GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids has a long-standing history in public health, but not everyone knows about it. Grand Valley State University students and faculty hope to help get the word out through the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s ‘GR Stories’ series. 

“Grand Rapids really was involved in many pioneering public health efforts,” said GVSU history professor Carolyn Shapiro-Shapin.

Shapiro-Shapin has spent decades studying the history of health and medicine, including the development of the whooping cough vaccine in Grand Rapids in the 1930s and 1940s.

“One of the things I talk about in my classes and in my research is that discovery isn’t one thing. It’s not the person who got there first, but it’s all the people who developed the vaccine, all the people who make it better,” she explained. 

More than 20 years ago, Shapiro-Shapin began researching Dr. Pearl Kendrick and Grace Eldering, who developed the vaccine. Now, students are using her research as a model to take an even deeper dive into public health history in the city. 

For the past six months, students Hannah Krebs, Callie Dzurisin, and Coltrane Bodbyl-Mast have utilized the GRPM Collections and other local archives to conduct this in-depth research. They’ll present their findings in the ongoing ‘GR Stories’ series Wednesday night.  

“The students are not only learning the discipline of history, but they’re also learning how to bring that history to the public,” said Shapiro-Shapin. “To see the level at which they’re producing, and the level of scholarship… the level of analysis has just been wonderful. You read what they’re putting together, and you think these are folks that could go on in many, many fields.”

She added that the ‘GR Stories’ series encourages students and the community to get involved in the historical process and shows the value of local history in bringing forward the stories of what Grand Rapids has done and bringing the stories of what Grand Rapids has done forward.

For anyone interested in watching the program, a video version will be uploaded online by GRPM. Learn more about the ‘GR Stories’ series here