Sunday, November 23, 2008

infectious disease ditty

Leprosy....I'm not half the man I used to be..." A line from Dr. Helen Conrad Davies' song--a ditty she adapted for the purpose of teaching infectious diseases. Helen has long been famous for this course. Apparently every other class or so she sings a song about the disease at hand. I've known Helen for years -- have great respect for her as a reformist teacher and community-maker within the Med School world here at Penn. For one thing, she was the first woman to be hired in microbiology here and has been a pioneer in efforts to make life easy, or at least equitably hard, for women on the faculty. She has for years lived in one of the college houses here, spending whatever time it takes to help lost, confused, even homesick undergrads.

I'd been hearing about her songs for years, and then our Narrative Medicine group, "Word.Doc," invited her to the Writers House to lead a discussion in disease prevention. Of course she sang her songs. A new Kelly Writers House podcast features her intro to leprosy and then a sing-along, to the tune of the Beatles' "Yesterday."

Factlet: "Yesterday" is the most covered song in the history of music. There are some 3,000 versions recorded.


1. Writers House podcasts
2. the mp3 recording
3. the KWH calendar entry, which includes a brief bio profile of Helen Davies