A thriller of a lecture

Image with caption: Shawn Gibbs, Ph. D.
Shawn Gibbs, Ph. D.
Shawn Gibbs, Ph.D., didn't get his doctorate in zombies.

But he brought a scholar's depth and a researcher's eye, not to mention a biting (sorry!) sense of humor to his lecture "Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse or Other Events Slightly More Likely," delivered Wednesday as part of the College of Public Health's celebration of National Public Health Week.

See the entire lecture

Mixing humor and pop culture references with real-world information and insights into the medical, ethical and public health issues zombies raise, Dr. Gibbs - associate dean of student affairs for the College of Public Health - drew frequent laughter from a crowd of approximately 70.

Dead and loving it

Shawn Gibbs, Ph. D., offers this list of his favorite zombie movies.

  • "Night of the Living Dead"
  • "Shaun of the Dead"
  • "Dead Snow"
  • "Aah! Zombies!!"

He started with a disclaimer.

"Zombies aren't real," he said. "There are always two or three people who will fight me on that."

Dr. Gibbs led his audience through a well-researched breakdown of the zombie menace, including possible causes, prevention and safety techniques and thought-provoking questions such as "Is your faculty becoming a zombie?"

He enumerated the seven ways to become a zombie, including ancient civilizations or religions, neurotoxins, cosmic radiation, nanobots, brain parasites, viruses and neurogenesis.

"Is this possible? 'Is it happening on campus?' is a better question," he said.

He also touched on a fascinating real-life case of a man, pronounced dead by two physicians, who may have been put in a zombie-like state through the use of neurotoxins.

Dr. Gibbs also showed his chops as a zombie fan, referencing obscure films such as "Night of the Comet" and "Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave." ("The rave does not go well," he said.)

Dr. Gibbs had delivered his lecture on zombies at the Omaha Community Playhouse last month, but Wednesday's version was clearly adapted for his UNMC audience, including a lament that the campus was lagging far behind other institutions in zombie-related research and references to the campus' Nebraska Biocontainment Patient Care Unit.

Although Dr. Gibbs kept the talk light, he did include many real-word messages about the importance of disaster preparedness and having a safety plan.

"This is good for floods, it's good for blizzards, and it's good for zombies in blizzards, which I don't think we talk about enough," he said.

The College of Public Health's celebration of National Public Health Week continues at 11:30 a.m. today with "PHamily PHeud," a public health-themed version of "Family Feud." The competition will be held in Room 3013 at the Maurer Center for Public Health.


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Aleta Gaertner
April 05, 2013 at 7:24 AM

Dr. Gibbs is an asset to COPH. He is a valued colleague who works hard while maintaining a sense of humor. It's a treat to see how he makes public health knowledge accessible to all students and audiences.