Retired State Medical Officer Pens Novella on 1918 Influenza Pandemic in Montana in A Country Doctor and the Epidemics
During his forty-year career, Dr. Steven Helgerson specialized in preventive medicine, serving for nine years as Montana’s State Medical Officer. So when he sat down to write a novella, he naturally crafted a plot that turns on the deadliest disease outbreak in human history—the 1918 influenza pandemic.
“An estimated one-third of the world’s population was infected by this flu,” says Helgerson, “and some 50 to 100 million died in a little over a year.”
Helgerson’s fiction debut, A Country Doctor and the Epidemics: Montana 1917-1918, tells the story of the pandemic’s arrival in Montana, where communities were already reeling with the tragedy and strain of sending husbands and sons off to World War I.
Helgerson’s voice of experience and meticulous research transport readers to rural Montana as it was 100 years ago. “I wanted readers to imagine living through these events,” says Helgerson, “and think about how we might respond if, when, extraordinary events like these occur again.”
While many of Helgerson’s characters are based on real people, the novel unfolds through the eyes of fictional character Doctor Kelly Harvey. Deeply troubled by the limitations of medicine in his time, Harvey is a captivating character with a traumatic past. “It is through the eyes of this country doctor that readers will experience both the ordinary practice of medicine at that time and the extraordinary events that challenged the values and health of a community,” says Helgerson.
Equal parts character study, history lesson, and cautionary tale, A Country Doctor and the Epidemics: Montana 1917-1918 weaves historic events and strong storytelling together for a nuanced and accurate portrayal of one man’s struggle to save his community in a time of fear and desolation.
A Country Doctor and the Epidemics: Montana 1917-1918 (ISBN: 978-1-59152-191-4, $16.95, Steven D. Helgerson 2017) is available at local bookstores and gift shops, through online retailers, or from Farcountry Press at 1.800.821.3874, http://www.farcountrypress.com/details.php?id=713.
About the Steven Helgerson, MD
Steven Helgerson was born in Washington. He received a BS degree from the University of Puget Sound and MA, MD, and MPH degrees from the University of Washington. His medical specialty is Preventive Medicine. During a forty-year career in public health, he worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Indian Health Service, as well as several state and local health departments. From 2006 to 2015, Helgerson served as the Montana State Medical Officer. He lives in Bozeman and Seattle.