Meet our Faculty: Theodore Brown

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Theodore Brown, PhD Professor, Department of History Professor, Division of Health Services Research, Community & Preventive Medicine

Theodore Brown and two colleagues (Marcos Cueto of Rio de Janeiro and Elizabeth Fee of Bethesda, MD) have signed a contract with Cambridge University Press to publish their history of the World Health Organization. They hope to deliver the finished manuscript to the press in Fall 2016. Ted gave several talks in Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 on a variety of topics: “Historical Perspectives on Public Health in Chicago” to the American Public Health Association; “The Early Years of the Socialist Caucus of the American Public Health Association” to the American Public Health Association; “Halfdan Mahler and the Alma-Ata Declaration of 1978” to the American Association of the History of Medicine; and “Dr. H. Jack Geiger and the Spirit of 1848” to the Metro New York chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program. Ted published historical articles, commentaries, and editorials in the American Journal of Public Health, where he continues to serve as History Editor. Ted likewise remains engaged with the American Public Health Association’s History Project, and in that connection is collaborating with Alfredo Morabia (AJPH Editor-in-Chief) and Elizabeth Fee on a three-volume selection of historical articles and documents to mark the Association’s 150th anniversary in 2022. He remains active as Editor of Rochester Studies in Medical History, a book series of the University of Rochester Press which recently published its thirty-fifth volume.


The Korean War: Redesigning the educational experience.

By: Assistant Professor Dahpon Ho

We killed each other; we buried bodies; we planted flowers; we fought vampires; and we laughed so hard that we cried together.  We brought 18-year-olds in touch with 85-year-olds.  And they loved it.  HIS 247: The Korean War, in Spring 2016, was a highly participatory and community-engaged class.  The class drew together 33 students from at least 20 different majors, including: history, international relations, geology, microbiology, applied mathematics, economics, computer science, biochemistry, neuroscience, business, African-American studies, Japanese, psychology, classics, and optical engineering.  This diverse student body was thrust into a project of participatory (or “living”) history and given creative control over research and classroom role-play projects.

Along with the class, we were trying to make a documentary film about the class and the questions of public history and community memory: how does Rochester remember the Korean War?  The documentary film team and I captured interviews on camera, and students produced their own recordings as hands-on practice in digital history.  The course was based on student leadership and teamwork, and midway through I split the class in half between North and South Korea and required that the students research and live out the consequences of that sundering in a final role-play project: The DMZ Project.  The ironically-named Korean “demilitarized zone” (DMZ), is in reality the most heavily guarded military buffer in the world.  On this border, just 151 miles long and 2.5 miles wide, a million troops armed to the teeth stand ready to kill or be killed.

Our classroom experiment was naturally a simulation in miniature (no real tanks involved).  The students’ leadership and resourcefulness were tested as they historically role-played the aftermath of the Korean War and the shocks of a Korea bitterly divided into two nations, North and South.  This meant propaganda, military posturing, and team commitment to competing ideologies and ways of life.  They elected their own leaders/officers and practiced hands-on team building (e.g., posters, videos, propaganda songs, parades, and speeches) based on rigorous research.

I have watched my students grow as young leaders.  We have laughed together, cried together, sighed together.  We linked the classroom with city memory.  The highlight of this past Spring 2016 semester came when one of my students built a coffin with his own hands and staged his own state funeral inside the classroom as the Great Leader of North Korea (with weeping bystanders).  Did we mention that a tiger was present?  Surely the Health Code was trampled.  We have embraced the Korean War veterans as grandfathers, and these community members as aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters.  We have become footsoldiers in a war against Time, a war that no one can win, but we have won one vital victory: Remembrance.  Their story has become our story.  Together, we are living history.

Professor Theodore Brown Featured Editor of AJPH Blog Post


The post below was published on Physicians for a National Health Program’s blog and features our very own Professor Theodore Brown as an editor.  Attached is the article.


AJPH editors define the two sides of the health care reform debate

Posted by on Friday, Sep 2, 2016This entry is from Dr. McCanne’s Quote of the Day, a daily health policy update on the single-payer health care reform movement. The QotD is archived on PNHP’s website.

Editors on the Campaign Trail: Why Bernie Sanders Is Wrong on Health Care (and Hillary Clinton Is Right)

By Roy Grant, MA, Associate Editor, AJPH
American Journal of Public Health, August 2016

The two candidates to the 2016 Democratic Presidential primary, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), both attempt to implement the principle that health care is a basic right, but Sen. Sanders’ advocacy for single-payer health care has dominated the discussion.

On the Republican side, health care has not received much attention, besides attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA). Donald Trump, the presumptive 2016 Republican nominee, proposes increasing competition, block granting Medicaid, and expanding health savings accounts, all Republican boilerplate proposals. In the absence of greater specificity, there is no health care plan to discuss.

Hillary Clinton Is Right on Health Care

Sec. Clinton maintains that attempting to implement single-payer would disrupt our current health care system, repeal the ACA, and plunge the nation back into contentious debate. The ACA expands insurance coverage as it currently exists in the United States, with 66% privately insured (mostly employer-provided) and 34% government insured. A single-payer system would cover the 11% uninsured but replace coverage and potentially disrupt health care for the nearly 90% of insured Americans and effectively repeal much of the ACA.

Sec. Clinton correctly recognizes the success of the ACA. Between October 2013 and early 2016, 20 million previously uninsured adults gained coverage, reducing the uninsured rate from 20.3% to 11.5%. African-Americans, Hispanics, and women made the greatest gains. The first group to benefit from expanded coverage — young adults — now has fewer emergency room visits, which contributes to lower overall health care costs.


The Sanders single-payer program would fulfill the progressive goal of universal health care as a right, if passed by Congress and successfully implemented. The evidence shows insufficient political support to pass single-payer and implementation barriers including tax policy and devolution of health policy to the states. Evidence supports Sec. Clinton’s position that building on the ACA would move us toward universal coverage but maintain progress made by the law. This approach is consistent with the politics of divided government and more likely to succeed.

The difference between the two positions may be viewed as ideology versus realism. Ideology may be more inspirational but is less likely to produce change.


Brown Responds: Why Hillary Clinton Is Wrong and Bernie Sanders Is Right

By Theodore M. Brown, PhD, Associate Editor, AJPH
American Journal of Public Health, August 2016

Refuting “Clinton Is Right: ACA Represents True Progress”

I agree that the ACA has had certain positive results: 20 million previously uninsured adults have achieved coverage; African-Americans, Hispanics, and women have made considerable gains; and young adults now have expanded coverage on their parents’ policies. Several other positive improvements could be added to this list. However, the ACA fails to establish a right to uniformly high-quality health care, crystallizes unequal levels of access for those who get care, leaves out 30 million people altogether, and adds to the excessively complex and costly administrative features of our health system. The ACA also strengthens the role of the commercial insurance industry by sanctioning its inefficient multiplicity of profit-maximizing companies and their high overhead costs, by allowing exorbitant premium charges, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenditures (especially in policies bought through the health exchanges), and by condoning tough restrictions in the choice of providers (also especially in policies bought through the exchanges). The ACA, in fact, guarantees the commercial insurance industry substantial new business facilitated by government subsidies and exercises very limited control over the rapidly escalating cost of insurance. Moreover, the ACA fails to limit the huge, often unconscionable prices and profits of the pharmaceutical industry.

Refuting “Single-Payer Would Disrupt Health Care Delivery”

Grant doesn’t say so directly, but he seems to endorse Hillary Clinton’s scare tactic scenario. However, I see no plausibility to the projected cascade of negative events. In fact, it was the ACA that had a disastrous rollout, whereas the implementation of “radical” single-payer Medicare in the 60s was remarkably smooth and efficient.5 Moreover, the supposed fear and opposition of the “protected public” (the 90% of Americans who are currently insured) may be minimal or nonexistent. After all, that public has been frustrated and angered by regular increases in premium costs, deepening deductibles, copayments and out-of-pocket costs generally, runaway and often obscene drug prices, the general threat of medical bankruptcy, and a widespread sense of powerlessness. The American public, in fact, does not feel “protected,” and according to a recent tracking poll has clearly indicated strong willingness to opt for single-payer over yet another attempt at the status quo or its incremental extension.6 We can also add to the widespread sense of dissatisfaction with our current system the realization by employees that they would be freed by a universal single-payer system from job lock and by employers that they would have less obligation to underwrite the health care costs of their workers. Who exactly would feel frightening disruption, other than the profit-maximizers of our current system?

Refuting “Building on ACA Is the Only Pragmatic Way”

Here I strongly disagree because attempting to build incrementally on the ACA will simply consolidate and concretize its fundamental flaws and even deepen some. The essential mistake is to believe that incrementalism is the only true path of American political progress. But this belief is belied by the facts of our political history. That’s not how we got Social Security or civil rights legislation.

Health care is a right, and single-payer is the fairest and most cost-effective way to achieve it in practice.

Although more people than ever now have health insurance, there remain intolerable deficiencies in our health care financing system that clearly demand remedy. Two associate editors of the American Journal of Public Health debate the two approaches to reforming health care: Hillary Clinton’s expansion of ACA, and Bernie Sanders” single payer reform.

The thrust of today’s message is that these are the two legitimate approaches. Some in the media still seem to think that the only two approaches are Clinton’s expansion of ACA and Trump’s repeal and replacement of Obamacare. But as stated above, in the absence of greater specificity, the Republicans have “no health care plan to discuss.” Most of their boilerplate proposals would move us backwards – diminishing access and affordability.

So the real choice is, do we live with the dysfunctional system we have, merely tweaking it with measures such as adding yet one more (public) option to our fragmented system, or do we actually fix it by making health care affordable and accessible for all through single payer?

In arguing for ACA expansion Roy Grant indicates that single payer is inspirational but not pragmatic, whereas Theodore Brown points out that pragmatic incrementalism is not how we got Social Security or civil rights legislation. How can we let the nebulous notion of pragmatic inertia obstruct the inspirational, dynamic reform that we need?


Update from Alumni: Joseph A. Amato PhD ’70



Since leaving Rochester in 1966, a half century ago, and completing my published dissertation on Mounier and Maritain: A French Catholic Understanding of the Modern World in 1970 under the insightful and generous guidance of Professor A. W. Salomone,  Amato has had a single teaching and minor administrative career principally at one place—at Southwest Minnesota State University, in Marshall, Minnesota.  There he taught, administered, and created the History Department and a unique program of Rural and Regional Studies.

Aside from the glories and scuffles of making and keeping a small college afloat, his devotion has been his wife Catherine, a nursing graduate from Rochester (1966) and four children, while my mounting “madness”  is  writing—defining the meaning of world and self.  Amato has written, co-authored, and published almost forty books, numerous essays (most recently for Everyday Life (2016), Why Place Matters (2015) and Suffering and Bioethics (2015).  During this time, his writing has ranged, perhaps strayed, across three areas—local, family, and regional history; memoirs focused on a reflective boy in love with a future in golf and mid-life bypass surgery; and finally and principally intellectual and cultural history bannered first by studies of “Guilt and Gratitude” and Suffering” and advancing a comprehensive social cultural history of walking and a cultural intellectual history of the small.  The later, Dust, A History of the Small and Invisible, was translated into several languages.

In the last two years Amato wrote another work in cultural and intellect history, Surfaces: A History and a work of philosophy and intellectual history called Twos: The Power of Contrasts, Polarities, and Contradictions.  At the same he published his first volume of poetry, Buoyancies: A Ballast Master’s Log.

With children long on their own and retirement providing free time, he may take up new volumes of poetry and non-fiction.  March 1 of this year will see the publication of My Three Sicilies: Stories, Poems, and History (New York Bordighera); October 1, Everyday Life: A Short History (London Reaktion Press) which was intended to form a companion to my explorations of family history (Jacob’s Well) and local and regional history, Rethinking Home.

To bring a half century of writing and self-promotion to an end, Amato wishes the best to all who shared a cup of coffee and an idea, held a hand, and suffered and enjoyed a seminar together.  Gratefully and affectionately from across a half of century he wishes you well in your ways and days This after all is no great span for we historians known for long memory and stirring the incandescent embers of youth.