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History of Medicine in America (Syllabus)

Understanding Our World: History of Disease in the US
Time: Monday & Wednesday 4:30-5:55 PM
Where: Roosevelt 201
Instructor: Dr. Dillon Carroll
Office: 312 New Academic Building
Email: Dillon.J.Carroll@hofstra.edu or dillonjc@uga.edu
Office Hours: Mon/Wed 3-4 pm

 The Course

 This course shall explore the history of medicine, science, and health in the United States with a particular emphasis on the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. We shall be reading and discussing a wide variety of topics ranging from disease epidemics, theories of sickness, major health challenges, Civil War medicine, and medicine in the Progressive Era. Most readings, lectures and discussions will not simply focus on health, but go beyond, incorporating themes of race, gender, class and sexuality as well. We will learn what made Americans sick in the 18th and 19th centuries, and what they thought about such diseases.

Gerald Grob, The Deadly Truth
Candace Millard, Destiny of the Republic
Course Documents (all available on blackboard)

It is my hope that you will come to class having read the assigned materials for the day. If you come to class having not read the material, the lectures and discussions may seem strange and foreign to you. If you do not participate in the discussions your grade will suffer. I have learned that an effective way to make sure that students are keeping up with their assigned readings is to administer quizzes. I will be administering reading quizzes nearly every week. When assigned, you are expected to have read the assigned documents. In addition, come to class with the printed documents in hand and be ready to engage in discussion of those documents.


In order to gauge whether you are indeed reading and engaging the material, I will be assigning regular quizzes. They will usually be a combination of multiple choice and short answer on the previous days lecture and the reading for the week. I will drop the lowest scored quiz before grades are tallied. Quizzes will not be administered the day a paper is due. Quizzes are by far the most important aspect of your grade. You must keep up with your quizzes or this class will be quite difficult.


I will be taking attendance for this course. You have 2 absences on the house. These 2 absences are free of charge. What this means is, if you are absent for whatever reason, do not send me a doctors note, or a note from your lawyer, or a note from mom and dad. Use 1 of your 2 free absences. If you are absent from class more than 2 days points will be deducted from your overall participation score. Cases of serious emergencies will be considered, in other words, if you catch the Hantavirus and are in the hospital fighting for your life I will be granting leniency for your absence. Everything must be documented. What this means is, if you are subject to a serious emergency and you feel I should be lenient with your absence, please come to me with some form of documentation. If you simply show up to class and tell me that you caught Malaria and could not come to class, I will not be lenient with your absence. 


You will be getting a discussion grade in this course. This grade will be a combination of your attendance, your participation in discussions, and a group led discussion project. Your group led discussion project will consist of: students will be divided into groups, they will then be assigned a week, in which they will be responsible for reading the materials and facilitating a discussion. Your job as a group will, first by Tuesday at 5 pm your group should email me a list of discussion questions you might ask, as well as five possible quiz questions. We may use your discussion prompts and quiz questions on Wednesday. The day of discussion, your group will give a short presentation on the materials, no more than 10 minutes, and then help facilitate discussion. You will be graded on preparation, comprehension, creativity and effectiveness.

 Class Behavior

You have responsibilities as a student in this (and every class). Below are some responsibilities expected of you in this course:

1. Please show up on time. Everyone is late now and again, and I simply ask that you try and enter the room as quietly as you can so you do not distract your fellow students or me. If you are consistently late to class, I will start counting you as absent.

2. Show up prepared. It is your responsibility to show up to class with the assigned readings. You need to bring the book that readings are assigned from, as well as any extra assigned readings or documents. You can print these extra readings/documents, or bring them on a laptop, ipad, reader. It also recommended you show up with something to take notes with.

3. Do not use the Internet. In my time as a teaching assistant I sat in the back of the class each semester and watched students with laptops scroll on Facebook or search the internet, basically doing anything but taking notes. If this only affected you I would not care, but it distracts your fellow students as well. Therefore, please stay off the Internet. Do not use laptops unless you are accessing readings/documents during class or discussion.

4. Do not use your cell phone for any reason. If there is an emergency and you need to be notified, tell your family to contact the school and the school will contact you. Using your phone distracts your fellow students, and it distracts me (I can notice someone on their phone versus someone taking notes). Do not text during class, and do not place your phone on your desk waiting for texts. Do not wear headphones during class.

Academic Honesty

As a student at the Hofstra University, you have agreed to abide by a Code of Honor. You may not know that, but that does not mean you did not agree to uphold the principles of honesty that the Hofstra supports. By agreeing to the Honor Code you agree that you will pursue your coursework with integrity and honor, and that you will neither give nor receive unauthorized assistance. Plagiarism, of any kind, will not be tolerated, and I am legally obligated to report academic dishonesty to the student affairs council. If you do not know what this is please visit the student handbook.


Quizzes:          40%

Papers:           40%

Discussion:     20%

* Assignments may change throughout course

Course Schedule

 Part I: Disease and Early History

Week 1: Introduction

M 9/5              NO CLASS (LABOR DAY)

W 9/7              Introduction

Reading:          None

Week 2: Europeans, Native Americans and the Medical Nightmare

M 9/12            Health of Early Americans

W 9/14                        Native American Holocaust

Quiz 1

Reading:          Grob, The Deadly Truth, 1-25 & 26-47; Paul Kelton, “Avoiding the Smallpox Spirits: Colonial Epidemic and Southeastern Indian Survival,” Ethnohistory Vol. 51 No. 1 (Winter 2004) (available on blackboard); course documents

Week 3: Inoculation Controversy

M 9/19                        Smallpox and Inoculation

W 9/21                        Smallpox and Inoculation

Quiz 2

Reading:          Grob, The Deadly Truth, 48-75; Amalie M. Kass, “Boston’s Historic Smallpox Epidemic,” Massachusetts Historical Review Vol 14 (2012): 1-40; course documents (available via blackboard)

Week 4: Malaria and Yellow Fever  

 M 9/26                        NO CLASS (PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE)

W 9/28                        Mosquitoes and Health

Reading:          Grob, The Deadly Truth, 75-94; Jeanne Abrams, Death Stalks (available via blackboard)

Week 5: Midwifery

M 10/3                        Midwifery

W 10/5                        Martha Ballard

Reading:          Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. “‘The Living Mother of a Living Child’: Midwifery and Mortality in Post-Revolutionary New England.” William and Mary Quarterly 46 (1989): 27-48; Read Martha Ballard’s Diary (available via blackboard)

Week 6: Slavery and Medicine

 M 10/10          History of Slavery

W 10/12          Slavery and Medicine

Quiz 3
Paper 1

Reading:          “White and Black Medicine,” in Todd L. Savitt, Medicine and Slavery: The Diseases and Health Care of Blacks in Antebellum Virginia; course documents (available via blackboard)

Week 7: American Medicine in Transition   

M 10/17          NO CLASS (FALL BREAK)

W 10/19          Cholera

Quiz 4

 Reading:          Candice Millard, Destiny of the Republic

Week 8: American Medicine in Transition

M 10/24          Medical Advancements

W 10/26          Emergence of Public Health

Reading:          Continue reading Millard, Destiny of the Republic
Quiz 5

Week 9: Civil War Medicine  

 M 10/31          American Civil War

W 11/2                        Civil War Medicine

Reading:          Grob, The Deadly Truth, 143-148; Alfred J. Bollet, M.D., “The Truth About Civil War Surgery,” Civil War Times 43 (2004): 26-56; William W. Keen, “Surgical Reminiscences of the Civil War,” 420-441, accessible here: http://ebooks.library.ualberta.ca/local/addressesotherpa00keenuoft

Paper 2 Due

Week 10: Mental Illness

 M 11/7                        History of Mental Illness

W 11/9                        Yellow Wallpaper

Reading:          Anthony P. Cavender, “A Vision Lost,” Virginia Magazine of History & Biography Vol. 122 No. 3; documents: asylum case histories (via blackboard)

Week 11: Progressives  

 M 11/14          Pasteur, Lister and Koch

W 11/16          Medical Advancements

Quiz 6

Reading:          Grob, The Deadly Truth, 182-216; Judith Waltzer Leavitt, “‘Typhoid Mary’ Strikes Back: Bacteriological Theory and Practice in 20th Century Public Health,” in Sickness and Health in America (available via blackboard)

Week 12: No Class (Thanksgiving Break)

Week 13: Race and Medicine

M 11/28          Medical Racism

W 11/30          Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments

Quiz 7

Reading:          Allan Brandt, “Racism and Research: The Case of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment,” in Sickness and Health in America (available via blackboard)

 Week 14: 20th Century Health

 M 12/5                        Defeating Disease?

W 12/7                        The Problem of Cancer

Quiz 8

Reading:          Grob, The Deadly Truth, 217-242, Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, Part One: “Of black cholor, without boyling,” 37-79 (available via blackboard).

Week 15: AIDS

M 12/12          From “Gay Cancer” to AIDS

W 12/14          Fighting AIDS

Reading: Grob, The Deadly Truth, 267-275; Joe Wright, “Only Your Calamity”: The Beginnings of Activism by and for People with AIDS (available via blackboard)

 Week 16: Finals Week




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