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EXPLORING THE PROMISE OF THE WEB FOR INTEGRATING A HEALTH NARRATIVE INTO THE HISTORY OF MODERN AMERICA

CHAIR: Janet Tighe, University of Pennsylvania

Health and health care loom unmistakably large in the national consciousness as we begin the twenty-first century. It is difficult to pick up a newspaper, to watch the nightly news, or to surf the Internet without encountering debates over health care f inancing, new health risks, or new technologies that promise a fuller or longer life. At a time when 14% of our Gross National Product is consumed by health care and the power of medicine to produce the miracles we have come to expect from science is in question, health and medicine are highly visible, controversial, unavoidable parts of our experience as Americans.

Despite the unmistakable importance of health and medical care to Americans past and present, few versions of the collegiate American history survey include much, if any, material on health and medical care. But how might instructors incorporate question s, topics, and sources related to our health past into the already overcrowded agenda of the American history survey? Our session will suggest the ways in which new electronic resources--specifically, web-based course units, research assignments combinin g traditional sources with a web component, Web-supported student interactivity, and digital "research archives"-can provide some answers to this dilemma. We will discuss our successes and failures in using these resources to reach a variety of constitu encies interested in the history of health and medical care, and describe the lessons our experiences provide for instructors who wish to integrate these vital topics into their own courses. We hope our brief presentations (including demonstrations of th e panelists' web sites) will stimulate audience discussion about the following questions: What can the history of medicine contribute to the U.S. survey course? How can web-based teaching facilitate the integration of this material? What are the dangers lurking in the myriad of health sources out on the Web? What benefits can be gained from using available historical web sites, and when is it necessary to generate new material for student use? How can we create web-based teaching materials that are pedagogically sound, flexible, multi-purpose, and easy to update and maintain? What role do such variables as the access to and familiarity with computers, pr oximity to libraries and museums, and availability of institutional resources play in the design decisions? And finally, the most important issue: what is the best use of the teacher's time?

In the first presentation, Kathleen Jones will demonstrate the ways that medical history can be adapted to such general themes in modern US history as the enhanced role of the (federal) government; the authority of science and scientific experts; and pat terns of race/class/gender conflict. She will show how, by using supplemental hyper-text problem-solving units (created at Virginia Tech and incorporating newly available WWW resources), students work through issues such as the sterilization controversy of the 1920s. Through these units students are led to see science and medicine as an integral (and changing) part of U.S. history, to come to terms with some of the ethical issues raised in the history of medicine, and to be aware of the many ways that past medical debates have shaped modern social controversies.

The second presentation by Jennifer Gunn is focused on a technology surgery that is often neglected even in medical history courses. Yet much of the faith and authority vested in American medicine in the mid-twentieth century came from surgical feats of daring such as open heart surgery, balloon angioplasty, and transplants. These feats not only became the emblem of modern high-tech medicine, but redefined both Americans¹ expectations of medicine and the nation¹s patterns of mortality and morbidity. Dr awing upon the University of Minnesota's history of surgical innovation and contemporary Web sites on new surgical techniques, she uses the Web to make primary materials available to students. They can explore surgical culture and ask questions about the relation of innovation to scientific research in an high-tech age, mechanical models of the body, and dilemmas surrounding human experimentation.

As the concluding presentation by the University of Pennsylvania project team will discuss, developing teaching tools for new media requires more than simply translating traditional material into digital format. It requires rethinking, from the ground up, traditional pedagogical approaches to the presentation of information. In the "Golden Age of Medicine" site the team has developed a web-based architecture for teaching the social history of medicine. It addresses a central question: what made the mid-twentieth century a "golden age" for American medicine? An interactive on-line exhibit forces students to examine from multiple perspectives the health experience of everyday Americans, while a digital "research archive" challenges students to understand the many meanings of the era¹s most emblematic "wonder drug," the polio vaccine. This multipurpose site has been tested at the University of Pennsylvania in the context of several different graduate and undergraduate courses, and has been designed to encourage co llaboration between faculty members.

Because they were faced with such different teaching challenges, the panelists developed an array of distinctive strategies for integrating the history of health and medical care with topics typically found in the U.S. history survey. While making their actual experiences in developing, and working with web materials their primary focus, the panelists will offer more than a "how to" session. In sum, by discussing the possibilities for incorporating the history of health and medical care into courses on modern America and the way electronic resources can aid and abet instr uctors who want to do so, we hope this will be as much a "why" and "when" session as a "how to" session.