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 Andrew Wailoo is Townsend Martin Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University where he teaches in the Department of History and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He is the former Vice Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School.  He has produced award-winning research and teaches on a range of topics, including drugs and drug policy; race, science, and health; and health policy and medical affairs in the U.S.

His books have advanced historical understanding, informed policy debates, and enhanced public discussions.  They touch on health disparities, scientific and technological innovation in medical care, medical specialization, and the role of identity, gender, race and ethnicity in medicine, public health, and society. These works include:

  • Pain: A Political History (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014)
  • How Cancer Crossed the Color Line (Oxford University Press, 2011)
  • The Troubled Dream of Genetic Medicine (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 Press, 2001) which 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.
  • Drawing Blood: Technology and Disease Identity in Twentieth Century America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997) which received the Arthur Viseltear Award from the American Public Health Association.
  • Currently completing a book on the history, regulation, and politics of the mentholated cigarette.

Wailoo has organized and edited numerous studies drawing experts together from across the disciplinary spectrum to inform contemporary health and public policy. These co-edited volumes include:

He has published widely in the British medical journal Lancet, the New York Times, American Prospect, the Bulletin for the History of Medicine, the Journal for the History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, and the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law.

In 2007, Wailoo was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine). He has served as a member of the IOM's Health Sciences Policy Board, has served on the IOM Committee on Increasing Rates of Organ Donation, contributing to its 2006 report, Organ Donation: Opportunities for Action, and has also served on the IOM Committee on Ethical and Social Policy Considerations on Novel Techniques for Prevention of Maternal Transmission of Mitochondrial Diseases.

His research has been supported by numerous grants and fellowships, among them the National Institutes of Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research, and the James S. McDonnell Foundation's Centennial Fellowship in the History of Science.

Before joining the Princeton faculty, Wailoo taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Department of Social Medicine (School of Medicine) and in History, and at Rutgers University in History and in the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research.  At Rutgers, he was Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of History and founding director of the Center for Race and Ethnicity.  Wailoo graduated from Yale University with a Bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering, and worked as a science writer for several years, before earning a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in the History and Sociology of Science.

At Princeton, Wailoo teaches courses on race, drugs and drug policy; modern genetics and public policy; history of medicine; race and public policy; and historical perspectives on health policy. (See for example, Eric Quinones, "From Disease to Drugs, Wailoo Explores Nexus of Health and Society" and "Exploring the Crossroads of Genetics and Policy")


Wailoo discusses pain in video