UW News

April 3, 2003

What can Americans learn from British medicine?

Dr. Rosemary Stevens, author of several well-known books on medicine, hospitals and society, will present the 20th George and Lorna Aagaard Lecture on Medicine and Society on Thursday, April 17.

She will speak on “The Realpolitik of Medical Professionalism” at 4 p.m. in Hogness Auditorium at the Health Sciences Center. She has noted that “Professionalism has become a rallying cry for American medicine, but why now, and what does it mean?”

The lecture is free and open to everyone, with a reception following in the Health Sciences Lobby.

Stevens is now the Stanley Sheerr emeritus professor of arts and sciences in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a former chair of that department and a former dean of the U Penn College of Arts and Sciences. She retired from the deanship in 1996 to pursue her academic interests.

She is the author of American Medicine and the Public Interest, first published in 1974 and reissued with updates in 1998, and of In Sickness and in Wealth: American Hospitals in the Twentieth Century, published in 1989 and reissued in 1998, as well as four other books.

Stevens, who is a native of Britain and did her undergraduate work there, moved to the United States in the early 1960s to earn a master’s degree in public health at Yale University and then received a Ph.D. in epidemiology from Yale in 1968. She remained at Yale for the next decade as a member of the public health faculty and of the Institution of Social and Policy Studies.

She joined the University of Pennsylvania faculty in 1979.

With her perspective on the British and American health-care systems, she became interested in the differing patterns of practice in the two countries, as well as the different organization and financing mechanisms, and in how these differences were reflected in the two societies. She focused on studying the history of medicine in Britain and America to determine how these differences evolved. Her interests include the 20th century history of the medical profession, current health policy and systems, and the future of the health-care systems in both countries.

She has been a member of the Institute of Medicine since 1973 and has served two terms as a member of its governing council, and was named to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 1992.

For many years, she has been a member of numerous national advisory councils and ethics panels examing issues of health policy.

The Aagaard Lecture is named for the late George Aagaard, dean of the School of Medicine from 1954 to 64 and then a longtime member of the faculty, and his wife Lorna, a longtime volunteer for the medical school and UW Medical Center. She died in 2002. Their portrait hangs in the third-floor entrance to the Aagaard Tower (also known as the BB Tower) of the Health Sciences Center.