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. Any topic that piques the student's curiosity is fair game for historical research and may be eye-opening and inspiring to others. Students are encouraged to consider the history behind topics of current interest, such as: the role of race in health, health care, and training of health care providers; discrimination of any kind; stigma of any kind.

  • 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 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 26, 2023
Final essay deadline: 
January 21, 2024

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.

Other History Resources

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