Chasing the Cure in New Mexico: Tuberculosis and the Quest for Health

Picture of book cover "Chasing the Cure in New Mexico: Tuberculosis and the Quest for Health"Thousands of health seekers journeyed to New Mexico from 1880 to 1940, hoping its high and dry climate would heal their diseased lungs. On Sunday, September 18, 2016 at 2:00 pm, anthropologist and author, Dr. Nancy Owen Lewis, will examine the impact and the experience of these “lungers,” many of whom stayed to make remarkable contributions to their adopted home. Dubbed the “Heart of the Well Country,” Albuquerque soon became a major destination. Some “chased the cure on their feet,” while others checked into one of its many sanatoriums. But not everyone welcomed the “lungers,” for as fear of contagion grew, laws were enacted to prevent the spread of disease and indigent tuberculars were told to stay home. Ultimately, this movement helped transform a territory into a state and a railroad boom town into New Mexico’s largest city. It also laid the foundation for its current health care system—all of which are examined in this illustrated presentation.

The program will be held at the Albuquerque Museum in Old Town. Parking is free in the lot south of the Museum. Admission to the Museum and the AHS program is also free.

Photo of Nancy Owen LewisNancy Owen Lewis, scholar in residence at the School for Advanced Research (SAR) in Santa Fe, is the author of “Chasing the Cure in New Mexico: Tuberculosis and the Quest for Health”, published this spring by the Museum of New Mexico Press. She has published five articles on this topic, including “High and Dry in New Mexico: Tuberculosis and the Politics of Health,” which was awarded the 2013 Gilberto Espinosa by the New Mexico Historical Review. Her other publications include A Peculiar Alchemy: A Centennial History of SAR, co-authored with Kay Hagen, which was named best book in New Mexico History at the 2008 New Mexico Book Awards. She currently serves as awards chair and vice president of the Historical Society of New Mexico. She received her doctorate in anthropology from the University of Massachusetts and previously taught at the University of Arkansas.

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Patients at the Albuquerque Sanatorium (Courtesy of the Albuquerque Museum)