history of a disease


For your second major essay, you will build on the material and themes of The Immortal Life of
Henriette Lacks by researching the history of a disease or disorder and its treatment in the 20th

or 21st century; you will be writing within the framework of medical humanities, so along with
the broader history of the disease/disorder, you are going to explore the role of on individual
within that history—it could be a particular researcher or scientist; it could also be a specific
patient. Possible topics might include the development of the polio vaccine, the influenza
epidemic of 1918, treatments for cancer, infertility treatments, AIDS/HIV, autism, ALS, and so

Purpose and Key Elements

The purpose of this essay is to develop research skills and to consider the human perspective of
medical science. Your essay should be around 2,000 words, and the main body should include
the following elements:

History of the disease/treatment: Trace the medical history of the disease/disorder and the
treatments that developed in the period you have chosen.

Narrative of a specific individual: Tell the story of a specific individual within the broader
history—a patient, a doctor, a research scientist, for example.

Historical data: Include at least one table or figure that lays out key information related to the
disease/disorder. You can use tables or figures found in sources (you don’t have to generate your


Impact/Lessons learned/need for further research: Use the information you have found to draw
conclusions regarding the development on medical science. How you handle this element will
vary widely, but here are some possible ways to approach the closing: How did the treatment of
this disease/disorder change medical practices? What were the broad social changes? What
lessons were learned from the treatment of this disease/disorder? What are areas for further


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