2017 Annual Report

I am pleased to write that, once again, this past year has been a productive one for me personally as well as for Center for the History of Medicine.  Hewing to its mission of research, teaching, public programming and outreach, the Center has been involved in a full slate of interesting projects and events over the course of 2017.

As part of our ongoing annual collaboration with the Michigan Theater’s “Science on Screen” series, the Center once again co-sponsored the screening of a medically related film followed by a lecture.  In February of 2017 we showed the film Concussion with a lecture by leading U-M neurologist, concussion specialist, and U-M Wolverine football team doctor, Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher. Again, this was widely attended by both the U-M and Ann Arbor communities and made a major impact about an important public health issue.

In April of 2017 the Center held a major conference in concert with the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation, the U-M School of Public Health, the Michigan Medicine Division of Infectious Diseases, and the U-M Bicentennial Committee.  The conference, “Pandemic! Contagious Crises from AIDS to Zika,” featured lectures by Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health and Dr. Paul Farmer of Harvard University and Partners in Health, along with a panel discussion on the local, state, federal, and media responses to pandemics moderated by CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.  It was a stunning success, attended by University of Michigan President Dr. Mark Schlissel and a full house of students and faculty.  Events such as this, along with our top-notch research and scholarship, continue to make the U-M Center for the History of Medicine the leading history of medicine unit in the nation.

This June, we unveiled the Corydon L. Ford artifact collection at the U-M hospital.  Dr. Ford was the sixth member of the University of Michigan Medical School and taught anatomy from 1854 to 1894.  Professor Ford’s family graciously donated his anatomy kit, microscope, and walking stick, which we developed into a museum-quality display under his portrait in Ford Auditorium in the University Hospital.  The unveiling, which occurred on June 9, 2017, was presided over by Dean Marschall Runge and Vice-Dean Carol Bradford in the presence of the Ford family.  In the Simpson Memorial Institute, home of the Center for the History of Medicine, we created a display detailing the connections between the 1925 Sinclair Lewis novel Arrowsmith and the University of Michigan.  The story focuses on the training and career of Dr. Martin Arrowsmith, a fictional character loosely based on the real-life experiences of Paul de Kruif, a graduate of the University of Michigan who also obtained his doctorate in microbiology here.  The display features the actual typewriter de Kruif used to draft his 1926 best-seller Microbe Hunters, as well as a host of other original artifacts related to early-20th century microbiology research at U-M.  We are currently busy preparing a display on Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his brother Will, two Michigan pioneers in the fields of nutrition, health, and mass food production.

In addition to the various lectures and public events, I continue to serve as the faculty sponsor for the long-running Victor Vaughan Society for the History and Philosophy of Medicine, an organization for medical students at the University of Michigan.  Each month throughout the academic year approximately 30 to 40 medical students meet for a session, hosted by the Center, where we discuss various subjects in the medical humanities, including topics such as art, literature, history, and journalism.  This year’s meetings have featured discussions on the history of the U-M Medical School, a lecture and discussion on diversity at the U-M Medical School given by Assistant Director Dr. J. Alex Navarro, a lecture on the ethics of neuroscience and the neuroscience of ethics given by Drs. Chandra Sripada and Jack Buchanan (a Ph.D. medical student and co-leader of the Victor Vaughan Society), and a lecture on medicine in Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets given by Prof. Michael Schoenfeldt of the U-M Department of English Language and Literature.  A group of the Victor Vaughan students this year asked me to teach a monthly, ad-hoc class for interested M-1s on “Great Papers in the History of Medicine and Science,” which was a great success and will be continued next year.  I also continue to teach in the UMMS Medical Humanities Pathway of Excellence segment and worked hard with other U-M faculty members to develop this curriculum for its second year.

The Center has also continued its tradition of scholarly outreach. This past year, I presented lectures to the Detroit Department of Health and the University of Michigan Commons.  Dr. Navarro delivered a lecture on the history of bioethics to the U-M School of Pharmacy, and also participated in the Rackham School of Graduate Studies’ two-day panel and mentorship program for graduate students in the social sciences.

Four years ago, the Center launched its massive online collection of materials related to the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic, The American Influenza Epidemic of 1918-1919: A Digital Encyclopedia.  This past year, we released The American Influenza Epidemic of 1918-1919: A Digital Encyclopedia’s Second Edition, wherein we added thousands of additional pages of contemporary medical journals, military reports, and other seminal scientific studies of influenza of the time.  We hope that the Second Edition of our digital encyclopedia will continue to serve as the repository for scholars and researchers, public health practitioners, and interested lay people interested in delving into the history of the 1918-1919 pandemic.

Continuing this important work in the realm of digital history, we have begun a collaborative project with the U-M Bentley Historical Library and MPublishing to digitize and make available the lectures and written works of the distinguished physician Dr. George Dock, the Chief of Internal Medicine and Pathology at the U-M from 1898-1908.  We will contextualize Dr. Dock’s lectures with essays, annotations, and other writings on the history of medicine and medical education at the time.  We will also make available a digital copy of Horace Davenport’s biography, Doctor Dock.  I am confident that this project will be a wonderful addition to the Center’s – and the University of Michigan’s – robust digital collection.

In addition to a host of articles for both the lay press and peer-reviewed journals, I am proud to announce that I completed my book about the fascinating Kellogg brothers of Battle Creek, Michigan. The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek was published on August 8, 2017 by Pantheon/Alfred A. Knopf.  It represents the culmination of seven years of research and writing.  The book has already garnered impressive pre-publication reviews from Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly, and Newsday named it one of the “Best Summer Books of 2017.”

Last but not least, this year the Rockefeller Foundation awarded me with a prestigious academic writing residency at its Bellagio Center in Italy, which over the past 57 years has included Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, leading academics, artists, thought leaders, policymakers, and practitioners recognized for their bold thinking and promise to further change the world for the better and to promote the well-being of humanity.  It is known as one of the most competitive and celebrated fellowships in academia.  I was in residence there from September 28 to October 26, 2017, where I began research for my next book.

I am proud of the work the Center has accomplished in 2017, and look forward to the many exciting projects we have in store for the new year.

Best wishes for a healthy, happy, and rewarding 2018!






Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, Center for the History of Medicine