Cornerstones of Civil Society: A Roundtable Discussion on the Civic Value of Hospitals

AHA Session 18
Thursday, January 5, 2017: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Centennial Ballroom G (Hyatt Regency Denver, Third Floor)
Matthew Neufeld, University of Saskatchewan
Lucy Barnhouse, Fordham University
Alexandra Fleagle, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Matthew Neufeld, University of Saskatchewan
Erin Newton, University of Chicago
Anthony Charles Pratcher II, University of Pennsylvania

Session Abstract

As a local provider of essential services, the Hospital is a community institution on par with the schoolhouse, the commons, or the marketplace; as an incubator for experiemental health science, the Hospital has a long-standing symbiotic relationship with state authority. Across space and time, hospitals have continued to occupy priceless significance within the fabric of local communities while simultaneously developing into central engines of state-sponsored economic development. The hospital, as the physical nexus of state-sponsored medical regulation and community-oriented healthcare provision, provides historians with a physical institution which reveals the socio-economic dynamics of the host political economy. More importantly, at least for the purposes of this panel, a comparative analysis of the operational functions of hospitals helps enumerate the intrinsic value which physical civic institutions bring to society. This roundtable explores the social value of hospitals as civic institutions through a comparative discussion on the purpose, role, and impact of hospitals in disparate temporal and geographical contexts. So, in addition to illuminating how the labor-intensive practices and rudimentary health concerns of early modern hospitals created physical sites for the contestation of state authority, the panelists of this roundtable aim to quantify why hospitals have remained essential to civic society. This discussion helps refine assumptions about the role of community healthcare provision in the formation of civic life and, just as importantly, how contextually-specific policies and practices affect the practical operations of healthcare institutions. The comparative discussion among panelists on this roundtable interrogates the dialectic between the contextualized socio-political environment and the practical role of community-based healthcare institutions across time and space to clarify why Hospitals have continued to remain cornerstones of civic society.
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