Mercies in Disguise
A Story of Hope, A Family's Genetic Destiny, and the Science That Rescued Them
Gina Kolata demystifies the science of personal health. The author of six books, including Mercies in Disguise, Kolata’s acclaimed writing and front page New York Times stories—on stem cell research, new cancer treatments, exercise, cloning, and more—have influenced public policy and upended conventional wisdom. In talks, she relates it all to the bigger picture: what it means for you and your future.
“Mercies in Disguise reads like a medical thriller; I simply couldn’t stop once I began.”— Dr. Abraham Verghese, author of the bestselling Cutting for Stone
Gina Kolata is the author of the new book Mercies in Disguise: A Story of Hope, a Family’s Genetic Destiny, and the Science That Rescued Them, which tells the moving saga of an American family, afflicted across multiple generations by an incurable neuro-degenerative illness. Unable to escape their genetic flaw, each family member must make a dramatic choice: take a new test to see who has the gene, and thus walk toward their fate bravely, or live on, avoiding the bad news for a little while longer. A story of science, medicine, family, and resilience—and one that “reads like a medical thriller” (Publishers Weekly)—Mercies in Disguise has been called “an extraordinary medical mystery, scientific history and, above all, human drama” by A Beautiful Mind author Sylvia Nasar. Mercies also takes readers on a global tour, from the Bible Belt to Papua New Guinea, in Kolata’s affecting, illuminating, and expertly plotted book on the intersection of science, family values, and love.
Kolata has appeared on Charlie Rose, traded jokes with Stephen Colbert, and lectured at Yale to boot. She is a reporter at The New York Times, and her work for the paper has led her to the Pulitzer twice—for investigative reporting and for explanatory journalism. Before Mercies in Disguise, she authored several acclaimed and bestselling books, including Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss—and the Myths and Realities of Dieting, Clone: The Road to Dolly, and the Path Ahead, Ultimate Fitness: The Quest for the Truth About Exercise and Health, and Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It.
She has received many awards and honors, including from the American Association of Health Care Journalists, the University of Maryland, which gave her a Distinguished Alumnus award, and from Bowdoin College, which awarded her an honorary doctoral degree. She is also the recipient of the prestigious Susan G. Komen Foundation’s media award for reporting on women’s issues and breast cancer. Kolata studied molecular biology on the graduate level at M.I.T. and has a master’s degree in applied mathematics from the University of Maryland.
In this talk, drawing from her book Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, Gina Kolata recounts the fascinating story of the world’s deadliest disease. The Great Influenza Pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people, and infected 500 million around the globe—making it one of the deadliest disasters in our history. But what’s most amazing about that epidemic is how scientists solved the mystery of what that the virus looked like: by finding fragments in corpses and tissues stored in a vast government warehouse. Drawing from her extensive research, and relating it back to current illnesses, Kolata tells the story of this discovery, and explains what it revealed about the 1918 flu—and what made it so destructive.
Imagine being faced with this one excruciating choice: take a test to see if you will develop a disease in middle age—one without a cure, that baffles doctors, and will rob you of your ability to walk, talk, and even swallow—or remain purposefully unaware? Now, imagine this mystery disease afflicts your entire family, across multiple generations. Such is the plight of the Baxleys of South Carolina, and one vividly and tenderly recorded by renowned medical journalist Gina Kolata in her latest work, Mercies in Disguise. Now, in this unforgettable keynote, Kolata weaves together the Baxley’s story of hope, groundbreaking science, and thrilling human drama. For those working (or living) with chronic disease or genetic disorders, Kolata’s talk has particular, affecting resonance. But, while steeped in scientific history, it’s a talk that also plots universal human concerns: family values and love, bravery and resilience, and the struggle to live life to its fullest potential in the midst of an unspeakable malady. Join Kolata for a tour of the body, mind, and heart.
In her keynotes, Gina Kolata is available to discuss a variety of topics, from obesity to pandemics to hospital wait times to environmental health risks to the latest in disease prevention. She can speak, at length, with deep knowledge, and with unguarded candidness, on any of her books.