AHA Member Spotlight: Jeffrey S. Reznick

Jeffrey S. ReznickAHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. The “AHA Member Spotlight” series recognizes our talented and eclectic membership. Would you like to nominate a colleague for the AHA Member Spotlight? Contact Nike Nivar for more information.

AHA Member Spotlight
Jeffrey S. Reznick is chief of the history of medicine division at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. He is also an honorary research fellow in the University of Birmingham’s Centre for First World War Studies and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. Reznick first joined the AHA in 1992.

1. Alma maters: BA: University of Rochester; MA and PhD, Emory University

2. Fields of interest: Cultural history of medicine and war, with a focus on the history of military medicine, veterans, humanitarian aid, and material and visual culture

3. When did you first develop an interest in history?

As a child in upstate New York, when my father introduced me to the libraries, museums, and historic sites of Rochester, Buffalo, and southern Ontario, Canada. My interest in history grew substantially through two study abroad experiences, first as a high school exchange student in northern France and subsequently as an undergraduate intern in the Brussels office of the European Parliament. My undergraduate coursework in history at the University of Rochester, combined with my experiences as a National Endowment for the Humanities Younger Scholar, inspired me to pursue a doctorate in history.

4. What projects are you working on currently?

The majority of my time these days is dedicated to overseeing the budget, programs, and operations of the history of medicine division of the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). I do find time, however, to work on short pieces based on the collections of the NLM. I am also working on a series of essays that reflect on the centennial of World War I, and on a book project that will recover a long-lost set of poems and art from the 1914–18 period.

5. What books or articles are you currently reading?

I am currently reading John Yarnall’s Barbed Wire Disease: British and German Prisoners of War, 1914–19 (The History Press, 2011) and a provocative essay by Dirk H. R. Spennemann, entitled “Preserving the Past for the Future,” which appeared recently in CRM: The Journal of Heritage Stewardship. I’m also reading Hidden Treasure: The National Library of Medicine, edited by my colleague Michael Sappol, about the unique collections of the world’s largest medical library.

6. What do you value most about the history profession?

A decade ago, there was little if any formal dialogue and support within the profession about the very real applicability of historical training to a wide range of careers outside academe. This tide has turned during the past few years, and I value recent efforts by leaders of our profession to make the idea of working outside academe central to graduate study and the search for employment by history PhDs. I value this thinking and action because I believe it is long overdue and will go far to help the profession achieve one of its fundamental initiatives: to promote the profile of history and the humanities in public culture.

7. Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote?

One the best conference panels I have experienced was “Militarizing the Body: Prosthetics, Propaganda, and Medical Politics in Wartime Europe and the United States, 1914–19,” held at the 2004 meeting in Washington, D.C. To this day, I remember the energy in the room as Beth Linker, Heather Perry, and I presented our work, Roger Cooter offered commentary, and Walter Hickel chaired the session. The occasion pushed me to answer long-standing questions in my own work on the Great War, to frame my arguments better within current historiography, and to sketch out ideas that eventually formed the basis of my second book.

8. Any final thoughts?

History and literature go hand-in-hand in learning about the past, and, as Leonard Woolf said, “the journey not the arrival matters.”

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