Dr. Osler with a medical student at Johns Hopkins SOM
For Medical Students
Welcome to the Department of the History of Medicine, the oldest and largest department of its kind in North America. Why study history while you are in medical school? As William Osler said, “By the historical method alone can many problems in medicine be approached profitably”. For William Welch nothing was more conducive to medical culture than to follow the evolution of medical knowledge.
History allows you to explore the roots of today’s medical ideas and practices and so to appreciate both the ephemeral nature of knowledge and the need for life-long learning. History offers a way of understanding how societal forces have shaped health and health care and contributed to health disparities. It allows you to better understand the changing contours of medical practice, for example why health care today in the US has come to be provided primarily in hospitals and clinics by licensed practitioners paid for by third parties. Above all, studying the history of medicine allows you to think critically about medical education and practice in America.
There are a number of ways you can learn about the history of medicine at Hopkins:
Take courses offered by the History of Medicine department.
Attend the department’s weekly colloquium, which meets on Thursdays at 3:00pm.
During the first and second years of of medical school, students choose a scholarly concentration and pursue research; we offer a concentration in the history of medicine.
Want to learn more about a particular aspect of the history of medicine? Tune into one of our podcasts. The series goes from classical antiquity through the 20th century, and includes topics such as the history of diseases, women and medicine, patients’ experiences of healing, the development of public health, and more.
The Osler Medal
Osler Medal Essay Contest, 2010. The William Osler Medal is awarded annually by the American Association for the History of Medicine for the best unpublished essay on a medical historical topic written by a student enrolled in a school of medicine or osteopathy in the United States or Canada. First awarded in 1942, the medal commemorates Sir William Osler, who stimulated an interest in the humanities among medical students and physicians. The essay (maximum 9,000 words, including endnotes) must be entirely the work of one contestant.
The William B. Bean Student Research Award
The Osler Society offers a modest research grant to a medical student to undertake research in the history of medicine. The 2010 Bean award was won by a Hopkins student who researched the medicalization of the Baltimore Almshouse.