I am the Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor in the Social Sciences and chair, History and Sociology of Science, at the University of Pennsylvania. My main areas of research are the history of 20th century disease, epidemiology, and population health.


I was born and raised in pre-hipster Brooklyn. I received my B.A. in English literature from Michigan, an M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language from Teachers College (Columbia), and my M.D. from Yale. I also did a few years of graduate study in Linguistics at UC-Berkeley. During this period I also drove a taxi in NYC, worked in a kibbutz, taught English as a Second Language, and traveled extensively. After graduating medical school, I did my residency training in internal medicine at Pennsylvania Hospital and then was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at Penn. For most of the 1990s I worked at Cooper Hospital in Camden, N.J. Soon after arriving at Penn in 1999, I co-founded and co-directed the Health and Societies Program and the Penn site of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholars Program. Read more about my work and other experiences here.

Current Project.

In 2015, I finished Risky Medicine: Our Quest to Cure Fear & Uncertainty (Chicago) which explored the history of our risk-centered medical interventions and the consequences for American medicine and society. I am currently working on a project, Medical efficacy in a highly intervened-in world, for which I received a Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. This project explores the history of how Americans have judged the safety and efficacy of medical interventions, with a focus on how the increasing number and novel combinations of medical interventions have undermined the straightforward translation of insights from clinical and laboratory experiments to the care of individuals.

Photo credit: Peter Tobia