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Education Lesson Plans

The Power of Medicine

  • Grade level: 7–10
  • Subject: history and social studies

Time Needed

One 45-minute class period


Students first examine and categorize various types of information presented on an online source—“The Power of Medicine” from the For All the People online exhibition. They explore the web content and learn about how some people worked to expand access to health care to more people in the past. Students focus on two health professional leaders in the exhibition—Lillian Wald who founded the Henry Street Settlement, and Dr. Leonidas Berry who was a president of the National Medical Association. The lesson ends with an assignment where students work in small groups to research and prepare class presentations about Leonidas Berry or Lillian Wald.

  • learning outcomes

    Students will be able to:
    • Describe the work of Lillian Wald or Leonidas Berry, MD—American nurse and physician, respectively—in extending health care access to more people in mid-20th century.
    • Demonstrate technology literacy skills in identifying various categories of information from a web page.
    • Apply existing knowledge of US history in contextualizing what they see in photographs.
    • Summarize key information from multiple online sources.
  • background information

    This lesson plan uses materials from “The Power of Medicine,” a section of the For All the People online exhibition. Teachers are encouraged to review all six exhibition sections online for determining appropriate level of technology literacy instruction, and for becoming familiar health care reform history in the United States. In addition, teachers may preview the pre-selected online biographical sources that students will use for their group assignment.

  • vocabulary

    The following terms may be introduced or incorporated during class discussions or as a part of student group assignment:

    • The Power of Medicine: Sheppard-Towner Act, expectant, mortality rates, chronic conditions, Farm Security Administration, Great Depression, New Deal, gastroenterologist.
    • Online sources on Dr. Leonidas Harry Berry: internship, internal medicine, digestive diseases, pathology, subspecialty, gastroenterology, narcotic, appropriated, president-elect, gastroscopic, periodicals, manifold, biopsy gastroscope, fiber-optic, monographs, genealogical.
    • Online sources on Lillian Wald: public health nurse, referrals, dispensaries, social commentators, excursions, convalescents, philanthropists, enterprise, carpentry, colleagues, hemorrhaging, ministered, impetus, affected.
  • Materials

    • Group Assignment Outline (PDF)
    Other materials and set-ups:
    • A display set-up for class—e.g. interactive whiteboard, computer connected projector, or flip chart/whiteboard
    • Devices connected to the Internet for students to access the online exhibition and sources for group assignment.
  • class 1 procedures

    1. Display the “The Power of Medicine” web page and introduce to students the For All the People: A Century of Citizen Action in Heath Care Reform online exhibition. Optionally, review key elements of the web page to demonstrate evaluation of various information elements on an online source. Some elements to call out from “The Power of Medicine” are:
      • The site owner: National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health
      • The exhibition author/publisher: Exhibition Program/History of Medicine
      • The placement of “The Power of Medicine” within the online exhibition: One section of the exhibition
      • The introduction text, starting with “Citizen groups worked… and fighting hospital discrimination.”
      • The image slide area and associated icons—e.g., image counter, image, related descriptive text and icons
    2. Read aloud the “The Power of Medicine” introduction text. Scroll through and show the images that feature several examples of how groups and individuals tried to extend medical care to more people in the past.
    3. Provide students online access to “The Power of Medicine” and assign each student a number between 1 and 6. Instruct students to review the images corresponding to their numbers then to write a brief summary that includes:
      • Image counter number that corresponds to the number assigned to each student
      • Associated image title and date
      • A brief description of what you learned in your own words
      • One thing that you already know about US history during the same period as the image date
    4. As a class, display each image and call for students to share their summaries. Record image numbers and corresponding key points from students’ summaries on the board. Review and demonstrate how students’ existing knowledge of US history can contextualize the exhibition images.
    5. Call out to the class images 2 and 6 with related images that feature the Henry Street Settlement and Leonidas H. Berry, MD, respectively. Tell students that Lillian Wald was a nurse and founded the settlement and Dr. Berry served as a president of National Medical Association.
    6. Tell students that they will work in small groups to research and prepare a presentation about Lillian Wald or Leonidas Berry based on their assigned camps.
    7. Distribute copies of Group Assignment Outline to students then group students into two camps—Lillian Wald and Leonidas Berry. Allow each camp to form smaller groups of 3–5 students in each group. Review the instructions listed in the handout then clarify any questions students have.
    8. Establish and inform students of the due dates for their group bibliographies and presentations, as well as individual written essays. Then allow students to work in groups in preparation for the presentation.
  • extension activities

    1. Students build on their group presentations and design a children’s book about Lillian Wald or Leonidas Berry. Students may donate copies of the printed books to local elementary school libraries, or publish it online with animation and audio features
    2. Students examine presidential speeches on health care by Truman, Clinton, and Obama using their speech transcripts online: Presidents Harry Truman’s speech in 1945, Bill Clinton’s speech in 1993, and Barack Obama’s speech in 2009. Then they compare and contrast key health care reform needs and proposed plans in the speeches.
  • common core state standards

    Literacy in History/Social Studies
    • Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
    • Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
    • Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
    • Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.