The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us


300 Plaza Centre One
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0011; fax (319) 384-0024

Release: Sept. 17, 2001

Lawrence to discuss Depression-era medicine at Sept. 22 Saturday Scholars

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Providing medical care for the poor was not a new obligation for physicians when the Great Depression hit Iowa in the early 1930s, but trying to help the growing numbers of those in need stretched many doctors to the limits of their own resources.

Susan Lawrence, a University of Iowa associate professor of history, will discuss those challenges and how doctors overcame them during her presentation, "Iowa Physicians in the Depression," on Saturday, Sept. 22, at 10 a.m. in room 40 Schaeffer Hall. The discussion is part of the Saturday Scholars series, presented by the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

"Of course people know that the Depression was a very tough time for everyone, but today it's easy to forget that that included physicians," Lawrence said. "There were no federal or state subsidies and no health insurance to pay for treatment and care, and yet doctors felt a professional and ethical responsibility to provide the best care for everyone regardless of their ability to pay."

Iowa physicians worked at the county level and through city medical societies to reach an increasingly indigent population that had too much pride in many cases to admit a need for government help. Several county medical societies responded by adopting "The Iowa Plan" to manage health care for the indigent and to resist the encroachment of government medicine," Lawrence said. In her presentation, she will discuss the plan and explain how it became a model endorsed by The American Medical Association.

In addition to her appointment in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Lawrence is a member of the Program in Biomedical Ethics and Medical Humanities ,in the College of Medicine, where she has an appointment in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology. She is currently finishing a book manuscript co-authored with Dr. Richard Nelson, Executive Dean of the College of Medicine, on the history of medicine in Iowa.

In a preview of her Sept. 22 presentation, Lawrence will be a guest on "Iowa Talks," WSUI AM- 910, on Thursday, Sept. 20, at 10 a.m.

Upcoming lectures in the Saturday Scholars series include:

Oct. 6 -- "Do Infant Rats Cry? And Why Should We Care?" Mark Blumberg, professor of psychology

Oct. 20 -- "The Civility Trap: America's Nostalgia for a More Civil Time," Melissa Deem, assistant professor of rhetoric and women's studies

Nov. 3 -- A reading from the novel "Carry Me Across the Water," Ethan Canin, professor of English

Nov. 17 -- "Lessons on Empowerment: Listening to the Voices of Entrepreneurial Women," Salome Raheim, Director of the UI School of Social Work

All presentations will begin at 10 a.m. in room 40 Schaeffer Hall, the southeast building on the UI Pentacrest. Each session will last about an hour, including a 20-30 minute presentation followed by a question-and-answer session. Refreshments will be served.

Additional information is available at

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in advance at 335-2610.