Faculty Profile

Joel Howell

Joel Howell, PhD, MD

  • Professor, Internal Medicine
  • Professor, History
  • Professor, Health Management and Policy

Dr. Howell is a practicing internist and historian of medicine who cares for patients in both the inpatient and the outpatient setting. His research has focused on trying to understand how, why, and when western medicine has come to be so focused on the idea that science and technology stand (or ought to stand) as the touchstone of excellence, with particular attention to how these beliefs have shaped health policy and clinical practice.

He has primarily examined health practices in the US and the UK in the twentieth and 21st century. Much of his work has studied the physical manifestations of faith in medical technology through use of machines such as the X-ray and the electrocardiograph machine. He has also written on the history of human experimentation, and on the history of scheduling systems and their importance for the experiences of patients and caregivers. He is also Director of the Medical Arts Program, which explores how the arts can lead to better caregiving.

Additional Affiliations:
Elizabeth Farrand Professor of the History of Medicine

  • MD, University of Chicago, 1979
  • PhD, University of Pennsylvania, 1987
  • BS, Michigan State University, 1975

Howell is continuing his studies of how imaging technologies have shaped our understandings of health and disease.

Howell is also working internationally, studying the history of cardiology in Brazil and writing a history of the first medical school in Ethiopia.

Research Projects:
As part of a larger team of researchers, Howell is hoping to re-shape the experience of hospitalized patients and their caregivers using the arts and mindfulness.

Howell JD. History of Preventive Medicine, Public Health, and a Century after Milton J. Rosenau's Preventive Medicine and Hygiene. In: Boulton ML, and Wallace RB, eds, Maxcy-Rosenau-Last Public Health and Preventive Medicine, 16th edition. New York: McGraw Hill, 2022.

Nguyen MLT, Schotland SV, Howell JD: From Individualized Interactions to Standardized Schedules: A History of Time Organization in United States Outpatient Medicine. Annals of Internal Medicine, https://doi-org.proxy.lib.umich.edu/10.7326/M22-1575

Howell JD. The CT Scan after 50 years - Continuity and Change. New England Journal of Medicine, 2021; 385: 104-105.

Rozier M, Willison C, Anspach A, Howell JD, Greer A, Greer, S. Paradoxes of Professional Autonomy: A qualitative study of US neonatologists from 1978-2017. Sociology of Health and Illness, 2020; 42: 1821-1836.

Howell JD. Historical Reflections on the Past and Future of Primary Care. Health Affairs 2010; 29:760-765.

Howell JD. Technology in the Hospital: Transforming Patient Care in the Early Twentieth Century. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.

Areas of Expertise: Health Policy