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

Since 2007, the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) has supported the Committee on History in offering the Medical Student Essay Award to be presented to a medical student for the best original, independently researched essay on a topic related to the history of medicine or public health since the initiation of the MMS in 1781. All relevant essay topics are welcome, but in light of recent events and MMS initiatives, essays addressing stigma and health inequities represented in the history of past epidemics and pandemics (influenza, HIV, smallpox, plague, Ebola, etc.) and how these compare and contrast with the experience of COVID-19 would be of interest, as would essays examining the history of racism and discrimination in medicine in Massachusetts and the United States.

  • Authors of essays are strongly encouraged to use primary sources to the extent that they are available under restrictions still in place for the coronavirus pandemic. Students are invited (but not required) to consult, either in person or by phone, with members of the Committee on History to discuss the formulation of their research question, as well as sources that might be investigated. Potential on-line sources include the Annual Orations of the MMS, the content of the New England Journal of Medicine and its precursors on-line, historical archives, and association proceedings. Please contact Leon Barzin at lbarzin@mms.org if you would like to talk to a committee member.
  • The essay 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.

One paragraph abstract deadline: November 28, 2021
Final essay deadline: 
January 23, 2022


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.

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2022 Awards: Call for Nomination

Do you have a colleague who deserves to be nominated for their outstanding work or service to the community? The MMS and its Committee on Recognition Awards are currently seeking nominations for the 2022 Awards. Additional info and applications.

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