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Students Respond to BookRevue: "Mountains Beyond Mountains"

September 07, 2007

Category: Academics, Events, Students


Felicia YoungbloodBookRevue, "Soup for the Soul"
by Felicia Youngblood of Rural Hall, N.C., a member of Catawba's Class of 2011

As a surplus of 300 Catawba College students crowded into Hedrick Little Theatre on campus Tuesday, Sept. 4, for a simple book revue on the 2007 required first-year common reading, "Mountains Beyond Mountains" by Tracy Kidder, they believed that they were in for a simple, as Dr. Sheila Brownlow, psychology professor, put it, "intellectual introduction to college study."   However, each student who attended left with not only a better understanding of the book and the doctors who had so kindly volunteered to participate in the presentation, but with a better understanding of themselves and where they stood in relation to those who have given of themselves to help better the world.

Five panelists provided insights and perspectives related to their experiences in travel overseas to treat people in poor countries during a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Philip Acree Cavalier, the College's dean of general education, associate professor of English, and director of the First-Year Experience. Panelists included Dr. Christopher J. Magryta, a pediatrician and integrative medicine physician at Salisbury Pediatrics; Dr. John Reynolds, an ophthalmologist at Piedmont Eye Physicians in Salisbury and his wife Patsy, a former professor of Latin at Catawba; Dr. William Brinkley, a member of Carolina Oncology Associates of Salisbury; and Dr. Steven Coggin, chair and professor of Catawba's Department of Biology.

The BookRevue began with an overview of infectious diseases. Each student listened in awe as he or she learned that malaria kills one million people each year, TB takes a deathly toll on two million people per year, and HIV/AIDS killed a colossal 3.1 million people in 2004. The Revue then became more personal, with each panelist sharing his or her own personal experience in the battle for health and joy in Third World countries.  

Each story was extremely personal and very helpful in informing the students that many sacrifices can be made in order to help those less fortunate, but every sacrifice is worth it in the end. As Dr. Brinkley, a doctor who deals with anything from malnutrition to pneumonia in his travels to Guatemala, so eloquently said, "I can never repay them [those of whom he has helped] for what they've given back to me."   Without a doubt, everyone in the room was enthralled as each story slowly tugged at the heartstrings and educated the listeners on exactly how much could be done to aid people who were used to living without shoes, drinking dirty water, and walking for days on end just to reach a below-the-"normal"-standard clinic.

Every fact and personal experience discussed during BookRevue had a great impact on the freshman class of Catawba College and pushed us students to ask what we can do as individuals to help better our community, our country, and the world. The BookRevue helped us to realize that it is not imperative for us to earn a doctorate to assist those who are less fortunate. We walked out of Hedrick Little Theatre with the determination that as individuals, as members of the freshman class, and furthermore, as students at Catawba College, we have the opportunity to change the world.


Faron BrazisFrom Book to Reality at BookRevue
by Faron Brazis of Salisbury, N.C., a member of Catawba Class of 2011

At Catawba's third annual BookRevue, Tracy Kidder's book, "Mountains Beyond Mountains," was the topic. Never before have I experienced a piece of literature come to life like this.

"Mountains Beyond Mountains" is about the life and experiences of Paul Farmer, a physician who has dedicated his life to helping those less fortunate in the disease-ridden country of Haiti. Kidder describes the life in Haiti, and the relationship between Farmer and the native residents.

As a reader, one cannot truly understand what life is like. We can get a vague idea as to what it's like and begin to empathize on that level, but to truly understand is a mountain beyond anyone's grasp. Listening to the experiences from the panelists brought me up to the level of Kidder. I felt my grasp of this book becoming stronger with each panelist's story and how their work in Third World nations affected them. The painful reality of life outside my comfort zone struck me during this event and I hung on to every word the panelists spoke not wanting to believe the truth.

To grasp the severity of the culture shock these physicians experienced goes way beyond the physical environment described in Kidders book. The emotional devastation they encountered is of unfathomable amounts. One story in particular stood out -- a physician diagnosed a curable problem in an infant only to realize the mother could not afford to do anything but wait for the child's death. This brought emotions upon me that I may never be able accurately put into words.

The analysis of "Mountains Beyond Mountains" was like listening to Kidder lecture and coming to understand how he must have felt when he was in Haiti. The amount of dedication these physicians displayed makes it easer to understand the doctor-patient relationships and the love and appreciation exchanged throughout the book. The panelists gave their point of views on the book while adding further insight as to why they participate in helping others.

These physicians are making a difference in the world one person at a time while incurring new opportunities and gaining experiences of life-changing proportion. The overall presentation, a free flowing discussion between minds, allowed me to understand Paul Farmer and appreciate his character profoundly.

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Editor's Note:
"Mountains Beyond Mountains" by Pulitzer Prize Winner Tracy Kidder is the story about Dr. Paul Farmer's quest to "cure the world."   Farmer, a Harvard-trained physician spends most of his time and money to address the problem of rampant infectious diseases in the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, Haiti. One theme of the book is how one man's indefatigable energy and calling in life combine to change the lives of those who desperately need help.
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BookRevue is just one of several planned co-curricularEvents at Catawba College that will enhance the students' discussion of this text in first-year seminar classes during first semester and during the Consilium seminar on globalization which first-year students will take during the second semester. Understanding of the book will be part of a year-long common experience for these students.


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