Unit 2: Professionalism, Science and Society

by Prof. Hangen - February 15th, 2019

In Unit 2, we move from the face-to-face world of “social healers” and few scientifically-based opportunities for medical training to the beginnings of medical professionalism and modern scientific theories and concepts.

Here’s how things look for the next few weeks, up to Spring Break (weather permitting).

For Wednesday, Feb 20 read the essay from The Birth of the Clinic by French philosopher Michel Foucault (Course Reader). Fair warning: it’s challenging reading, so set aside time to really read it closely, probably several times over.

I’ve also included in the Course Reader my own “Cliff Notes” (Ok, “Hangen Notes”) to the Foucault reading, to help you read your way through it. Also, this movie clip from the 1993 Harrison Ford film The Fugitive applies – I mention it in my notes.

For our discussion in class, consider:

Whether the “discourses” Foucault talks about were necessary or simply incidental to the development of the health care systems he describes.

How the health care settings you might be familiar with now are similar to / different than the ones Foucault writes about. Are they all “clinics” in Foucault’s terms? Why or why not?

Examples you are familiar with, about how “the medical gaze” informs modern health care practice.

For Monday, Feb 25: Read Chapter 3 in Burnham’s book, “Changing Ideas and Practices,” and Henry Jacob Bigelow’s article documenting first use of anesthesia in surgery at Mass General Hospital in 1846.
Reminder: Diagnosis History Paper due today, by classtime.


How does Foucault’s essay help frame or illuminate Burnham’s description of what happened to make medicine more “modern”?

How was observation and “the gaze” important to Bigelow’s approach to surgical innovation?

Painting, depicting Dr. John Collin Warren performing the first surgery using ether as anesthesia, administered by Dr. William Morton (a dentist), in the “Ether Dome” of Mass General Hospital, 1846.

Lewis and Clark Week (Feb 11 & 13)

by Prof. Hangen - February 11th, 2019

This week we look at another late 18th/early 19th century context of frontier medicine, medical care in the Lewis and Clark expedition (1803-1806).

For Monday, Feb 11 – Reading is Volney Steele, “Lewis and Clark: Keelboat Physicians” (Course Reader).

In Class: Film clips from Ken Burns, “Lewis and Clark”

On Wednesday, Feb 13 – bring laptops, we’ll be exploring in the online diaries of the members of the Corps of Discovery:


Martha Ballard Week – Feb 4 & 6

by Prof. Hangen - February 4th, 2019

This week we’ll be reading from / about the diary of Martha Ballard, a midwife, herbalist and “social healer” in late 18th century rural Maine. She is the subject of a Pulitzer-prizewinning history book, A Midwife’s Tale by Harvard history professor Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and a 1997 PBS / American Experience documentary. The diary itself — fragile, handwritten in fading ink — has been digitized so scholars like us can study it in depth, and is available at dohistory.org.

For Monday, prepare to discuss the chapter on 1787 (Course Reader)

For Wednesday, bring laptops or devices so we can use the digital version of the diary

The Colonial Context (Wed 1/30)

by Prof. Hangen - January 28th, 2019

For Wednesday’s class, read the first two chapters of Burnham’s book, Health Care in America.

Use these discussion questions to organize your reading and note-taking and prepare for the day’s discussion / lecture.

Want more? Jim Cox, “That Quacking Sound in Colonial America” (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Spr 2004)

What is Disease? (Mon 1/28)

by Prof. Hangen - January 27th, 2019

For today’s class, read Porter, Blood and Guts, Chapters 1-3.

Use these discussion questions to organize your reading and note-taking, and bring the book to class so we can discuss it in depth.

Welcome Spring 2019 Students!

by Prof. Hangen - January 4th, 2019

This website serves as the hub for Tona Hangen’s history course, “Health and Healing in America,” for the Spring 2019 semester at Worcester State University. This course meets Mon/Wed at 12:30 in Sullivan 108.

The three required textbooks for this course are listed under the “Readings” tab above. In addition, each student will receive a (free) course reader.

From this website, you can download the syllabus or access it online, stay up to date with course news and any changes, see the guidelines for the course papers and projects, and follow links to recommended history and writing resources.

This site is a blog, meaning it updates frequently and therefore you should bookmark it to stay up to date with all the course news and updates. I leave up the previous semesters’ information as an archive for my past students. You can safely ignore any post tagged “Spr17” or earlier.

If you have questions about the course before we meet in person on January 23rd, please feel free to email me, at thangen (at) worcester.edu

Final Exam for Spring 2017 – Posted to Blackboard

by Prof. Hangen - May 8th, 2017

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Health Care Debate

by Prof. Hangen - April 15th, 2017

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