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History of Medicine…and French?
I always get quizzical looks from folks when I explain that I teach both French and the History of Medicine at Vanderbilt University. But once you understand my background, it ends up making perfect sense.
I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, with a brief stint in the cornfields of northern Illinois. As the granddaughter of French immigrants, I’ve never been able to shake the genetic connection I have to French-speaking Europe (I’ve written about those connections here.) And over the years, I’ve lived in Belgium, Paris, and Aix-en-Provence.
Writing has also always been in my blood. I worked at the student newspaper when I was an undergraduate at Indiana University and considered a degree in Journalism. But as always, French beckoned. After majoring in French and Political Science at IU, I went on to earn my Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While my family history was at play in my decision to work in French Studies, I’m certain that an experience I had as a young girl at Versailles sealed the deal.
It was at Madison that I discovered a passion that has shaped my work as an academic and a writer. UW is home to top programs in the History of Science/Medicine, and I completed a graduate minor in the field. I love learning, and I love telling stories. And the history of medicine provides an endless opportunity for both.
I landed a tenure-track position at Vanderbilt, where interdisciplinary studies are genuinely valued. And thanks to this, I have been able to teach and write about the History of Medicine and French Studies ever since. I teach courses on the History of Early Medicine, Medicine and Literature, as well as courses on early French literature and culture. My research has been funded by the Newberry Library (Chicago), the Francis C. Wood Institute for the History of Medicine, the Wellcome Library for the History of Medicine, and from Vanderbilt’s Research Scholar Fellowship program.
True to my early roots, the journalistic side of me also comes out from time to time. You’ll find some of my work in the New Scientist, the Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Christian Science Monitor. I’m also a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and the National Society of Science Writers (NASW).
I met my husband, Jon Hamilton, when we were both dorm RAs at Indiana. We now live in Nashville with our young daughter and a lively dog named Lucky Shakespeare. My daughter loved the name Shakespeare; I tried to explain to her that a professor with a dog named after a great playwright was just too weird.
So the family settled on Lucky S, whose own claim to fame is getting kicked out of obedience school. Thanks to hours of private lessons, he now sits on command…sometimes.