Historian Nancy Tomes Talks About Winning Prestigious Bancroft Prize

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Stony Brook history professor Nancy Tomes recently won the prestigious Bancroft Prize in American History and Diplomacy for her book challenging the notion that health care should be bought and sold.

Nancy Tomes, distinguished professor in the Department of History, was honored with Columbia University’s 2017 Bancroft Prize in American History and Diplomacy for her book, Remaking the American Patient: How Madison Avenue and Modern Medicine Turned Patients into Consumers. (Read excerpt.)

The Bancroft Prize, announced March 13, is considered one of the most prestigious honors in the field of American History writing. It is awarded each year by the trustees of Columbia University to recognize books about diplomacy or the history of the Americas and was established in 1948 by a bequest from Frederic Bancroft, an author and member of the American Historical Association.

“Nancy Tomes’s research has consistently provided profound new insights into the history of medicine,” Provost Michael A. Bernstein said. “Receipt of the Bancroft Prize signifies an extraordinary contribution to the American history field. Nancy’s tremendous achievement is a testament to the indelible impact that she has had in historical scholarship.”

In Remaking the American Patient, which examines healthcare in the 20th Century, Professor Tomes challenges the notion that to receive health care the consumer must learn to shop for it, much like other commodities. She also examines the long history of resistance to privatized medicine and, in turn, why so many Americans remain confused and discontented with their healthcare today.

We spoke to Tomes recently to get some insight into the creative process behind her acclaimed book, her reaction to this prize and her thoughts on healthcare in America today.

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