American historian Nancy Tomes has been awarded Columbia University’s 2017 Bancroft Prize in American History and Diplomacy, one of the most distinguished academic awards in the field of history. Tomes, Distinguished Professor in the Department of History at Stony Brook University, received this prestigious honor for her book, Remaking the American Patient: How Madison Avenue and Modern Medicine Turned Patients into Consumers (University of North Carolina Press, 2016).
In the book, which spans the 20th century, Tomes questions the popular and largely unexamined idea that in order to receive quality health care, people must learn to shop for it. Understanding where the shopping model came from, why it was so long resisted in medicine, and why it finally triumphed in the late 20th century helps explain why, despite striking changes that seem to empower patients, so many Americans remain unhappy and confused about their status as patients today.
“The Bancroft Prize is considered one of the most prestigious awards in the field of American history, so I’m confident when I say the entire University community takes great pride in knowing that Professor Tomes has been selected to receive this outstanding recognition for her work,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. “We are fortunate to have such a distinguished scholar as a member of the Stony Brook faculty.”
“Congratulations to Nancy Tomes on receiving the Bancroft Prize, a milestone achievement in an extraordinary career,” said Michael A. Bernstein, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. “Nancy has cemented her status as an eminent scholar in the American history field. The Stony Brook community celebrates Nancy’s remarkable accomplishment.”
Tomes is the author of three other books, two on the history of American mental hospitals, and The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women and the Microbe in American Life, which won multiple book prizes, as well as two co-edited collections. Her major fields of historical interest include American Medicine and Health American Social and Cultural History, 1820-1980 American Women and Gender Relations. Her research has been supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Library of Medicine, the National Humanities Center, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Institute for Mental Health.
“I am humbled and amazed to receive this recognition for my book and immensely grateful for the support of my family and my Stony Brook colleagues while writing it,” commented Professor Tomes.
She began her career at Stony Brook as an assistant professor in 1978 and served as chair of the Department of History from 2007 to 2010. While a fellow at the National Humanities Center, Tomes developed a website on Medicine and Madison Avenue, a digital collection on the history of health-related advertising available on the Duke University Library’s website. She has written numerous journal articles and presented many national and international lectures. In 2011, the American Public Health Association awarded Tomes the Arthur Viseltear Award for “her distinguished body of scholarship in the history of public health.” From 2012 to 2014 she served as President of the American Association for the History of Medicine.
About the Bancroft Prize
The Bancroft Prize is awarded annually by the trustees of Columbia University and includes a cash award of $10,000. Winners are judged in terms of the scope, significance, depth of research and richness of interpretation they present in the areas of American history and diplomacy. Columbia Provost John H. Coatsworth will present the awards at the Bancroft Prize dinner on April 27 at Low Memorial Library at Columbia University in New York City.