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Section of the History of Medicine

The Section of the History of Medicine is a freestanding unit in the Yale University School of Medicine engaged with research and teaching in the history of medicine, the life sciences, and public health. In addition to instruction for medical students, including mentoring M.D. theses, the faculty collaborates with colleagues in the History Department, in the Program in the History of Science and Medicine, which offers graduate programs leading to the M.A., Ph.D., and combined M.D./Ph.D. degrees and an undergraduate major in the History of Science/History of Medicine. The Section contributes to the Program's colloquia, and Distinguished Annual Lectures, workshops, and symposia in medical history. Through research and teaching, the faculty seeks to understand medical ideas, practices, and institutions in their broad social and cultural contexts, and to provide intellectual tools to engage with the challenges faced by contemporary medicine.

Department News

GUYnecology: Why Men's Reproductive Health Matters

Rene Almeling, an associate professor of sociology, public health, and medicine, recently spoke to YaleNews about her research and her latest book, “GUYnecology: The Missing Science of Men’s Reproductive Health.”

Source: YaleNews
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  • Jason Schwartz Speaks at House Hearing on Ensuring Safe Covid-19 Vaccine

    A House Oversight and Reform subcommittee held a hearing on ensuring a safe coronavirus vaccine. Members questioned the witnesses on how the vaccine is being developed quickly while also providing safety, effectiveness, and diverse testing in clinical trials. They also talked about the importance of messaging to counter disinformation and lack of trust within minority communities towards the medical industry.

    Source: C-SPAN
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  • Why Did They Die?

    Yale historian of medicine, Joanna Radin has new co-authored research in the journal Current Anthropology. Their work examines the politics of knowledge-making about immunity to infectious disease among Indigenous peoples and is directly relevant to our present—when Indigenous peoples are among those most impacted by COVID.

    Source: Current Anthropology
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  • What Polio in post-WWII America Can Teach Us About Living in a Pandemic

    As we blunder through the pandemic’s second season, we’re “looking for an instant solution, and there are none,” Rogers says. The story we tell about polio is that 1955 arrived and it melted away. Yes, church bells did ring at the announcement that a new vaccine had been deemed safe. But what followed became known as the Cutter Incident, a tragic misfire that caused 40,000 cases of polio, ultimately killing 10 children and paralyzing 200 more. And when a safe and effective vaccine finally did debut, it still required a protracted struggle to set up the infrastructure to distribute it. That took some two decades of confusion and chaos.

    Source: PBS NOVA
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  • Medical History Matters in Era of Big Data

    Scientists involved in machine learning often don’t know the origins of the datasets they use to write and test algorithms, including where the Pima Indians Diabetes Database (PIDD) came from, explained Dr. Joanna Radin at a recent virtual NLM history talk.

    Source: NIH Record
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  • The Dangerous Race for the Covid Vaccine

    “This national-type race is something that has been around for maybe 200 years at least,” says Naomi Rogers, a history of medicine professor at Yale University. “It’s an incredible coup to have somebody in your country develop something that has such incredible global significance."

    Source: Politico
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  • The Never Ending Story of the 1918 Pandemic

    In a talk co-sponsored by the Center for Bioethics, Joanna Radin, PhD, associate professor in the section of History of Medicine, takes a look back at the devastating pandemic that many see as the closest modern parallel to the COVID-19 emergency. The talk includes commentary from Professors John Warner and Naomi Rogers.

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  • Christmas in August: Polio and Nursing in Kentucky, 1944, by Naomi Rogers

    In August 1944 Louisville’s Fourth Street toy store advertised “Christmas in August” offering toys on sale for parents desperate to entertain their children who had been cooped up at home, banned from movie theaters, swimming pools and all public gatherings. The reason was polio. Kentucky’s largest epidemic had started in late June; it ended with 718 reported cases and 37 counties classified as epidemic areas. Showing how confusing polio’s transmission was, health officials in Louisville investigated cases by asking when children had gone swimming, been visited by “infected” friends, had a tonsillectomy, played with nearby animals and fowl, or eaten water, milk, butter, ice cream, candy and other foods.

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  • COVID-19 Can Stay With Us Forever

    There will be a vaccine, there will be different cures, but it will not be completely eradicated - a model of HIV / AIDS or tuberculosis, the coronavirus epidemic makes this possibility easy to imagine, says a professor of medical history at Yale University in the United States. Naomi Rogers from Connecticut spoke to the Hungarian Nation by phone.

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