October 2007

Medical Historian, Physician Named University Professor

Vanessa Northington Gamble became GW's first female University Professor on Sept.1.

Vanessa Northington Gamble, a physician and noted scholar in the field of medical humanities, has been named University Professor of Medical Humanities effective Sept. 1. She is the first woman to hold the prestigious endowed faculty position and is a member of GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences faculty in the Department of History.

“Dr. Gamble is an exemplary scholar whose work illuminates the critical role of race and racism in the history of American medicine and public health,” says GW President Steven Knapp. “Her presence on our faculty will bring new strength and urgency to GW’s focus on health disparities, and she will be a tremendous resource for our students and her colleagues.”

Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald R. Lehman says, “The GW community will benefit from Dr. Gamble’s cross-disciplinary approach to scholarship, from her community activism, and from her wide-ranging research projects, which provide unique insights into the ways in which racial identity influences health care in the United States.”

Gamble comes to GW from Tuskegee University in Alabama, where she had been director of the university’s National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care since 2004. At Tuskegee, Gamble dedicated herself to the center’s mission of equity and justice in health care, developed the center’s strategy and infrastructure, and brought issues of bioethics and the underserved to the attention of scholars in the field by engaging faculty in national and international conferences.

“I am looking forward to joining the faculty, because I believe that GW is a place that supports research in the medical humanities, where excellence in teaching is expected, and where, as a University professor, I will have the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues from a broad range of disciplines,” Gamble says.

From 1989 until 2000, Gamble was on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she taught courses in medical and scientific history and preventive and family medicine, among others. During her tenure, she developed the nation’s first course on the history of race, American medicine, and public health. She was inducted into the university’s Teaching Academy, an honor reserved for faculty who demonstrate excellence in teaching. Gamble also founded and directed the university’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in Medicine, which addresses issues of racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care.

Gamble’s experience includes having served as vice president of the division of community and minority programs at the Association of American Medical Colleges, as a health commentator for National Public Radio, and as associate professor of health policy and management at The Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is the author of numerous articles and book chapters, including Making a Place for Ourselves: The Black Hospital Movement, 1920-1945, which was named an outstanding academic book in Choice magazine.

In 2005, Gamble was elected a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. Gamble received an M.D. and a Ph.D. in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania. She holds a B.A. in medical sociology and human biology from Hampshire College.

GW established the position of University professor in 1980 to bring scholars of major national and international stature to the University. Gamble will be one of nine University professors currently at GW. The eight others are Peter Caws (philosophy), Amitai Etzioni (international affairs), Seyyed Nasr (Islamic studies), Jim Rosenau (international affairs), Harry Harding (international affairs), Stephen Saltzberg (law), Bernard Wood (human origins), and Stephen Joel Trachtenberg (public service).

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