Penn physician and historian Robert Aronowitz elected to Institute of Medicine

October 20, 2014

Robert Aronowitz, a physician and historian at the University of Pennsylvania, has been elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine, one of the nation's highest honors in the health-care field. He joins 69 other new members and 10 foreign associates in the 2014 class.

The newly elected members raise IOM's total active membership to 1,798 and the number of foreign associates to 128.

Established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences, IOM has become recognized as a national resource for independent, scientifically informed analysis and recommendations on health issues. With their election, members make a commitment to volunteer their service on IOM committees, boards and other activities.

Aronowitz is chair of the Department of History and Sociology of Science in Penn's School of Arts & Sciences. He also holds an appointment in Penn's Perelman School of Medicine.

Part of the IOM's mission is to recognize professionals not only in medicine but in the social sciences and humanities. Aronowitz's career has encompassed a broad range of disciplines, from English literature and linguistics to medicine and history. After receiving a master's from Columbia Teachers College, he began another degree in linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, before pursuing his M.D. at Yale University. He completed residency training in internal medicine at Pennsylvania Hospital, part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, and went on to receive training in the history of medicine as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at Penn.

Aronowitz's research interests revolve around the history of medicine and epidemiology and the role that risk and efficacy have played in driving trends and outcomes in health care. His award-winning book, Unnatural History: Breast Cancer and American Society, for example, illuminates how breast cancer is viewed, diagnosed and treated today through the lens of the past 200 years. Other writings have investigated the politics of the HPV vaccine, how diseases become "legitimized" and the social construction of Lyme disease. An article published last year, "From Skid Row to Main Street: The Bowery Series and the Transformation of Prostate Cancer, 1951-1966," received attention from The New York Times and helped spark a national dialogue about prostate cancer screening.

A new book, Risky Medicine: How Identifying and Treating Risk Is Transforming Our Health and Health Care, will appear in the spring, published by the University of Chicago Press.

Earlier this year, Aronowitz was honored with the Jacob Ehrenzeller Award, given to former residents of Pennsylvania Hospital who have excelled in their fields.

University of Pennsylvania

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