FORUM Vol. 39, No. 26; March 30, 2015


CRP concludes year with author visit

The author of the Community Reading Project selection said the events brought to life in her book were not unique and she hopes readers draw from them to learn and prepare for future disasters.

Sheri Fink, author of “Five Days at Memorial,” spoke at the Kirkhof Center March 25, highlighting a year’s worth of CRP events around her book. Fink also gave a presentation March 24 at the Herrick District Library in Holland.

The book takes readers through a week at a New Orleans hospital during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Fink exposes the hidden dilemmas of end-of-life care while revealing how ill-prepared many major hospitals are for large-scale natural disasters.

Health care workers at Memorial Hospital struggled to care for the 250 patients at their facility when the hurricane struck. Fink said a number of factors, including ethical decisions about patient triage, power failures and lack of leadership led to a decision to “begin hastening the deaths” of some patients.

Sheri Fink

Photo by Dianne Carroll Burdick

Sheri Fink gives a presentation about her book, ‘Five Days at Memorial,’ March 25 in the Kirkhof Center. The book was the CRP selection.

“Does a larger failure of our systems excuse the actions of a few?” she said.

Fink is a New York Times correspondent who has covered stories about the Ebola virus in West Africa. She linked that crisis to Hurricane Katrina, stating the fear of the virus has shut down or limited hospitals in some areas.

“It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when infrastructures are vulnerable and our dependence on technology makes us more vulnerable,” she said.

Provost Gayle R. Davis welcomed the audience and said campus readers were captivated by the book.

“It is a very interdisciplinary book connecting health professions, social work, philosophy, nursing and engineering to an important event in our history,” Davis said.

Brian Jbara, director of Integrative Learning, introduced next year’s Community Reading Project selection: “Citizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine.

For more information about CRP and to see a list of the past 10 book selections, visit

The CRP is sponsored by the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, University Libraries, Herrick District Library and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation in addition to many on-campus departments.