Alexandra Minna Stern, Ph.D.

Professor
Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Culture, and History
University of Michigan
Email: amstern@umich.edu Discipline: History, Health Policy

Investigator Award
History Informing Public Health Preparedness Policy in the 21st Century: A Qualitative Study of Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions and Community Experiences during the 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic
Award Year: 2007 The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 was the deadliest contagious calamity in human history, killing 650,000 people in the United States and 50 million worldwide. But the pandemic's effects varied geographically - some communities were devastated while others suffered few if any deaths. To learn why, Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.P. and Alexandra Minna Stern, Ph.D., conduct a comprehensive review of the strategies used by 43 U.S. cities during the 1918-1919 flu epidemic. Markel and Stern examine such public health measures as isolation of the ill, quarantines on those suspected of contact with the ill, school closures, and bans on public gatherings. They also analyze the cities' demographic and housing characteristics, morbidity and mortality patterns, political leadership and coordination among government agencies, supply of health care facilities and medical personnel, and compliance with public health measures. Their project, History Informing Public Health Preparedness Policy in the 21st Century: A Qualitative Study of NonPharmaceutical Interventions and Community Experiences during the 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic, aims to extract lessons that can inform public health policymaking and preparedness planning today.

Background

Alexandra Minna Stern is Professor in the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Culture, and History, and is a core faculty member in the programs in Latina/o Studies, Science, Technology, and Society, and Sexual Rights and Reproductive Justice. Professor Stern's research has focused on both the history of the uses and misuses of genetics and the history of infectious diseases. She is the author of many books and articles including Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America (University of California Press, 2005), which won the American Public Health Association's Arthur Viseltear Award for outstanding contribution to the history of public health. Her most recent book, Telling Genes: The Story of Genetic Counseling in Modern America, was published by the Johns Hopkins University Press in 2012. She has received grants from the National Library of Medicine-NIH, Ethical Legal and Social Implications of the Human Genome Project-NIH, and the National Endowment for the Humanities for her research into the history and ethics of medical genetics. Her RWJF Investigator Award supported a collaborative study of the experiences of more than 40 U.S. cities during the 1918-9 influenza pandemic, and resulted in numerous publications and a digital archive. Recently she launched the first phase of a collaborative project to qualitatively and quantitatively analyze 15,000 eugenic sterilization authorizations processed by the state of California in the 20th century, and intends to incorporate this dataset and its findings into a large-scale digital archive on the history and legacies of eugenics in the United States.