“A Modern Contagion: Cholera’s Impact on Iranian History” by Amir Afkhami

Amir A. Afkhami presents an overview of pandemic cholera’s seminal role in the emergence and development of modernity in Iran during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This includes details on cholera’s transformative impact on the country’s governance and perspectives on medicine, disease, and public health. It also sheds light on how cholera shaped Iran’s globalization and diplomacy and how it triggered revolutionary events such as the Tobacco Protest and the Constitutional Revolution. His presentation challenges the long held historical assumptions on the universal role of safe water and sanitation in ending the recurrence and severity of cholera and shape our discussion around what Iran’s historical experience with cholera can teach us about contemporary public health questions.

Amir A. Afkhami, MD, PhD, is an associate professor with joint appointments in psychiatry, global health, and history at the George Washington University. He is also the director of preclinical psychiatric education at the George Washington University School of Medicine. Afkhami’s doctoral level education in both history and medicine has allowed him to take a multidisciplinary approach to historical scholarship and contemporary challenges in public health as an advisor to the U.S. Departments of State, Defense, and the U.S. Senate. He planned and led the U.S. State Department’s Iraq Mental Health Initiative to rebuild Iraq’s mental health delivery capabilities. He also served on the legislative staff of US Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), where he helped with the development and passage of the Excellence in Mental Health Act. Prior to joining GWU, Afkhami was a lecturer in the global history of public health at Yale University.

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