G.R.E.A.T Day to host medical journalist as keynote speaker

The eighth annual Geneseo Recognizing Excellence, Achievement & Talent Day will be held Tuesday April 8, during which keynote speaker Sheri Fink will discuss her book Five Days at Memorial. According to Fink, her book covers the events that occurred at a hospital during Hurricane Katrina. A culmination of six years of reporting, the book explains what happened at the hospital during and after the storm as some health professionals faced criminal charges suggesting they injected drugs into patients in order to accelerate their deaths.

“This is one of the most compelling real-life stories I’ve reported on. It has a bigger message. It’s a very dramatic story of what happened at a specific hospital, and I took a larger story of what we can take from this and how we can be prepared,” Fink said in a phone interview.

Fink credits her unusual career path for allowing her to research this story. She studied medicine in school, but following graduation, she took time off to travel to Bosnia, which took her in another direction. She then wrote War Hospital, focusing on the dilemmas faced by physicians in Bosnia.

“Because of my background in medical work, I was drawn in,” Fink said. “The topic is really important to look at because these are obviously things we need to know about before the next disaster.”

The keynote speaker is chosen in the fall, according to Patty Hamilton-Rodgers, coordinator of G.R.E.A.T. Day. She sends an email to faculty and staff requesting nominations for speakers. This year, Hamilton-Rodgers received 25 nominations, and two different faculty members nominated Fink.

After receiving the nominations, Hamilton-Rodgers compiles half-page paragraphs of information on each person, which are then given to the Faculty Advisory Council. They then review the nominees, selecting their top seven and then their top five candidates. From here, Hamilton-Rodgers begins contacting the top options.

She explained that, this year, the Student Association Director of Academic Affairs senior Effie Barbagiannis was involved in the decision process as a representative of the student body’s voice.

“We like to have different disciplines represented. We wouldn’t want to bring two speakers in a row from biology or humanities, for example,” Hamilton-Rogers said. “We look for overall appeal. We want to provide students with the opportunity to interact with a scholarly researcher.”

Geneseo alumni Jack and Carol Kramer ‘76 established an endowment five years ago that provides funds for the G.R.E.A.T. Day expenses, which finances the keynote speaker.

Fink said she is looking forward to meeting as many students as she can. She feels that colleges are interested in her book because it crosses disciplines and different fields including health science, law, ethics, climate change and philosophy.

“I’m so excited. [Geneseo was] one of the first schools that chose to embrace Five Days at Memorial and have an interest to expose students to ideas in the book,” Fink said. “There are no people more capable to take lessons of the recent past and apply them to the future than students.” υ