Keith Wailoo: Historian Elected To US Institute Of Medicine

Historians in the News




Keith Wailoo, Martin Luther King Professor of History at Rutgers University, has been elected to the Institute of Medicine, one of four learned academies that advise the government on scientific matters. Wailoo, a historian of health and medicine, has helped shape new understandings of disease, politics and culture in America. He is the seventh Rutgers professor and the second historian from Rutgers to be elected to the institute.

Wailoo is a member of Rutgers’ Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research and is founding director of the Center for Race and Ethnicity at Rutgers. Wailoo’s award-winning books, such as Dying in the City of the Blues: Sickle Cell Anemia and the Politics of Race and Health (University of North Carolina Press, 2001), have earned accolades for “elucidating questions of racial justice and inequality, and promoting human understanding.” Other major works on such topics as the impact of genetic medicine and new technology in American society include The Troubled Dream of Genetic Medicine: Ethnicity and Innovation in Tay-Sachs, Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Disease (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006); and Drawing Blood: Technology and Disease Identity in Twentieth-Century America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997).

Wailoo is one of 65 new members of the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Like the other three national learned academies – the National Academy of Sciences, the National Research Council, and the National Academy of Engineering – the IOM is recognized as a national resource for independent, scientifically informed analysis and recommendations on issues relating to human health. Its members are frequently called upon to advise the federal government on issues involving medical care, and to shape policies affecting public health. Once elected, members make a commitment to devote volunteer time to studying these kinds of critical health policy issues and producing reports that inform and guide policy. In 2005 and 2006, Wailoo served on an IOM Committee on Increasing Rates of Organ Donation, contributing to its final report, Organ Donation: Opportunities for Action.

Wailoo, a native of Guyana who grew up in New York City and graduated from high school in Maplewood, N.J., received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Yale University. Pursuing a passion for writing about science and society, he spent three years as a freelance science writer, working for publications such as American Scientist Magazine before going on to receive his master’s and doctoral degrees in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania. He taught for nine years in the medical school and the history department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before coming to Rutgers in 2001. Among his many awards, Wailoo received the prestigious James S. McDonnell Fellowship in the History of Science (a multi-year $1,000,000 award) in 1999 and, in 2001, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Investigator Award in Health Policy Research to carry out a study of the history and politics of pain medicine.

Three of Wailoo’s colleagues at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research are also members: David Mechanic, the institute’s director, elected in 1971; psychologist Howard Leventhal, elected in 1997; and, economist Louise Russell, elected in 1984. Historian Gerald N. Grob, now emeritus, was elected in 1990; computer scientist Casimir A. Kulikowski was elected in 1988; and statistician Lawrence Shepp was elected in 1992. In addition to the seven Rutgers faculty elected to the IOM, 19 faculty are members of the National Academy of Sciences, and eight are members of the National Academy of Engineering.





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