Upcoming Event

Sabrina Sholts at Harvard Book Store


The Human Disease:
How We Create Pandemics,
from Our Bodies to Our Beliefs

in conversation with DR. LARRY MADOFF


May 1, 2024
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes SABRINA SHOLTS—curator of biological anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History—for a discussion of her new book The Human Disease: How We Create Pandemics, from Our Bodies to Our Beliefs. She will be joined in conversation by DR. LARRY MADOFF—Medical Director of the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

About The Human Disease

The COVID-19 pandemic won’t be our last—because what makes us vulnerable to pandemics also makes us human. That is the uncomfortable but all-too-timely message of The Human Disease, which travels through history and around the globe to examine how and why pandemics are an inescapable threat of our own making. Drawing on dozens of disciplines—from medicine, epidemiology, and microbiology to anthropology, sociology, ecology, and neuroscience—as well as a unique expertise in public education about pandemic risks, biological anthropologist Sabrina Sholts identifies the human traits and tendencies that double as pandemic liabilities, from the anatomy that defines us to the misperceptions that divide us.

Weaving together a wealth of personal experiences, scientific findings, and historical stories, Sholts brings dramatic and much-needed clarity to one of the most profound challenges we face as a species. Though the COVID-19 pandemic looms large in Sholts’s account, it is, in fact, just one of the many infectious disease events explored in The Human Disease. With its expansive, evolutionary perspective, the book explains how humanity will continue to face new pandemics because humans cause them, by the ways that we are and the things that we do. By recognizing our risks, Sholts suggests, we can take actions to reduce them. When the next pandemic happens, and how bad it becomes, are largely within our highly capable human hands—and will be determined by what we do with our extraordinary human brains.

Praise for The Human Disease

“COVID-19 taught us how the public health impact of pandemics is only a beginning, as they also affect social stability, the security of nations, and a globalized economy. As a distinguished anthropologist, Dr. Sholts provides a unique perspective on how pandemics cause such dramatic shifts in human activity.” —Peter J. Hotez, Professor and Dean, National School of Tropical Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine; author of The Deadly Rise of Anti-Science: A Scientist’s Warning

“This is an outstanding history, well and clearly written, which will give you a new perspective on infectious disease, the interaction of pathogens, and both the human body and human cultures—and what we can expect in the future.” —John M. Barry, author of The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

“A winning combination of a scientist’s scrutiny, a storyteller’s verve, and an anthropologist’s eye, The Human Disease is an enthralling, evolutionary, fresh take on how we nurture pandemics, and how we should deal with them.” —Adam Rutherford, University College London; author of A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold through Our Genes and How to Argue with a Racist: What Our Genes Do (and Don't) Say about Human Difference

Masking Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Dr. Larry Madoff
Dr. Larry Madoff

Dr. Larry Madoff

Dr. Larry Madoff is an infectious disease physician specializing in the epidemiology of emerging pathogens, bacterial pathogenesis, and international health.  He is Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts-Chan Medical School and Lecturer on Medicine at Harvard Medical School.  Dr. Madoff serves as Medical Director of the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  He is an attending physician on the infectious disease service at UMass Memorial Medical Center. He is co-Principal Investigator for the New England Pathogen Genomics Center of Excellence.

Dr. Madoff directed the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases (ProMED), from 2002 to 2021 and is Editor Emeritus. He is a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society, past President of the U.S. Lancefield Streptococcal Research Society, a Fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians. A graduate of Yale College and Tufts Medical School, he performed his Internal Medicine Residency at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center and his Infectious Disease Fellowship at the Harvard Medical School-Longwood program.  Dr. Madoff is the recipient of the 2021 D.A. Henderson Award for Outstanding Contributions to Public Health from the Infectious Disease Society of America.

Sabrina Sholts
Sabrina Sholts

Sabrina Sholts

Sabrina Sholts is the curator of biological anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, where she developed the major exhibit Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World. She has also served as a scientific commissioner for a related exhibition at the Musée des Confluences in Lyon, France.

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