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Institutional histories are often boring repositories of long-forgotten names and intramural developments, commissioned by well-meaning insiders to celebrate a particular anniversary. Refreshingly, Elizabeth Fee's book is neither tedious nor merely fashioned for in-house consumption. In fact, developments at the Hopkins School of Hygiene are merely a platform from which the author launches into a broad investigation of early 20th-century public health ideology in America.
At a time when newspaper headlines and political rhetoric in the debate over the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) pit civil rights against public health, Fee's examination of the latter's shifting boundaries and approaches is informative. Her distinction of a medical, disease-oriented model of public health vs a social, environmental archetype is important for an understanding of the tensions and strains that still predominate in this field of study. The disease model relied heavily on the new sciences of bacteriology, medical zoology, and then virology, trying to
Risse GB. Disease and Discovery: A History of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, 1916-1939. JAMA. 1987;258(24):3568–3569. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400240100041
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