Massachusetts Medical Society: Committee on History

Committee on History

Recommends actions and activities to preserve the history of the Society and recognizes its accomplishments. Sponsors an annual medical student history essay contest focused on the history of medicine or public health since the initiation of the MMS in 1781. This committee meets approximately three times a year.

History of Medicine Essay Award

$1,000 Award

  • In 2007, the Massachusetts Medical Society established the Medical Student Essay Award Contest to honor a student for the best research essay related to the history of medicine or public health since the initiation of the MMS in 1781. This year, in recognition of recent disturbing events indicative of persistent and pervasive institutional racism in American society, the Committee on History is specifying a topic for the annual essay contest: "The history of medicine and public health in respect to a persistent dilemma of American society: racism and discrimination against African Americans."
  • The MMS is committed to examining the history of implicit, as well as explicit, racism in medicine in Massachusetts and the United States, particularly as it has impacted African American physicians and communities, and continues to do so. We ask essay authors to focus on this as a topic and on the role of MMS, district medical societies, national medical associations, medical schools, academic medical centers, and other components of what might be considered the "medical establishment," with both positive and negative impact.
  • While the Committee recognizes that racism, discrimination, and power dynamics are certainly not a problem only for the African American community, we would like to narrow the focus of this year's contest to maximize what these essays can teach us about the history of medicine concerning a particular problem embedded in the very beginnings of this nation. However, using examples related to other circumstances of discrimination in medicine or healthcare are welcome if they further illustrate aspects of racism as it affects the African American community.
  • Authors of essays are strongly encouraged to use primary sources to the extent that they are available under restrictions in place for the coronavirus pandemic. Potential online sources include the Annual Orations of the MMS, the content of the New England Journal of Medicine and its precursors, historical archives, and association proceedings.
  • The article should be original, tightly argued, and well-referenced, and it will be judged on scholarship, originality, and clarity of expression.
  • Not to exceed 3,000 words, excluding citations/footnotes. Photographs and illustrations will be accepted.
  • Students are invited (but not required) to consult either in person or by phone with one of the members of the Committee on History to discuss the formulation of their research question, as well as sources to be investigated. Please contact Josh Rosenfeld at if you would like to talk to a committee member.

One paragraph abstract deadline: November 23, 2020
Final essay deadline: 
January 25, 2021

Download application (pdf)

Suggested sources:

Recent winning titles have included:

MMS Annual Orations

The MMS Annual Oration dates back more than 200 years, when in 1804, Dr. Isaac Rand addressed the topic of "On Phthisis Pulmonalis, and the Use of the Warm Bath." The historic purpose of the oration is to inform physicians of issues such as "the histories of epidemics, tables of births and deaths, diaries of the weather, etc."

While the original theme has expanded considerably through the years, the essence of the oration remains to inform Massachusetts physicians of issues pertinent to current medical practice.

View a list and text of the dissertations.

Committee Members
Alfred DeMaria, Middlesex - Chair
Edith M. Jolin, Plymouth - Vice-Chair
Louis Fazen, III, Worcester
B. Dale Magee, Worcester
Scott H. Podolsky, Norfolk
Elizabeth J. Quinn, Essex North
Eric J. Reines, Essex South
Kenath Shamir, Bristol South

Resident and Fellow:  
Member: Grace Lassiter, Middlesex

Medical Students:  
Member: Tara Ahmadi, Suffolk
Alternate: Colleen Flanagan, Worcester

Advisors :
Barbara A. Rockett, Norfolk

MMS Staff Liaison
Josh Rosenfeld (

Meeting Minutes

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Call for Nominations

The MMS Committee on Nominations is currently seeking candidates for the MMS Officer positions. Application deadline: February 1, 2021. More information and application.

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