Todd L. Savitt, PhD


Todd L. Savitt is an historian of medicine with a particular interest in African-American medical history. He received his BA from Colgate University (1965), attended the University of Rochester School of Medicine (1965-1968), and earned his MA (1970) and PhD (1975) in history from the University of Virginia. After teaching at the University of Florida College of Medicine (1976-1982) he joined the Department of Bioethics and Interdisciplinary Studies at The Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University where he teaches history of medicine, literature and medicine, social and cultural issues in medical practice, and medical ethics.

In 1988, Savitt organized ECU’s medical readers’ theater program and continues to coordinate the program, taking medical student readers into local communities to perform stories about medicine and facilitate discussions about the stories with the audience. He lectures and does medical readers’ theater performances and discussions nationally.

For many years Savitt chaired the History of Medicine Grants Panel for the National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health and served as Secretary/Treasurer of the American Association for the History of Medicine for almost ten years. He was guest curator of an exhibit at the Virginia Historical Society, “Fevers, Agues, and Cures: Medical Life in Old Virginia,” and historical consultant for an exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of History, “Health and Healing Cultures in North Carolina.” He wrote the historical justification to designate the antebellum Medical College of Georgia building a National Historic Landmark.

Savitt has published books and articles on such topics as the health of slaves, the history of sickle-cell anemia, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), use of African Americans for medical experimentation, the entry of black physicians into the American medical profession, and early African-American medical schools and medical journals. Since serving as a visiting professor at the University of Montana and St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula in 1994, Savitt has written on Montana medical history topics, including the early years of St. Patrick Hospital, the career of an early abortion physician in Helena, the life and practice of a late 19th-century Virginia City physician, and, in the works, the establishment and early years of the state’s Board of Medical Examiners.

Research Interests

  • African-American medical history
    Medical history of the American South and West

Curriculum Vitae (PDF)