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American Association for the History of Medicine 2012

John S. Schleicher
McGoogan Library of Medicine
Omaha, Nebraska


With the support of a Professional Development Award from the NN/LM MidContinental Region, I was able to attend the 85th annual meeting of the American Association for the History of Medicine, held April 26-29, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. Attendees at the conference come from a wide range of backgrounds and from various professions related to the health sciences. Those attending also have many and varied historical interests related to the history of medicine and the other health professions, as well as public health history.

Among the various individuals attending the conference were academic historians, medical professionals, archivists and librarians who work in the history of the health sciences, as well as graduate students from all of these disciplines. As an example of the wide-range of those interested in the history of medicine and public health who attend the conference, at the opening reception I met sisters, one of whom is a history professor at Rutgers University specializing in the history of medicine; while the other is an obstetrician/gynecologist, who is interested in the history of her own area of medical specialization.

My interest in attending the conference stems from my dual role as head of special collections in our library, and as an adjunct lecturer in history for undergraduates at another campus in our university system. In my library position, I function as both archivist and rare books librarian, serving a wide-range of library users. The library’s rare book collections contain volumes dating from the mid-1490s to the turn of the 20th century. I also help to organize our annual history of medicine lecture, presented by a visiting scholar. In my role as an academic historian, I taught a course during the summer of 2012 on the history of American medicine and public health.

Attending the history of medicine conference contributes greatly to my various academic roles.  Most of the conference sessions that I attended helped to expand my knowledge in areas of study contained in our collections. The largest subject area in our rare book collections is obstetrics and gynecology, so sessions such as Politics of Medical Contraception and Abortion; Midwifery and Medicalization; and Our Bodies, Our Choices: The Language of Choice and Patient Responsibility contributed to my knowledge in that area of study. We recently received a large collection containing a number of works on eugenics, so I was interested to hear a session on Racial Degeneration and Eugenics. The second largest subject area in our rare book collections is general anatomy, so sessions such as Presenting and Representing the Body in Early Modern Medicine; and Medieval Medicine and Religion were of interest to me.

Our archives and rare books collections contain much 19th century material, including the history of our medical school and other colleges and department in our institution, so these conference sessions were of great benefit to me as well: Medical Education and Women; Medical Practice in the 19th Century; Medical Photography.

This conference has furthered my knowledge in various areas of medical history, really the history of the health sciences as a whole, including public health history. The historical knowledge I have gained through attending the conference helps me to better understand and evaluate materials in my own collections, as well as to better serve the needs of our library users who are searching for specific resources in the history of medicine and the other health sciences. This conference has provided me with information and historical knowledge to improve standards of service for users of our special collections, and also provided a networking opportunity with other individuals working in the field of medical history. Our library is one of the few in our region that has historical collections, so I would be willing to advise and assist other health sciences librarians in the region who are in need of locating historical resources or information for their library users.

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