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Reviewed by:
  • War, Politics, and Philanthropy: The History of Rehabilitation Medicine
  • Jeffrey S. Reznick, Ph.D., Chief of the History of Medicine Division
Richard Verville . War, Politics, and Philanthropy: The History of Rehabilitation Medicine. Lanham, Maryland, University Press of America, 2009. $39.95.

[End Page 335] The subjects of war and medicine—even while explored through the lens of politics—continue to be studied far too often without serious consideration of their interplay in terms of philanthropy. Richard Verville recognizes this oversight, and with this book he offers a corrective that will be of interest to a wide audience even while some will judge his history as an opportunity missed to identify and explore key primary sources related to the story of rehabilitation medicine in America.

Verville is an award-winning lawyer who has represented health care and rehabilitation medicine organizations for thirty-five years. In this respect, he draws on his first-hand knowledge of recent history—indeed his professional correspondence, experiences, and relationships—as well as his record of earlier publishing on rehabilitation laws, legislation, policy, and history, to offer a highly readable account of the field of rehabilitation medicine from its inception in WWI and WWII, through its expansion during the 1980s, and down to the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Verville frames his history both chronologically and through portraits of three medical pioneers—Henry Kessler, Frank Krusen, and Howard Rusk—and two philanthropists—Bernard Baruch and Mary Switzer—each of whom "came to their own appreciation of the needs of persons with disability; fought against the traditional establishment, and then passed the baton to the next generation" (vii). Verville also focuses throughout his narrative on the key professional and disability associations with which these individuals collaborated, and he concludes with an important and engaging chapter on the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, which embodied the vision and goals of rehabilitation medicine since the 1960s.

The individual portraits crafted so thoughtfully by Verville will—as they should—inspire readers of this book in terms of leadership, research, and practice in the field of rehabilitation medicine. However, when they are considered in light of his source material—which consists chiefly of published material combined with interviews and correspondence—these narratives should also inspire deeper mining of key archives that hold valuable perspectives on the history of the field. Deserving of serious consideration in this regard, for example, are the substantial papers of Mary Switzer, held in Radcliffe's Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America. The absence of these and other primary sources in Verville's book, therefore, makes the project a valuable one in terms of encouraging further historical research along the trajectory explored by Verville. [End Page 336]

And Verville's trajectory is important for a reason that is understated in his brief epilogue. The interplay of war, politics, and philanthropy continues to play out today, particularly as current wars return severely injured soldiers to the major military amputee care centers located across the United States, and specifically those at Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas, at San Diego Naval Medical Center, California, and at the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland. Philanthropy helped establish each of these facilities, and it remains vital to their missions of rehabilitating service members with limb amputations and reintegrating these men and women into civilian society. These events, arguably, constitute the most contemporary chapter in the history of rehabilitation medicine, and Verville's book goes far to set the stage for the research and writing of it.

Jeffrey S. Reznick, Chief of the History of Medicine Division
U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20894


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pp. 335-337
Launched on MUSE
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