First Pages takes students to Katrina’s aftermath


With an award-​​winning author as their guide, Northeastern’s incoming first-​​year stu­dents this summer walked the halls of a New Orleans hos­pital immo­bi­lized by the dev­as­ta­tion of Hur­ri­cane Kat­rina. What they saw was both uplifting and deeply con­cerning— heroism jux­ta­posed with eth­i­cally trou­bling decision-​​making.

The journey was made pos­sible by Sheri Fink’s Five Days at Memo­rial: Life and Death in a Storm-​​Ravaged Hos­pital, a New York Times best­seller and a land­mark inves­ti­ga­tion of patient deaths at the city’s Memo­rial Med­ical Center. The book was selected for Northeastern’s First Pages pro­gram this year.

On Tuesday night at Matthews Arena, Fink spoke to Northeastern’s 2,800 newest stu­dents about cov­ering a crisis that saw thou­sands of people trapped at the hos­pital after Hur­ri­cane Kat­rina hit New Orleans in 2005 and led med­ical staff to euth­a­nize some of the hospital’s most crit­i­cally ill patients.

The impor­tant take­away from this is that going through eth­ical dilemmas before we actu­ally have to face them in real life can be very useful,” Fink said. “We can’t really know what we would do in this sit­u­a­tion, but we can think about what we would want to have done if we faced this.”

First Pages 2014

Launched in 2006, the First Pages pro­gram requires incoming students—and encour­ages fac­ulty, staff, and upperclassmen—to read a chal­lenging book that high­lights crit­ical ques­tions facing today’s students.

In wel­coming remarks, Stephen W. Director, Northeastern’s provost and senior vice pres­i­dent for aca­d­emic affairs, addressed the program’s goal. “I hope the book has and con­tinues to stim­u­late a great deal of reflec­tion and dis­cus­sion on this campus about fun­da­mental morals, public policy, and social issues of our day,” he said.

As a pre­cursor to Tuesday’s talk, new stu­dents in Northeastern’s Honors Pro­gram attended a panel dis­cus­sion on Thursday in Blackman Audi­to­rium where three pro­fes­sors used Five Days at Memo­rial to dis­cuss their research in Eng­lish, phi­los­ophy, and med­ical law.