KGI, Jonas Salk Legacy Foundation to host exclusive screening of 'The Shot Felt 'Round the World'
With polio in the news again, new documentary reveals the untold story behind the development of the Salk vaccine
Eradication of a human disease is an achievement of colossal proportions and one which has been achieved only once before - with smallpox in 1979. Despite the recent vaccination ban imposed by a Taliban leader in Pakistan, we are tantalizingly close to eradicating polio. Although the disease killed or paralyzed more than 350,000 children each year in the 1980s, the latest figures from the World Health Organization show only 121 cases of polio caused by circulating viruses so far in 2012. And, as of this past January, India went a full year without recording a new case of circulating polio. If successful, the campaign can trace its origins back to 1955 - the year the polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk and his research team was declared safe and effective.
On September 9, at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA, the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences and the Jonas Salk Legacy Foundation will present an exclusive preview screening of 'The Shot Felt 'Round the World,' a new documentary film about Salk and the nation's crusade to develop a polio vaccine. Not only does the film help us to understand the significance of what Salk and his team achieved, but the lessons learned in the fight to stamp out the polio epidemics that plagued the U.S. in the first half of the 20th century also apply to efforts being made to control or eradicate diseases that affect many Americans today, such as HIV/AIDS.
"The film does a superb job of connecting the research lab with 'real life'," KGI President Schuster said. "Dr. Salk was working in an environment in which mothers were scared to let their children go to the local swimming pool or a movie theater for fear that they might contract a disease that could kill or cripple them. The end result of his research had a dramatic effect on the lives of millions of people. Today, there are scientists and researchers employed in all areas of the life sciences whose work could have a similar impact on society."
Focusing on the less widely known events surrounding the development of the polio vaccine and following a ticking clock format, the film features interviews with people closely connected with Salk and his University of Pittsburgh research team whose stories have never before been documented. In fact, the discovery of so many "untold stories" in the fight against the "summer plague" was one of the driving forces behind the making of the film.
Carl Kurlander, a University of Pittsburgh visiting film professor, and his students first had the opportunity to hear some of these stories during an event marking the 50th anniversary of the polio vaccine, at which one of Jonas Salk's sons, Dr. Peter Salk, was speaking. Kurlander, aided by his students, then made it his mission to bring to light the stories of these everyday heroes - like Judy Wright, a nurse at the D.T. Watson Home for Crippled Children, or Martha Hunter, "Pittsburgh Polio Pioneer." The film also includes interviews with those who were at the epicenter of Salk's research, such as Dr. Julius Youngner, senior scientist in the Salk lab.
"I think that my father was successful in part because of his unflappable determination and overwhelming optimism," Peter Salk said. "He would look at a problem, whether it was polio or poverty, and approach it from the perspective that it should be fixed and that it can be fixed. I think many people at the time, such as the nurses, doctors and March of Dimes fundraising volunteers who pulled together in the effort to develop and test the vaccine, shared this view."
The film will be accompanied by a panel discussion on global health policy, modern-day concerns about vaccines, and the significance of Salk's vaccine in medical history, as well as the challenges facing documentary filmmakers today. The panel will include Drs. Peter and Jonathan Salk; Tjardus Greidanus, the film's director-editor, who has written, directed and edited HBO specials and DVD content for such films as Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous" and Michael Mann's "Collateral"; and producer Laura Davis, who has produced "behind-the-scenes" documentaries for some of the world's most respected directors, including Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese and Mike Nichols. The discussion will be moderated by KGI President Dr. Sheldon Schuster.
The admission price of $50 covers entrance to the Huntington's grounds and exhibitions (a $23 value), screening of "The Shot Felt 'Round the World" and a catered reception. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (909) 607-0179 for questions or to purchase tickets.