LectureHop: Less Than Kind, More Than Lipkin
Written by Bwog Staff
Last Friday at noon, our Diva of Diseases Briana Last bopped over to the John Jay Lounge to listen to Dr. Ian Lipkin, a scientifically and cinematographic-ally relevant person, talk about epidemics.
The aphorism, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” rang all too true last Friday, when the cost of eating room temperature pasta was an hour and a half of boredom. The event, “A Conversation with W. Ian Lipkin,” was sponsored by various undergraduate health organizations, including Community Health House, Journal of Global Health, GlobeMed, and Health Leads. In addition to being a big deal scientifically, Lipkin consulted for Contagion, the 2011 medical thriller, keeping it accurate. But the promise that Professor Lipkin would “discuss the potential for deadly outbreaks and how the scientific community is working to stop them” fell quite flat.
Instead, an audience of about forty students, many of whom began to shuffle out of the John Jay Lounge even as the event began, sat to watch about thirty discontinuous minutes of Contagion. The screening felt more like a way to pass time, as each scene didn’t feel particularly relevant to the discussion which followed. When Lipkin finally sat down to talk, rather than delving into the science of deadly outbreaks, he dove into topics which he himself admitted were on the “fluffy” side. After a brief explanation as to why he was moved to get involved in a post-apocalyptic film, he described the efforts he had to go through to maintain the oft-praised scientific accuracy of Contagion.
He then began describing the making of the movie and what each actor was like on the set, details than an audience interested in public health and the supposed topics of the discussion would seem to find irrelevant. Dr. Lipkin added some funny nuances about the actors in the film, like the fact that most of the cast didn’t research their parts, that he got to speak with Jennifer Ehle while she was breastfeeding, and that Gwyneth Paltrow was “not normal.” “I don’t know what she is,” he continued, “she shows up on set, doesn’t talk to anybody, gets her lines, perfectly, she’s a pro, there’s no question. When she’s done, she’s gone. She doesn’t talk to you, she doesn’t make any small talk.” However entertaining these details were, they departed from the issues which the audience seemed eager to discuss.
The students finally got their due during the much longer question and answer session where Dr. Lipkin really got to talk about his ideas. They probed him for hard hitting answers regarding funding for scientists and the relationship between vaccine inventors with pharmaceutical companies. But these last moments did not make up for the relatively underwhelming talk the doctor gave about his filmmaking experience, which came off as more self-aggrandizing than informative.
Dramatic pipet usage via Wikimedia Commons
Tags: contagion, freaky friday references are always better than rebecca black dead horse abuse, friday is our day of rest, lecturehop, paging dr lipschitz, what do you expect at noon on a friday, what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real—lecturehops