Over the last two years, Americans have experienced firsthand the disruptions and new realities that have accompanied the greatest public health crisis of the 21st century. Few of us, however, understand that such pandemic crises have a long history in our country, and have impacted the course of events in profound ways. On Saturday, April 23, 2022, the Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society will host a symposium entitled “Pandemics in American History: Lessons to Be Learned.” Supported by a grant from the New Mexico Humanities Council, the event will be held in the New Deal Theater, located at Fort Bayard National Historic Landmark, six miles east of Silver City. The symposium will begin at 1 p.m., and is free to the public.

Dr. John Bell, a well known and highly respected local physician will lead off the symposium’s program with a discussion of the impact of smallpox from colonial days into the 20th century. Following  Bell’s presentation, Professors Charnelle Lee and Fran Driver, nursing program faculty from Western New Mexico University, will present a talk on the effects of the COVID pandemic on nursing education and the relationships of nursing to patients and their families.

Bell will continue the program with a presentation on the struggle to treat and contain tuberculosis, which is directly connected to the history of Fort Bayard. This informative session will include information on how tuberculosis was diagnosed, and how that changed over time. Dr. Bell will particularly emphasize how Army medical personnel approached the diagnosis and treatment at Fort Bayard, whose mission was transformed from a frontier military post to the Army’s first tuberculosis hospital, beginning in 1899.

Dr. Laura Davenport Reed, the Medical Director at Fort Bayard Hospital, will present a talk on the challenges of managing a long-term care nursing facility during a pandemic.

Brenda Montoya Denison, who serves as the Tuberculosis Program Manager of the Infectious Disease Bureau, Public Health Division, New Mexico Department of Health, will provide up-to-date information on the status of the disease in today’s world. Based in Santa Fe, Denison holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and RN licensure.

Doug Dinwiddie of the FBHPS will serve as moderator the event. He is Professor emeritus of history, and will offer historical context on pandemics and their place in national history.

The final program schedule will be available on the FBHPS website www.historicfortbayard.org , by early April.

Additional information may be obtained by calling Dinwiddie at 575-388-4862, or Dr. Bell at 575-388-4477.

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