“Sun Science: Environmental Health, Medical Specialization and Body Politics in 20th-Century Canada,” is the title of Dr. Sarah Shropshire’s successfully defended dissertation. The defence was held on Tuesday, December 14, 2021 virtually through the University of Guelph. Dr. Jane Nicholas, the Director of the Tri-U History program congratulates Sarah. “Sarah’s innovative work will make an important contribution to the history of science, medicine, and the body. On behalf of the program, I congratulate her on this achievement.”
Dr. Shropshire’s dissertation focuses on 20th century Canada and uses human interaction with the sun and sunlight as a thematic framework to explore a diverse range of topics. The range of themes include the history and philosophy of science, history of medicine, gender, racial identity, environmental history, and the history of the body. While the sun may appear constant, the way that the sun and sunlight are understood, and how humans have chosen to interact with the sun have changed over time. Throughout its various topics, the dissertation explores the growing application and influence of science on increasingly diverse elements of culture and society.
The component of Sarah's dissertation that she hopes to publish first are the materials examining the history of systemic racism and ageism in dermatology. These will make a timely contribution to the current fight for increased racial equality and representation for equity-deserving groups.
While completing her dissertation, Sarah also worked as a researcher and analyst with the Government of Canada. She currently works in a policy and engagement role with the Public Health Agency of Canada in the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Equity.
Sarah looks forward to using the public health and environmental health knowledge she gained through her doctoral research to support exciting upcoming projects like physical activity and mental health for equity-deserving populations, or the intersection of climate change and chronic disease.
More than anything though, Sarah is looking forward to finally having more time to spend with her partner, pleasantly precocious toddler, and furry family member.
The Tri-University program gave Sarah access to more leading experts on her topic than she could ever have had access to at a single university. “As a medical historian with a particular interest in gender issues,” says Sarah, “it was a privilege to work with a committee that included Catherine Carstairs, Cynthia Comacchio, and the late Wendy Mitchinson.”
Beyond accomplished faculty, what made the Tri-U special was the incredibly supportive and collegial network of scholars and administrators. Completion of my degree involved many hurdles, including serious medical issues. I don't know that I would have had the energy or ability to finish without the support, encouragement, and warmth of my academic family. I am extremely grateful.