Keith A. Wailoo
or by appointment at other times, also available on Zoom
Keith Wailoo (keithwailoo.com) is Henry Putnam University Professor of History and Public Affairs. He is jointly appointed in the Department of History and in the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. He is former Vice Dean of the School of Public and International Affairs, former Chair of History, and former President of the American Association for the History of Medicine (2020-2022). His research straddles history and health policy, touching on drugs and drug policy, on the politics of race and health, on the interplay of identity, ethnicity, gender, and medicine, and on controversies in genetics and society.
In 2021, he received the Dan David Prize for his "influential body of historical scholarship focused on race, science, and health equity; on the social implications of medical innovation; and on the politics of disease" and was also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His writings have advanced historical and public understanding on a range of topics: racial disparities in health care, the cultural politics of pain and opioids, how pandemic change societies, and the FDA's decision to ban menthol cigarettes.
His most recent book is Pushing Cool: Big Tobacco, Racial Marketing, and the Untold Story of the Menthol Cigarette (University of Chicago Press, 2021).
Professor Wailoo's other award-winning books include:
- Pain: A Political History (Johns Hopkins, 2015)
- How Cancer Crossed the Color Line (Oxford University Press, 2011)
- The Troubled Dream of Genetic Medicine: Ethnicity and Innovation in Tay-Sachs, Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Disease (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006) which received the Association of American Publishers book award in History of Science.
- Dying in the City of the Blues: Sickle Cell Anemia and the Politics of Race and Health (University of North Carolina, 2001) received multiple honors, including the Lillian Smith Book Award for Non-Fiction work elucidating questions of racial justice and inequality, the William H. Welch Medal for best book in the history of medicine, awarded by the American Association for the History of Medicine, the Susanne Glasscock Humanities Book Prize for Interdisciplinary Scholarship, the American Political Science Association Award for Best Book published in the area of Public Policies, Social and Legal Dimensions of Ethnic and Racial Politics in the U.S., and the Community Service Award by the Sickle Cell/Thalassemia Patient Network.
- Drawing Blood: Technology and Disease Identity in Twentieth Century America (Hopkins, 1997) which received the Arthur Viseltear Award from the American Public Health Association.
Before joining the Princeton faculty, Professor Wailoo taught in History and in Social Medicine (in the Medical School at UNC Chapel Hill), and at Rutgers University where he was Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of History and jointly affiliated with the History department and the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research. He holds a Ph.D. in the History and Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelors Degree in Chemical Engineering from Yale University.
In 2007 he was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, and he is the recipient of numerous other academic honors.
History Informing Health Policy
Wailoo’s work has shaped public understanding and informed health care policy on pressing current concerns. Recent published articles and essays include:
- "The FDA's Proposed Ban on Menthol Cigarettes," New England Journal of Medicine (2019)
- "Historical Aspects of Race and Medicine -- The Case of J. Marion Sims," Journal of the American Medical Association (2019)
- "Sickle Cell Disease -- A History of Progress and Peril," New England Journal of Medicine (2017)
- "Thinking Through Pain," Perspectives in Biology and Medicine (2016)
He has written for the New York Times ("Better Living Through Pills"), Vice News, The Daily Beast, ("The Pain Gap: Why Doctors Offer Less Relief to Black Patients"), The Lancet, the Bulletin for the History of Medicine, the Journal for the History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, and the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law, American Prospect. He has spoken widely on history, drug policy, and health politics on NPR programs ("The Politics of Pain," KERA), Freakonomics Radio ("Bad Medicine"), on C-SPAN, on Capitol Hill (Congressional Briefing on drug policy), and the Tavis Smiley Show. His research has been supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the James S. McDonnell Foundation, and the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund.
In 2021, he co-produced for Science magazine a podcast series on Race and Science, drawing attention to new impactful books across multiple fields.
His other works in public policy include:
- A Death Retold: Jesica Santillan, the Bungled Transplant, and Paradoxes of Medical Citizenship (UNC Press, 2006), a multi-disciplinary analysis of an infamous medical error leading to the death of an undocumented immigrant girl at Duke University Medical Center in 2003.
- Katrina’s Imprint: Race and Vulnerability in America (Rutgers University Press, 2010), a study of what the events in New Orleans reveal about the nature of vulnerability, resilience, and recovery.
- Three Shots at Prevention: The HPV Vaccine and the Politics of Medicine's Simple Solutions (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), an examination of the cultural, scientific, and political turmoil that has emerged recently around the marketing, use, mandating of Human Papillomavirus vaccines for girls–in the name of cervical cancer prevention.
- Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and History (Rutgers University Press, forthcoming) which examines the implications of new genetics for reshaping ideas about race and the past, as manifested in medicine, in the courts, and in the genealogy business.
- In 2005-6, he served on the Institute of Medicine Committee on Increasing Rates of Organ Donation, contributing to its report, Organ Donation: Opportunities for Action (2006).
- In 2015-16, he served on the Institute of Medicine Committee to advise the Food and Drug Administration on Mitochondrial Replacement Techniques: Ethical, Social, and Policy Considerations (2016).
He has served on the advisory board of the Center for Health Care Strategies; the National Advisory Committee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Investigator Award in Health Policy Research and the RWJ Foundation’s Health and Society program; the Health Sciences Policy Board of the Institute of Medicine; and the Greenwall Foundation Faculty Scholars Program.
Professor Wailoo is currently at work on a new book on a 19th century murder trial set in the plantation South on the cusp of the Civil War -- a story about slavery and racial accusation that touches on questions of poisoning, medical care in the midst of an epidemic, gender, and law in slave society. He is also working on a short history of addiction.
Class Day 2020 Lecture: "The Mask: Historical Reflections on Personal Protective Equipment, with Lessons for the COVID-19 Era"
Photo credit: Sameer Khan/Fotobuddy LLC