Since 2014, I have been on the faculty of the Health Administration Department at Drexel University, teaching classes on bioethics, the history of health care and medicine, and aging. Before that, I taught for a decade at Penn State University in the Science, Technology and Society and Bioethics programs. I earned a PhD in History from Case Western Reserve University, and did a postdoc in the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University.
My interest in the history of Alzheimer’s disease began in the early 1980s when I worked as a nursing assistant in the geriatric wards of a general hospital in Cleveland, often caring for people with dementia and witnessing how terms like Alzheimer’s disease and Senile Dementia of the Alzheimer Type were replacing older, more general terms like senility or organic brain syndrome in clinical settings.
While my background in nursing gave me a perspective on caregiving and the experience of dementia, my graduate and postdoctoral work gave me understanding of the perspectives of clinical medicine and biomedical research on Alzheimer’s Both CWRU and Hopkins were rich environments for doing work on the history of AD, and I have benefited from contact with many researchers and clinicians investigating various aspects of dementia. These experiences convinced me of the importance of interdisciplinary inquiry and discourse, and I am committed to bringing my perspective on health and medicine as a cultural historian into a creative engagement with the perspectives of scholars from other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, as well as clinicians, researchers, ethicists, care providers, patients and the general public.
I have written a book on the cultural history of Alzheimer’s called Self, Senility and Alzheimer’s Disease in Modern America (Johns Hopkins, 2006), and co-edited two interdisciplinary volumes: Concepts of Alzheimer Disease: Biological, Clinical and Cultural Perspectives (Johns Hopkins, 2000) with Peter Whitehouse and Konrad Maurer, and Treating Dementia: Do We Have a Pill for It? (Johns Hopkins, 2009) with Whitehouse, Constantine Lyketsos, Peter Rabins and Jason Karlawish.