The University of Iowa History of Medicine Society

About Us

Overview

The University of Iowa History of Medicine Society is an informal group of students, faculty, staff, and members of the community.  The Society is currently supported by the Program in Bioethics and Humanities and the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences. The Society began in 1978 and promotes sharing information and interest in the history of medicine and the health sciences. The Society hosts speakers about once a month and, in the spring, hosts a banquet with a presentation from a well-known medical historian. We have no membership dues and we welcome participants from the University and the general community.

To become a member, simply send an email to Donna Hirst and ask to be placed on the electronic mailing list. In addition to alerting members to forth coming presentations, the list is also a vehicle for members to communicate matters of interest relating to the history of medicine and the health sciences.

Leadership

Robert Rakel, founder of the University Family Practice Program (1971-1985) also founded the History of Medicine Society in 1978, and served as its head from 1978-1984. The first History of Medicine Society lecture was given by Dr. John Martin on November 9, 1978. The early meetings were held in the Hardin Library Rare Book Room; later the meetings moved to Room 401 of Hardin.

R. Palmer Howard, faculty in Family Practice, was head of the Society from 1985-1990. He donated money to create a History of Medicine faculty position.  Dr. Howard coordinated the first History of Medicine Banquet, now known as the R. Palmer Howard Dinner.  Dean Eckstein, present at the first banquet, felt the event was important and provided financial support for an annual banquet.

Susan Lawrence, medical historian based in the University Department of History, was head of the Society from 1989-2007. Dr. Lawrence launched a brown bag discussion group for medical students.

Ed Holtum, Curator of the John Martin Rare Book Room, coordinated the History of Medicine Society from 2007-2010, after Dr. Lawrence’s departure.

Donna Hirst, Curator of the John Martin Rare Book Room, coordinated the History of Medicine Society from 2010 to the present, after Ed Holtum retired.

The Program in Bioethics and Humanities

The History of Medicine Society is currently a unit within the Program in Bioethics and Humanities. Richard Caplan founded the Program in Medical Humanities in 1984. In 1988 the name was changed to the Program for Biomedical Ethics, and Robert F. Weir was appointed director. Dr. Weir held joint appointments in the School of Religion and the Department of Pediatrics, Carver College of Medicine. Dr. Weir received permission to modify the name to The Program in Biomedical Ethics and Medical Humanities. In 1992 the History of Medicine Society, the Medical Humanities Program and the Program in Biomedical Ethics were consolidated.

In 2005, Lauris Kaldjian became director of the program when Robert Weir entered phased retirement. Dr. Kaldjian holds a joint appointment in Internal Medicine. The Program title was then simplified to Program in Bioethics and Humanities.