Reflection on Our Conversation with the Bassett Medical Students

I was fascinated with our conversation with the Bassett medical students last Thursday about opioid addiction and heroin use. It was wonderful to hear their perspectives, both from a scientific angle as well as their own personal experience. The topic of heroin addiction is challenging, however very relevant to the community we live in. Our conversation was extremely enlightening, and I am very happy that we continued this tradition of speaking with the medical students.

My life has not been personally touched by heroin use, and I found the conversation and film shown both informative and an indicator that we both are striving to make the world we live in a little bit better. It was fascinating that the museum studies and medical students both agreed on the importance of stories and narrative in making an impact that can result in positive change. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in our little bubble that is the Cooperstown Graduate Program that it’s wonderful to hear that there are consistent ideas in our program and others. Despite the obviously different concentrations of our education, the medical students shared the opinion that narratives are powerful ways to share the reality of heroin use with a wider audience. The documentary we watched in class entitled Anywhere But Safe used stories from a variety of people from New York City to shape a message that promotes the importance of safe injection sites. I can honestly say that at the beginning of the film I was concerned about how safe injection sites could be productive to society, wrapped up in my own prejudices and stigma and overall lack of knowledge on the subject. However, by the end of the film, I definitely started to see how these sites can bring help to heroin users, as well as make our communities safer.

The information provided in the film answered many of my questions, however I had many more that I’d like to find the answers to. It’s so interesting that despite research that shows the astounding positive impacts of safe injection sites, there are only currently sites in Australia, Canada and a few in Europe. The current legal system in the United States makes these safe injection sites illegal, however with enough support from the public and legal officials, there is the possibility of change. Matt Curtis, a co-director of the film hopes that “the documentary with help to humanize the problem of public injection and make the idea of supervised injection sites more palatable to an American audience.” [1]

I am so grateful for the opportunity to talk to  people from different fields and backgrounds about the devastating impacts of heroin on our community as well as nationally. Hearing their perspective significantly opened my eyes to challenges in the medical field that I had previously had no concept of. Our meeting really rejuvenated my excitement to be a museum professional, mostly because of the opportunity to make a positive impact on society by bringing difficult subjects into view through exhibits and programming. I really think that by collaborating with professionals in a variety of fields, our work can be life changing.


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