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Lectures in 2019

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  • Fantastic Voyages through the Historical Audio-Visual Collections at the National Library of Medicine

    2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. in the NLM Lister Hill Auditorium, Building 38A

    Oliver Gaycken, PhD — Associate Professor, Department of English, Core Faculty, Film and Comparative Literature Programs, University of Maryland

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    This lecture will be live-streamed globally, and archived, by NIH VideoCasting.

    The National Library of Medicine houses an extraordinary collection of audio-visual materials numbering nearly 40,00 items. Many of these materials, which range from films to videocassettes to sound recordings and beyond, are rare or unique. Taken together, the collection attests to the presence of a largely unknown history of the twentieth century, where medical media educated and persuaded untold millions of patients and doctors, and documented diseases, innovations, and procedures. This talk will present three case studies that illustrate the range of the NLM’s collections—a voyage through the history of human anatomy with Frank Armitage, Disney animator and medical illustrator; a series of training films for medical students about sexual dysfunction; and a sampling of films by Virginia-based Airlie Productions, which made many films for the United States Agency for International Development. Together, these films demonstrate a variety of approaches to communicating medical knowledge and the enduring value of the medical profession’s audio-visual records.

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  • Viral Networks, Reconnected: A Digital Humanities/History of Medicine Research Forum

    2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. in the NLM Lister Hill Auditorium, Building 38A

    Viral Networks, Reconnected reunites three scholars who participated in the January 2018 Viral Networks workshop, offering them the opportunity to share the progress of their research and their thoughts about the future of the digital humanities and the history of medicine.

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    This program will be live-streamed globally, and archived, by NIH VideoCasting and is co-sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Digital Humanities.

    On January 29–30, 2018, the NLM hosted Viral Networks: An Advanced Workshop in Digital Humanities and Medical History, bringing together scholars from various fields of medical history whose innovative research shows promise through the use of methods, tools, and data from the digital humanities. The event was supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through a grant to Virginia Tech, and was a collaborative outcome of NLM's long standing partnership with the NEH.


    Patricia Flatley Brennan, RN, PhD  Director, National Library of Medicine
    Welcome & Opening Remarks

    Christopher J. Phillips, PhD — Assistant Professor, Department of History, Carnegie Mellon University
    A Network of Number Doctors: Biostatistics at the NIH

    Between roughly 1930 and 1980, statistical analysis became a central component of clinical medicine. Long used in public health and epidemiology, biostatistical tools and concepts were increasingly deployed to answer the most basic of clinical inquiries: Is this therapy effective? How long will this patient survive? Is this substance carcinogenic? Biometricians and biostatisticians at the National Institutes of Health were central to this transformation, both establishing and promoting new techniques. In this presentation I will combine traditional historical tools with newer digital tools to argue that one important way NIH statisticians were able to effect such change was through networks of influence, including project consultation, expert review panels, and co-publication practices. By thinking of statisticians as a network constituted both inside and outside the NIH, we can better understand the rapid transformation of clinical medicine into a field where probabilities, inference tests, and meta-analyses now play decisive roles.

    Read an interview with Dr. Christopher Phillips on Circulating Now

    Andrew R. Ruis, PhD — Associate Director for Research of the Epistemic Analytics Lab, Wisconsin Center for Education Research, and Fellow of the Medical History and Bioethics Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Networked History: Developing Quantitative Models of Qualitative Phenomena

    Scholars in the humanities and social sciences are newly confronted with staggering amounts of source material. From digitized collections of historical records to the cyberarchives of online communities, traditional research methods are difficult if not impossible to apply when the volume of data exceeds what a human can reasonably read and evaluate. But as scholars turn to computational techniques designed for distant reading and adapt analytic approaches from other contexts, such as computational linguistics and machine learning, it raises questions about the nature of historical research and criteria by which we evaluate the quality of historical arguments. In this presentation, I explore the use of a network analytic technique, epistemic network analysis, for modeling and investigating the ontological foundations of nutrition over two centuries. Using this case study as a worked example, I examine the strengths and limitations of such an approach and the implications of outsourcing some of our analytic thinking to machines.

    Read an interview with Dr. Andrew Ruis on Circulating Now

    Sarah Runcie, PhD — Assistant Professor of African History, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
    Naming, Networks, and Power in Histories of Medicine in Africa

    This presentation will explore how scholars can bring together digital tools and network analysis with key questions of power in histories of medicine in Africa. It will take a particular focus on the potential for digital tools to highlight the role of Africans in biomedical practice during the colonial period.

    Read an interview with Dr. Sarah Runcie on Circulating Now


    Brett Bobley — Director, Official of Digital Humanities, National Endowment for Humanities

    E. Thomas Ewing, PhD — Associate Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Professor, Department of History, Virginia Tech

    Katherine Randall — Virginia Tech, doctoral candidate in rhetoric and writing, Department of English, Virginia Tech


    Jeffrey S. Reznick, PhD — Chief, History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine

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  • Dr. Michael E. DeBakey and His Influence in the Changing Business of Healthcare and the Delivery of American Medicine

    2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. in the NLM Lister Hill Auditorium, Building 38A

    Andrew T. Simpson, PhD — 2017 NLM Michael E. DeBakey Fellow in the History of Medicine,
    Assistant Professor, Department of History, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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    This lecture will be live-streamed globally, and archived, by NIH VideoCasting.

    Read an interview with Dr. Andrew Simpson on Circulating Now

    During his lifetime, Dr. Michael E. DeBakey developed a reputation as a leading voice decrying the growing commercialization of American medicine. At the same time, as the leader of a major medical school and as a clinical and technological innovator, Dr. DeBakey helped to transform how academic medicine and the commercial health care marketplace interacted in Houston and across the globe by working to expand the footprint of cardiovascular surgery in the United States and overseas through program building and consulting agreements as well as developing partnerships between the government, medical schools, and private industry to create and market new medical technologies and devices. Drawing from his papers held by the National Library of Medicine, this lecture will explore how Dr. DeBakey negotiated the tension between the academic mission and commercial imperative of American medicine during the late 20th century, and how his actions helped to build Houston, and Baylor College of Medicine, into global centers for health care innovation and models for navigating the changing currents of the American healthcare system.

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  • Scientists’ Mind-Body Problems: Lobotomy, Science, and the Digital Humanities

    2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. in the NLM Lister Hill Auditorium, Building 38A

    Miriam Posner, PhD — Assistant Professor, Information Studies Department, University of California Los Angeles

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    This lecture will be live-streamed globally, and archived, by NIH VideoCasting and co-sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Office of Digital Humanities through the NLM/NEH partnership to collaborate on research, education, and career initiatives.

    Read an interview with Dr. Miriam Posner on Circulating Now

    This lecture will examine the career of Walter J. Freeman II, MD (1895–1972), who was the world’s foremost exponent of lobotomy. Freeman was also an avid photographer who almost invariably captured before-and-after images of his patients. The talk explains how Freeman’s apparently eccentric practice fit into the larger picture of science and medicine in the mid-20th century, and how methods of the digital humanities have helped give context and nuance to Freeman’s work. It concludes with a consideration of what digital humanities methods might offer to historians of medicine in the twenty-first century.

    About James H. Cassedy

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  • The World Health Organization’s Alma-Ata Declaration of 1978: What Was It Then, Where Is It Now?

    2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. in the NLM Lister Hill Auditorium, Building 38A

    Ted Brown, PhD — Professor of History and Medical Humanities, University of Rochester

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    This lecture will be live-streamed globally, and archived, by NIH VideoCasting.

    The adoption of the Alma-Ata Declaration in September 1978 has been regarded by many as one of the shining moments in the history of international and global health. It was the occasion for the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and 134 signatory nations to declare the goal of “Health for All by 2000” along with strong commitments to “development in the spirit of social justice” and to “essential health care” that was “universally accessible” and an integral part of “the overall social and economic development of the community.” This lecture will review the pre-history and history of the Alma-Ata declaration and will assess recent developments in the early twenty-first century in an attempt to offer a prognosis for the future role of Alma-Ata principles in the world of global health.

    About Elizabeth Fee (1946–2018)

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Speaker Interviews on Our Blog

About the History of Medicine Lectures

The lecture series of the NLM History of Medicine Division promotes awareness and use of NLM and other historical collections for research, education, and public service in biomedicine, the social sciences, and the humanities. The series also supports the commitment of the NLM to recognize the diversity of its collections—which span ten centuries, encompass a range of digital and physical formats, and originate from nearly every part of the globe—and to appreciate the individuals of various disciplines who value these collections and use them to advance their research, teaching, and learning.

All lectures are free and open to the public and are held in the NLM’s Lister Hill Auditorium or NLM Visitor Center, located on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. For directions and more information please go to Visit Us.

All lectures are live-streamed globally and subsequently archived by NIH VideoCasting. This public service is made possible through a generous gift to the NLM from the Michael E. DeBakey Medical Foundation. The NLM is authorized to accept donations in support of its mission.

Read interviews with our lecturers on our blog Circulating Now   for a variety perspectives on the history of medicine and the historical collections at NLM.

Stay informed about the lecture series on Twitter at #NLMHistTalk.

Last Reviewed: October 1, 2019