Skip to Main Content

MD Thesis

Students may elect to write their MD thesis in the history of medicine.

Creating the Thesis

The thesis, like all Yale MD theses, is to be based on original research on an aspect of the history of medicine or public health, including attitudes and institutions of the medical profession, medical ethics and policies, the conceptual foundation of the biomedical sciences, the management of health and disease in their cultural and social contexts, or the life of a selected historical actor.

Students are expected to undertake their research in light of extant historical scholarship, which will therefore involve the preparation of a bibliography and the discussion of the readings at prearranged meetings with the thesis advisor. On the basis of this collaborative activity, the student will define the historical questions the thesis will address and develop with his or her advisor an appropriate research strategy.

Research will focus largely on primary works, typically published texts or unpublished manuscript documents, clinical patient records, letters, diaries, and other archival materials. For some theses, students may use films, television, or other visual materials, as well as museum objects and other artifacts or oral interviews.

Presenting the Thesis

The model thesis presented to the Section of the History of Medicine should be, with appropriate revisions, suitable for submission for publication in a medical history journal (for example, the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Medical History, Isis, Social History of Medicine), or to any general or specialty medical journal (such as Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, the Archives of Internal Medicine, and Academic Medicine).

Examples of Recent MD Theses in History of Medicine

  • "I Viewed Them Sick: Photography and Addiction Medicine as Activism During the "Speed Freak" Crisis of the Long 1960s"
  • “Shoot the Abortionist Twice: The Crisis in Abortion Training in the United States”
  • “Medicine in the Margins: Access, resistance and Health Care Utilization Among the Tuareg of Niger”
  • “Mish-Mash: How the Health Care „Crisis‰ of 1970 Resulted in Dichotomous Portrayals of Physicians in Films of the Era”
  • “Re-Emerging Fear: The 1991 Outbreak of Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis in the New York Prison System”
  • “Germs of Progress: Schistosomiasis, Health Research and Dam Development in Senegal, West Africa, at the End of the 20th Century”
  • “Portrayals of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, Personality, and Self-Concept, 1987 to 1994”
  • “Strong Work: The Forces that Shape a Medical Student into an Intern”
  • “Perception and Poverty: A Historical Look at the Persistence of Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the African-American Community”
  • “Pregnancy and Childbirth Practices and Popular Literature in Twentieth-Century America: Historical and Social Perspectives”

Pursuing an MD Thesis

Students who wish to explore the possibility of pursuing an MD thesis in the Section of the History of Medicine should meet with the Director of Medical Studies for History of Medicine or with any member of the Section of the History of Medicine. The DMS will also provide more specific instructions for preparing the MD thesis in History of Medicine, including some of the ways that such historical work differs from scientific papers in the basic and clinical sciences. Funding to support research is available from the Office of Student Research.

Director of Medical Studies