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January 7, 1983

Anatomy of an Epidemic

Author Affiliations

Salt Lake City

JAMA. 1983;249(1):93. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03330250067036

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Social historians, like the two authors of this book on medical detection, are not generally constrained to purely factual reportage of their chosen subject matter. They tend to delve into the broader implications of the issues they raise in the course of telling a story. Both what they write about (content) and the way they do it (form) may demonstrate their creativity. When content and form complement one another, interesting and even fascinating literature results. Political writers like Woodward and Bernstein (All the President's Men) and Richard Harris (A Sacred Trust) have been able to achieve this synthesis and have found mass market audiences. Few medical nonfiction writers have been as successful despite the fact that medical subject matter is inherently intriguing to the public. In the genre of "medical detection," Berton Roueché is perhaps the best-known and most accomplished author. It is understandable, then, that others would attempt to