was. Finally, I was glad to see that Oshinsky discussed how polio impacted different communities (e.g. racial groups and income levels) before and after the introduction of the vaccine. The shift of polio from a middle-class to "inner-city" disease, and the corresponding loss of interest and funding, also has parallels today.

Anyway, I much preferred it to <The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History. Oshinsky's take on the polio virus covers much the same ground: medical researchers, public health, etc. However, in this book the narrative remains focused and substantially more coherent. Every word in Oshinsky's book counts-- it's very well written.
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Reading Progress

03/19/2010 page 50
13.59% "So good! I'm wanting to flag nearly every page!"
03/21/2010 page 171
46.47% "This is a fascinating read: the people and the era are clearly rendered. The author talks public health and history with skill!! Love it."
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