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My Courses


History 369: Public Health in America


This course explores the role of epidemic diseases such as smallpox, cholera, yellow fever, tuberculosis, and polio in shaping public health policy in the United States from the colonial era to World War II. I first taught a version of this course as a junior tutorial seminar when I was a graduate student, in 1979.  Since then the course has moved increasingly into the 20th century, and taken on more features of comparative global health history.  The role of social determinants of health, including nutrition, environmental hygiene, control of occupational hazards,  and the dense interaction of poverty, race, and climate continues to inform our discussions.


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History 371: Feast and Famine: Food in Global History


Surveys history of food in global history, beginning with paleolithic and ending with modern era. Focuses on food quality and quantity as a factor in determining health, including problems of global health disparities, food insecurity (including famines), and obesity. Topics include the impact of food exchanges across continents and cultures, origins of societal food taboos, discovery of vitamins and vitamin deficiencies, growth and impact of food industries, and the rise of diseases of plenty, such as type 2 diabetes.


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History 368: History of Evolution and Society


This course explores the power of origins stories in explaining and empowering societies. It contrasts religious creation stories with the scientific narratives that emerged in the past two centuries. Often seen as opposing narratives, these two styles of origin stories share much in common, and certainly the passion that surrounds them and their teaching owes much to the roles that origins stories have long played in societies. The course will review the history of evolutionary thought, as well as twentieth century developments in genetics, eugenics, and scientific analyses of human diversity.  The emergence of creation science, intelligent design, and political challenges to evolutionary science occupies the last section of the course, one that must be continually refreshed as these remain “hot button” topics for many politicians.


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History 89A: History of Global Health


This course, offered in 2009, was part of a focus cluster for Duke first year students.  In focus, students take a cluster of courses around a theme, such as in this case, global health. In this version of the class, I considered the role of nutrition, global epidemics and international health efforts in the history of global health.  I anticipate reshaping this course as a general undergraduate offering in years to come, and partnering with colleagues in Chinese and African history to create a more transnational educational experience.


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Medical Humanities 301b, Duke Medical School


Students at the Duke Medical School spend 9-12 months pursuing research in their third year.  One option is research in the Humanities Track, on topics within medical history, bioethics, religion and medicine or literature.  I helped create this study program in 2002 and have been the study program director for it since, except for sabbatical years.  Information on the medical humanities track can be found here (Link).



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