The Pest Hospital: Memory, Vaccines, and Serum Therapy in Kansas City

Perri Klass, Martha Gershun

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    A medical narrative from a woman in her 90s describes her childhood bout with diphtheria in Kansas City, Missouri, apparently immediately after vaccination, her confinement in the “pest hospital,” and her treatment with what she understood as a blood transfusion from a donor who was found through a radio appeal. In this essay, we trace the narrative back to the institutions, medical practices, and historical context, examining both the underlying history of medical practice and scientific understanding that is reflected in her experience and also the contexts of that history, including racial and religious attitudes.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)401-407
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of Medical Humanities
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Sep 2023


    • Antiserum
    • Contagion
    • Diphtheria
    • Medical history
    • Medical narrative
    • Pediatrics
    • Scarlet fever
    • Serum therapy
    • Vaccination

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Health(social science)
    • Health Policy


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