Ludmerer named distinguished professor in history of medicine

Kenneth M. Ludmerer, MD, has been named the Mabel Dorn Reeder Distinguished Professor in the History of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Ludmerer, a renowned medical historian and educator, is professor of medicine at the School of Medicine and professor of history in the College of Arts & Sciences.

The Atlanta-based Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation is named for Mabel Dorn Reeder (1908-2007), the daughter of a prominent South Carolina businessman and state senator. A South Carolina native, Reeder earned a degree from Greenville Women’s College and did graduate studies at Columbia University in New York. She taught elementary school before marrying Thomas H. Reeder and settling in Atlanta.

At the School of Medicine, the foundation has made gifts to the Bernard Becker Medical Library and the Jessie L. Ternberg, MD, PhD, Distinguished Professorship in Pediatric Surgery.


Ludmerer has written four books, two of which were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and a Bancroft Prize: Learning to Heal: The Development of American Medical Education, which chronicles the creation of America’s system of medical education, and Time to Heal: American Medical Education from the Turn of the Century to the Era of Managed Care, which examines the evolution of American medical education from the turn of the century to the current era of managed care. The book has been called one of the most important studies in the fields of medical history and education ever published.

“Ken Ludmerer is a tremendous asset to Washington University,” says Mark S. Wrighton, chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis. “His expertise in medical history is remarkable. We are grateful to the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation for supporting Dr. Ludmerer’s outstanding work in both medical education and in the history of medicine.”

“Ken Ludmerer’s landmark works in medical education policy have brought about significant changes in medical education nationwide,” says Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “This professorship will allow Ken to continue to pursue his groundbreaking studies in medical history and education policy as well as continue to teach our students and care for our patients.”

A native of Long Beach, Calif., Ludmerer earned an undergraduate degree from Harvard College in 1968. He earned a master’s degree in the history of medicine and a medical degree both from The Johns Hopkins University in 1971 and 1973, respectively.

He came to Washington University School of Medicine in 1973 as an intern and completed a residency in medicine at Barnes Hospital. He also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University and served as chief resident in internal medicine at Barnes Hospital.

Ludmerer joined the Washington University faculty in 1976 as an instructor of medicine and became assistant professor of medicine and of history in Arts & Sciences in 1979. He was named professor of medicine and of history in 1992.

“I am humbled and honored to receive this professorship,” Ludmerer says. “The Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation has done wonderful work, and I am inspired to receive this gift from them. I am also grateful to the Department of Medicine, which throughout my career has provided the freedom and encouragement to pursue my work.”

He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has received numerous awards and honors, including a Distinguished Service Teaching Award for Clinical Teacher of the Year in 2006; a Samuel L. Goldstein Leadership Award in Medical Student Education in 2001, both from the School of Medicine; the William H. Welch Medal from the American Association for the History of Medicine; the Abraham Flexner Award for Distinguished Service to Medical Education from the Association of American Medical Colleges; and the Daniel C. Tosteson Award for Leadership in Medical Education from the Carl J. Shapiro Institute for Education and Research. In 2005, he was also made a Master of the American College of Physicians, the highest level achievable in the organization.

Ludmerer is a frequent lecturer on medical education and history nationwide. He was a member of the Institute of Medicine Committee that wrote the 2009 report on enhancing sleep, supervision and safety of medical residents. He also has served on the editorial boards of a number of professional journals.

During her lifetime, Mrs. Reeder generously endowed cultural and educational institutions. She created the Lennie Lusby Scholarships in the Music Department of Furman University to honor her former professor. She established the Dorn-Reeder Professorship of Modern Languages at Erskine College to honor her husband and her mother and founded two curator positions in the primate section of Zoo Atlanta.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

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