MTSU Professor to Lead October 13 Lunch & Learn at Tennessee State Museum on Outbreaks and Media


MTSU Professor Katie Foss, Ph.D

The Tennessee State Museum will host “Constructing Outbreaks in Tennessee: How Disease Shaped the Volunteer State,” a free luncheon on October 13 with Katie Foss, Ph.D., professor at Middle Tennessee State University, leading a discussion on the history of epidemics and the media, with emphasis on Tennessee.

This special event will be presented both in person and online from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, October 13 at the Tennessee State Museum, located at 1000 Rosa L. Park Blvd. at Jefferson Street in the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park or at

From his recent book, “Building the epidemic: epidemics in the media and collective memoryFoss will take participants on a hyperlocal exploration of the epidemics that have deeply shaped Tennessee history.

From the threat of dysentery and typhoid to the soldiers of the Civil War – to the steamboats that brought yellow fever to Memphis – to the outbreaks of Spanish flu statewide – to the increase in polio cases that urged Elizabethton to ban children from public places, the discussion will examine how the media of the day captured the public’s reaction.

Historical examples of wacky medicine advertisements as well as how the media conveyed panic and relief as normal life finally returned will be among the topics covered at this lunchtime event.

Foss will share local newspaper articles, advertisements and other media artifacts that have preserved people’s experiences during past public health emergencies.

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Foss is Professor of Media Studies at MTSU’s School of Journalism and Strategic Media, where she teaches courses in health communication and television culture. She holds a PhD in Mass Communication from the University of Minnesota and is the author of several publications, including “Breastfeeding and the Media: Exploring Conflicting Discourses That Threaten Public Health and Television and Health Responsibility in an Age of Individualism ”.

She is also editor-in-chief of “Beyond Princess Culture: Gender and Children’s Marketing” and “Demystifying the Big House: Exploring Prison Experience and Media Representations”.

Numerous national and international media including The New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, US News and World Report, The Washington Post, USA Today, DobréNoviny (Slovakia), Wissenschafts Kommunikation (Germany) and CTV News (Canada) interviewed Foss and presented his comments on health communications and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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