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Howard Markel, M.D.

Medical historian, M.D., journalist, and award-winning author

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  • About Howard Markel

    Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D., is the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine and director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan. He is also a professor of psychiatry, public health, history, and pediatrics. An acclaimed social and cultural historian of medicine, Dr. Markel brings to audiences a fascinating historical perspective.

    Markel is the author, coauthor, or coeditor of ten books, including the award-winning Quarantine!: East European Jewish Immigrants and the New York City Epidemics of 1892 and When Germs Travel: Six Major Epidemics That Have Invaded America and the Fears They Have Unleashed.

    An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine, garnered wide critical praise and was a New York Times bestseller, an Amazon bestseller, a Barnes & Noble bestseller, and a New York Times Book Review editor’s choice. His most recent work is The Kelloggs, a fascinating chronicle of John and Will Kellogg, who built an empire and changed the course of American medicine, nutrition, and diet.

    Dr. Markel has appeared on numerous national radio and television news broadcasts and in film documentaries about the history of medicine and public health for National Public Radio (All Things ConsideredMorning EditionTalk of the NationScience FridayHere and NowTell Me More, andMarketplace), ABC’s Good Morning America, PBS (NovaFrontlineNewsHour), PRI’s The World, CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and the History Channel. In 2008, he was elected a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

  • Speaking Topics

    When Germs Travel: Contagious Crises Across History

    Our struggle against deadly microbes is endless. Diseases that have plagued human beings since ancient times still exist, and nearly every year new infectious killers sprout up to threaten our well-being. Surveying AIDS and tuberculosis, influenza, SARS, and Covid-19, Dr. Markel provides an eye-opening look at the fragility of our public health system and the very human stories of those most affected by contagious crises.

    Illness Narratives: Inspiring Patients Who Changed My Life and Will Change Yours

    Drawing on more than thirty years of medical practice—and on many of the essays on patient care he has written for The New York Times—Dr. Markel discusses the patients who have taught him most about humanity, humility, and the compassionate aspects of being a doctor. He recounts stories that inspire hope as we all struggle with our personal health issues and, more broadly, the rapidly changing U.S. health care system.

    The First Draft of History: Medical Journalism in the Twenty-first Century

    Every day, newspapers, television and radio broadcasts, and the Internet herald the latest advances in medicine. But how are these stories selected, and what is their impact on the American public? Using his decades-long experience as a medical journalist who has broken stories for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and NPR, Dr. Markel explains the good and bad results of “hot” medical news.

    The Opioid Epidemic and An Anatomy of Addiction

    The United States is in the midst of a terrible and deadly epidemic, but it is not caused by infectious scourges that once stalked the planet. Instead, this is a human-made crisis, generated by an unholy alliance of major pharmaceutical companies, doctors too eager to prescribe potent painkillers, and patients clamoring for them to the point of addiction and even annihilation. Overdoses of narcotics, opiates and opioid drugs are the number one cause of death for Americans under 50: in 2017 alone, these drugs killed more people than gun injuries or automobile accidents. In this lecture, Dr. Markel applies his experience as a pediatrician, an addiction physician, and the author of the bestselling book An Anatomy of Addiction to describe the long history of this catastrophe, how it has grown in recent decades, and what we must all do to stop this epidemic in its tracks.

    The Kelloggs

    In this lecture, Dr. Howard Markel tells the sweeping saga of the two extraordinary Kellogg brothers, whose lifelong competition and enmity toward one another changed America's notion of health and wellness from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, and who helped change the course of American medicine, nutrition, wellness, and diet. As Markel chronicles the Kelloggs' fascinating ascent into the pantheon of American industrialists, he also shares the vast changes in American social mores that took shape in diet, health, medicine, philanthropy, and food manufacturing during seven decades--changing the lives of millions and helping to shape our industrial age.

  • Praise for Howard Markel

    Praise for An Anatomy of Addiction

    With both wit and style, Markel has produced a scrupulously researched, meticulously detailed account of the history of cocaine, as well as the drug dependences of Halsted and Freud.

    Hopkins Medicine Magazine

    The best medical histories are the ones that cause the imagination to run riot. A fast-rising master of satisfying this human quest for mind-altering willies is the Michigan medical historian Howard Markel.

    The Winnipeg Free Press

    A fascinating revelation of conditions prevailing in hospitals and medical circles in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

    New York Journal of Books

    Colorful study . . . brisk . . . an engaging well-researched historical homily about fame and foible.

    Bloomberg

    Well-researched. . . . A thoughtful picture of late 19th century medicine.

    The San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

    A richly engaging book . . . highly recommended.

    Wired

    [A] witty, wide-ranging book.

    Boston Globe

    Inspired, entertaining and informative . . . [Markel] tells this fascinating tale in an insightful contemporary book that is both intellectually engaging and exceptionally well written.

    Journal of the American Medical Association

    Markel brilliantly describes the paradox of [Halsted’s and Freud’s] lives.

    Nature

    Dr. Markel braids these men’s stories intricately, intelligently and often elegantly.

    The New York Times

    It’s a fascinating book about fascinating men, but even more interesting for those of us who want a glimpse of modern medicine when it was just starting to develop.

    The New Republic

    From the dramatic opening scene on the first page to the epilogue, An Anatomy of Addiction is a hugely satisfying read. Howard Markel is physician, historian and wonderful storyteller, and since his tale involves two of the most compelling characters in medicine, I could not put it down—addictive is the word for this terrific book.

    Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone

    Compelling and compassionate . . . a book that profoundly demonstrates the complexity and breadth of their genius . . . a richly woven analysis complete with anecdotes, historical research, photos and present-day knowledge about the character of the addictive personality.

    Booklist

    Provocative . . . persuasive and engrossing.

    Salon.com

    A splendid history . . . [Markel is a] fluent, incisive and often subtly funny writer.

    The Baltimore Sun

    A rich, revelatory new book. . . . [Markel is] a careful writer and a tireless researcher, and as a trained physician himself, Markel is able to pronounce on medical matters with firmness and authority.

    TIME

    Markel creates rich portraits of men who shared, as he writes of Freud, a ‘particular constellation of bold risk taking, emotional scar tissue, and psychic turmoil.’

    The New Yorker

    Terrific. . . . This rich, engrossing book reminds us of the strangeness of even heroic destinies.

    Los Angeles Times

    A tour de force of scientific and social history, one that helps illuminate a unique period in the long story of medical discovery. . . . Absorbing and thoroughly documented . . . a vivid narrative of two of the most remarkable of the many contributors to our understanding of human biology and function.

    The New York Times Book Review

    Incisive. . . . An irresistible cautionary tale.

    The Wall Street Journal
  • Books by Howard Markel

  • Media About Howard Markel

    The Leonard Lopate Show

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  • 212 572-2013
  • Howard Markel travels from Ann Arbor, MI

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