The spring 2016 edition of Lafayette Lens on PBS39 was a collaboration between two Policy Studies courses, the Health and Life Sciences seminar, independent study students, and students participating as a co-curricular activity. In total, about 60 students and five professors were involved in the production.

_F4A3036This project required extensive learning about multiple aspects of this complex learning disorder: what causes it, why the incidence is rising so rapidly, what treatments are available, challenges to the educational system, and what public policy options are in place or under consideration. To learn about these various aspects of autism spectrum disorder Policy Studies hosted lectures on campus and some students and faculty went on site visits to learn from distinguished medical experts, scientists, educators, economists, policy makers, and leaders of non-profit organizations.

Moreover, this scholarly project closely engaged students with faculty in collaborative learning that frequently took place outside the classroom. For example, students made site visits to meet with and interview experts at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Penn State University Hospital-Hershey, Colorado State University, Easton Area Public Schools, as well as interviews in Washington, D.C. At the PBS39 studio in Bethlehem, students interviewed Pennsylvania state legislators, an NGO leader, and a physician (and Lafayette alumna) with expertise in diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorders.

“Communicating Science to the Public: The Vaccine-Autism Controversy”
Paul Offit, M.D.

PaulOffit1Co-sponsored by the Policy Studies Program, the Health and Life Science Program, the Health Professions Program, and the Office of the Provost, Dr. Offit visited Lafayette College during the spring 2016 semester. Arguably the world’s leading authority on vaccines, he contributed to the broadcast through individual student discussions, agreeing to be interviewed on camera, and providing background information in an open guest speaker format.

Dr. Offit has published more than 150 papers in medical and scientific journals, and eight books on topics including vaccines and autism. Students were assigned his non-technical book on autism in preparation for his visit.

Dr. Paul Offit is the Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He is also the co-inventor of a rotavirus vaccine credited with saving hundreds of lives daily.

His awards include the President’s Certificate for Outstanding Service from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Biologics Industry Organization, and the Maxwell Finland award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.