The Harvard Program in the History of Medicine is an inter-faculty program jointly sponsored by the Harvard Medical School and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). At Harvard Medical School, teaching and research is based in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine. At FAS, the Program is based in the Department of the History of Science, a department offering undergraduate programs and graduate programs leading to Master’s and Ph.D. degrees. Moreover, the Program also entails a close connection to the Center for the History of Medicine based at the Countway Library of Medicine. Research and teaching in the history of medicine have long been central to the Department’s efforts to examine the contexts in which health and illness originate and in which care is delivered.
The Program is strongly committed to teaching and research that places the development of medical knowledge and practice into broad social, cultural, and political contexts. Although examination of the development of scientific and medical knowledge remains crucial to the field, studies have increasingly attempted to assess the changing nature of scientific and medical practices (e.g., therapeutics), the experiences of health and illness, the historical role of medicine in the construction of multiple categories of analysis (e.g., race, gender, disability, stigma, and notions of responsibility), the evolution of medical ethics, and the history of health policies. These interests are strongly reflected in the research and teaching efforts of the Program.
At the core of the Program's agenda are studies of how medicine and science evolve from – and are reincorporated into – wider social, cultural, and political contexts; how health care inevitably leads to complex moral, ethical, and policy issues; and how the determinants of health and disease outcomes are revealed through investigations into the origins of, and social and scientific responses to, both epidemic and chronic disease. A principal tenet of the approach fostered in the Program is that historical scholarship may assist in a more sophisticated understanding of a wide array of questions and dilemmas in contemporary medicine and science.
Department faculty members who specialize in history of medicine include Allan Brandt, PhD, Amalie Moses Kass Professor of the History of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Professor of the History of Science, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Sabine Hildebrandt, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Lecturer on Global Health and Social Medicine; David S. Jones, MD, PhD, A. Bernard Ackerman Professor of the Culture of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences; and Scott Podolsky, MD, Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the Countway Library of Medicine.