Beth Linker

Andrew W. Mellon Penn Faculty Fellow in the Humanities

20082009 Forum on Change

Beth Linker

Assistant Professor, History and Sociology of Science

Walter Reed, Then and Now

Often considered the crown jewel of military medicine, Walter Reed Hospital has recently come under fire, with maimed veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan claiming they receive sub-standard care. This project will place the recent events at Walter Reed in historical perspective, using the First World War—when rehabilitation for injured U.S. soldiers was first instituted—as its starting point. This project addresses change on many levels, from the way World War I prosthetics were initially designed to be symbols of “liberty” to now when bionic appendages are showcased on the White House Lawn, garnering support for the Iraq war. The most fundamental change addressed in this project, though, is that which is experienced by the disabled soldiers themselves. For some the change is so profound that they feel they have lost their former pre-war selves and must begin life anew.