Campus News


Disease and Disease Control in Eras of Globalization Conference

Aliso Viejo, CA - A conference On Disease and Disease Control in Eras of Globalization convened in Soka University’s Athenaeum on September 22 and 23. Under the sponsorship of the Office of Academic Affairs and co-organized by Professors Ian Read and Michael Weiner, the conference brought together scholars in the sciences, the social sciences and the humanities from across the United States to explore three interrelated assumptions regarding disease. 

The first assumption explored by the conference was that disease must be defined in order to control it as it can be elusive and politically contentious or it can be painfully obvious and leave no room for debate. Disease can also be intimate and private, or it may sweep across continents with devastating consequences. The second assumption was that disease is often defined by its control, whether that control comes by the speedy and private puncture of a needle, the administration of a medication, or the call to marshal an army against a widespread threat. The final assumption was that disease and its control are products of history that are best understood in their eras and not confined to the local or global.

The conference featured two keynote addresses, “Four Turning Points in the Treatment of HIV/AIDS,” which was delivered by John Lesch, University of California, Berkeley, on Friday, and “35 years of HIV/AIDS:  A Symphony of Humanity, Policy, Science, and Health Care in the Fight against HIV/AIDS, by Navid Madani, Harvard University,” on Saturday. The keynotes were each followed by presentations and panel discussions including Slavery, Disease and their Legacies, Disease and Disease Control in the Pacific Basin, and Foodborne Pathogens, Metabolic Diseases, and Human Conflict: Soka Scholarship on Health and Wellbeing. 

The informative and lively panel discussants and presenters from Soka included Professors Zahra Afrasiabi, Lisa Crummett, Robert Hamersley, Edward Lowe, James O’Neil Spady, and Seiji Takaku, as well as co-organizers Weiner and Read. Scholars also participated from California State University, Fullerton, Chapman University, Rice University, Harvard University and University of California, Berkeley. Several of the Soka panelists or discussants had also presented different but related papers at “The shape of Global Disease,” a similarly themed conference hosted by Cal State Fullerton in February. Regarding the strengthening of academic bonds with neighboring California institutions, Professor Read said, “This points to an unusual and highly beneficial collaboration between SUA and CSUF, also involving Chapman.”  

Well attended by scholars and students alike, the conference was an especially valuable experience for SUA students. “It provided our students with an opportunity to not only participate in an academic conference, but to gain a greater appreciation of the scholarship of SUA faculty,” Professor Weiner said. “It also provided faculty with an opportunity to engage and network with peers across the United States,” he added. 

Participants were pleased with the range of scholarship in papers and discussions. “The quality of the presentations reflected the value of interdisciplinary research in providing a holistic critical analysis of the challenges that confront all peoples in the 21st century,” Professor Read said.  Co-organizers Read and Weiner and Soka faculty agreed that the Conference served as a model for future conferences workshops and symposia at SUA.