The U-M Center for the History of Medicine (CHM) was originally founded in 1990 as the Historical Center for the Health Sciences (HCHS). It was a unit based in the now defunct Office of the Vice Provost for Health Affairs. The Center’s primary function, at that time, was to act as the repository for historical documents and artifacts related to the history of the University of Michigan Medical School, and to foster a broader understanding of the pioneering role the University, its faculty, and its alumni have played in advancing knowledge of disease and promoting human health.
In 1996, then Interim-Dean A. Lorris Betz appointed Dr. Howard Markel as Director of HCHS, with the mandate to guide the Center from a unit focused solely on the history of the University of Michigan Medical School to one more broadly dedicated to the study and research of the history and philosophy of medicine. In 2002, to reflect these changes of the unit’s mission, the former Historical Center for the Health Sciences officially became the Center for the History of Medicine. This paradigm shift has been reflected in the work of the Center ever since: conducting top-quality research and collaborations that place contemporary medical dilemmas in context with past events to help inform public health and medical policies, while continuing its commitment as consulting historians to the UMMS and fostering appreciation of U-M heritage and history as well as the broader study of the medical humanities among its medical students and beyond.
The Center has been and continues to be successful in contributing to the University of Michigan Medical School’s core pillars of People, Discovery, Care, Education, and Service. We have conducted major research projects for the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all of which have resulted in high-impact publications and reports that have since become the basis for international, U.S. federal, state, and local government pandemic preparedness and response guidelines. Our digital influenza encyclopedia and archive – The American Influenza Epidemic of 1918-1919: A Digital Encyclopedia – has become the largest and most important single repository in the world of historical documents related to the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic. This resource has been used by thousands of researchers, academicians, public health officials, students, and lay people since its inception in 2012. We have held and continue to plan future major conferences, lectures, film screenings, and medical artifact displays, often in collaboration with other Medical School units and U-M schools and departments. Our teaching, support, and mentorship, as well as sponsorship and development of the U-M Society for the History and Philosophy of Medicine, provides medical students with an opportunity to learn about the medical humanities and cultivate an appreciation of the importance of such work. Similarly, we spend significant time educating and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students across the U-M. Lastly, through 11 books and over five hundred published articles, monthly columns for PBS NewsHour, monthly appearances on Michigan Public Radio, frequent appearances on national television and radio shows, and public lectures, we disseminate the important scholarship of the Center and highlight the significance of the medical humanities to both academic as well as lay audiences across the region and the nation.
The Center is proud of the contributions it has made and continues to make to the scholarship of the history of medicine.