Polio Wars: Sister Kenny and the Golden Age of American Medicine

Hardcover | October 31, 2013

byNaomi Rogers

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During World War II, polio epidemics in the United States were viewed as the country's "other war at home": they could be neither predicted nor contained, and paralyzed patients faced disability in a world unfriendly to the disabled. These realities were exacerbated by the medical community'senforced orthodoxy in treating the disease, treatments that generally consisted of ineffective therapies. Polio Wars is the story of Sister Elizabeth Kenny - "Sister" being a reference to her status as a senior nurse, not a religious designation - who arrived in the US from Australia in 1940 espousing an unorthodox approach to the treatment of polio. Kenny approached the disease as a non-neurologicalaffliction, championing such novel therapies as hot packs and muscle exercises in place of splinting, surgery, and immobilization. Her care embodied a different style of clinical practice, one of optimistic, patient-centered treatments that gave hope to desperate patients and families. The Kenny method, initially dismissed by the US medical establishment, gained overwhelming support over the ensuing decade, including the endorsement of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (today's March of Dimes), America's largest disease philanthropy. By 1952, a Gallup Poll identifiedSister Kenny as most admired woman in America, and she went on to serve as an expert witness at Congressional hearings on scientific research, a foundation director, and the subject of a Hollywood film. Kenny breached professional and social mores, crafting a public persona that blended FlorenceNightingale and Marie Curie. By the 1980s, following the discovery of the Salk and Sabin vaccines and the March of Dimes' withdrawal from polio research, most Americans had forgotten polio, its therapies, and Sister Kenny. In examining this historical arc and the public's process of forgetting, Naomi Rogers presents Kenny assomeone worth remembering. Sister Kenny recalls both the passion and the practices of clinical care and explores them in their own terms.

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During World War II, polio epidemics in the United States were viewed as the country's "other war at home": they could be neither predicted nor contained, and paralyzed patients faced disability in a world unfriendly to the disabled. These realities were exacerbated by the medical community'senforced orthodoxy in treating the disease, ...

Naomi Rogers, PhD, is a tenured Associate Professor in the Program for the History of Science and Medicine at Yale University where she teaches medical students, undergraduates and graduate students.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:400 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:October 31, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195380592

ISBN - 13:9780195380590

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Table of Contents

IntroductionPart One1. A Bush Nurse in America2. The Battle Begins3. Changing Clinical CarePart Two4. Polio and Disability Politics5. The Polio Wars6. CelluloidPart Three7. Kenny Goes to Washington8. Fading Glory9. I Knew Sister Kenny