Keith Wailoo

Townsend Martin Professor of History and Public Affairs

216 Dickinson Hall
Nancy Trachtman
External Website:


  • History and Cultural Politics of Disease
  • Health Policy


Keith Wailoo is jointly appointed in the Department of History and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. His research examines a wide array of issues in public health, scientific and technological innovation in medical care, medical specialization, and the role of identity, gender, race and ethnicity in health and disease thought. His books include: Pain: A Political History (Johns Hopkins, 2014); How Cancer Crossed the Color Line (Oxford University Press, 2011); The Troubled Dream of Genetic Medicine: Ethnicity and Innovation in Tay-Sachs, Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Disease (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006) which received the Association of American Publishers book award in History of Science; Dying in the City of the Blues: Sickle Cell Anemia and the Politics of Race and Health (University of North Carolina, 2001); and Drawing Blood: Technology and Disease Identity in Twentieth Century America (Hopkins, 1997) which received the Arthur Viseltear Award from the American Public Health Association. Dying in the City of the Blues received numerous awards: the Lillian Smith Book Award for Non-Fiction work elucidating questions of racial justice and inequality, the William H. Welch Medal for best book in the history of medicine, awarded by the American Association for the History of Medicine, the Susanne Glasscock Humanities Book Prize for Interdisciplinary Scholarship, the American Political Science Association Award for Best Book published in the area of Public Policies, Social and Legal Dimensions of Ethnic and Racial Politics in the U.S., and the Community Service Award by the Sickle Cell/Thalassemia Patient Network.

Wailoo has organized and edited numerous studies aimed at drawing experts together from across the disciplinary spectrum to inform contemporary health and public policy. His edited books include: Katrina’s Imprint: Race and Vulnerability in America (Rutgers University Press, 2010), a study of the events in New Orleans and the nature of vulnerability, resilience, and recovery; Three Shots at Prevention: The HPV Vaccine and the Politics of Medicine's Simple Solutions (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), an examination of the cultural, scientific, and political turmoil surrounding the marketing, use, and mandating of Human Papillomavirus vaccines for girls--in the name of cervical cancer prevention; Genetics and the Unsettled Past: The Collision of DNA, Race, and History (Rutgers University Press, forthcoming) which examines the implications of new genetics for reshaping ideas about race and the past, as manifested in medicine, in the courts, and in the genealogy business; and A Death Retold: Jesica Santillan, the Bungled Transplant, and Paradoxes of Medical Citizenship (UNC Press, 2006), an analysis of an infamous medical error leading to the death of an undocumented immigrant girl at Duke University Medical Center in 2003. He has published articles in the British medical journal Lancet, in the Bulletin for the History of Medicine, in the Journal for the History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, and the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law.  

In 2007, he was elected to the Institute of Medicine, one of the U.S. National Academies where he is also a member of the Health Sciences Policy Board.  He served on the Institute of Medicine Committee on Increasing Rates of Organ Donation, contributing to its 2006 report, Organ Donation: Opportunities for Action. Over the years, his research has been supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the James S. McDonnell Foundation, and the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund.

Wailoo has taught on the history of drugs and drug policy, genetics and society, and a wide range of other social and cultural issues in health care.  (See Eric Quinones, "From Disease to Drugs, Wailoo Explores Nexus of Health and Society" and "Exploring the Crossroads of Genetics and Policy")
Before joining the Princeton faculty, he taught in History and in Social Medicine (in the Medical School) at UNC Chapel Hill, and at Rutgers University (affiliated with History and with the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research) and where he was the founding director of the Center for Race and Ethnicity. Wailoo holds a Ph.D. in the History and Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelors Degree in Chemical Engineering from Yale University.


Wailoo discusses pain in video