Courses in the History of Medicine


HMED 3002W: Health Care in History II

Credits: 4

Lecture MWF: 10:10-11:00 am, plus discussion section
Prerequisites: None
Instructor: Dr. Christopher Kindell
LE Requirements: Meets Historical Perspectives and Writing Intensive

What historical forces have shaped our healthcare system? This course will attempt to answer that question. We'll examine health care both as a scientific and intellectual project and as an integral part of society and culture. We'll seek to understand how ideas about disease, therapy, and the organization of care for the sick reflect the historical context in which they are embedded. Among other topics, we will investigate changing ideas about the body and disease, the development of modern biomedicine, the growth of the major health professions, and the historical origins of health disparities. Public health, preventive medicine, and pandemics form an important part of this story.


HMED 3040: Human Health, Disease, and the Environment in History

Credits: 3

Lecture MW: 2:30-3:45pm
Prerequisites: None
Instructor: Dr. Christopher Kindell
LE Requirements: Meets Historical Perspectives

This class explores the historical interaction between environment and human health. We begin by looking at early medical writers, understanding of the relationship of the geographic environment to hereditary constitution and health and go on to examine the symbiotic relationship between pathogens and human hosts and how human actions (such as migration and warfare) alter the environmental conditions for health and disease. We will look beyond infectious diseases to the effects on health of the built environment and human interventions, including industrialization, pollution, sanitary engineering, and of social factors, such as public health programs, environmental racism, poverty, and privatization of basic resources, that have historically affected the distribution of environmental risks and disease.


HMED 3055: Women, Health, and History

Credits: 3

Lecture TuTh: 9:45-11:00am
Prerequisites: None
Instructor: Dr. Jennifer Gunn
LE Requirements: Meets Diversity and Social Justice in the US, and Historical Perspectives

This seminar investigates women’s historical roles as healers, patients, research subjects, and health activists since the early 1800s. We will analyze how race, class, gender, sexuality, disability, and ethnicity have influenced women’s experiences of the health care system by exploring such themes as reproduction, contraception, and childbirth; understandings of gender and the body; health care policy and politics related to women’s health; women’s health activism; and women’s access to and experiences of careers as health care providers.


HMED 3315: Early Modern Medicine in the Arts and Literature

Credits: 3
Lecture TuTh: 1:00-2:15pm
Instructor: Dr. Jole Shackelford
LE Requirements: Meets Arts/Humanities 


What did the arts offer to medicine, and what did medicine offer to the arts in early modern time? How did the representation of the human being in poetry, drama, and figurative arts interplay with the new medical culture and practices at that time? This course will examine the dynamic interchange and engagement of Western Renaissance medical culture (before 1800) in relation to literary, visual and performing arts, approaching questions that cross disciplinary, geographical, and social boundaries. By exploring the value of humanistic study and medical ethical concerns in Renaissance humanism, students will understand the historical sources of a modern humanistic formation and be informed about the importance of ethics to citizenship, reconsidering the present vision of a humanistic education and imagining the future in the academic humanities and in our society.


HMED 7500: Historical Research for Medical Students

Course Availability

Length: 3, 4, or 6 weeks
Periods offered: By arrangement
Sites: Biomedical Library and Wangensteen Historical Library
Limit: 5
Prerequisites: none
Course director: HMED Faculty
Contact: Dr. Jennifer Gunn, (612) 624-1909, Dr. Jole Shackelford, (612) 624-4499
Report first day: By appointment at History of Medicine Office, 511A Diehl Hall

This course is designed to acquaint third and fourth year medical students with the sources and the methods of historical research in medical topics and to allow them to undertake a short research project on a topic which they help design. Possible topics include the development of the specialty they plan to enter, the history of a particular disease, or aspects of the health care system. The research project will result in a short paper.

Competencies and Objectives

  • To learn some of the basic issues and sources in the history of medicine.
  • To design a historical research project.
  • To gain familiarity with how historical sources may be found and to use a historical library or archive for research purposes.
  • To prepare a research paper in medical history using the standard scholarly apparatus to make and document an argument or interpretation.

Student Assessment

Students will be evaluated on the interest and importance of their topic, on the quality of their research, and on their success in making and supporting an argument or interpretation in their paper.

Special Instructions

At least two weeks before the period begins, contact one of the instructors to discuss your interest with him/her.

Contact Program in the History of Medicine

Diehl Hall (511A)
505 Essex Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455

Mail: Mayo Building (MMC 506)
420 Delaware St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455

Phone: 612-624-4416 | Fax: 612-625-7938