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Senior Sarah Owen Earns Opportunity as Historian-in-Training

by Zaria Bonds (Class of 2019) on September 12, 2016

Senior Sarah Owen spent her summer as a historian-in-training at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

An anonymous $1 million endowed gift from the parents of a 2012 Millsaps College graduate to the College provided funding for her real-life opportunity.

For nine weeks, Owen worked at the NIH as a researcher in the audiovisual department at the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s History of Medicine Division. The division collects, preserves, makes available, and interprets for audiences one of the world’s richest collections of historical material related to human health and disease.

Owen wrote abstracts for twentieth century medical films, edited transcripts of films, and published videos for the National Library of Medicine’s YouTube page.

“I had never thought about the history of medicine before I heard about this internship, but these medical films reveal a lot about American culture and society in the twentieth century,” Owen said.

She worked with films that included public service announcements for the general public, training videos for health professionals, and postgraduate and professional seminars designed to update specialists in their field. The films spanned from the 1920s to the 1990s and covered a variety of infectious diseases from tuberculosis to AIDS.

Owen credits Dr. Amy Forbes, associate professor of history at Millsaps, for selecting her for the opportunity and the endowed gift that is earmarked for internships to assist students majoring in history with acquiring marketable skills.

While in the Washington, D.C., area, Owen visited the national archives of the National Education Association and conducted research for her honors project. Her project is about unions for Mississippi teachers and involves both archival research at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and original research through oral histories.

For her honors project, Owen is studying the history of the merger of the Mississippi Association of Educators, an all-white organization, and the Mississippi Teacher Association, a majority black organization. Merger talks between the two organizations lasted more than 10 years, she said.

A native of Meridian, Owen is a double major in English and history with minors in mathematics and American Studies. She plans to have a career in history.

During her senior year, Owen will continue to serve as a student leader of Students for Education Reform, which is a group that ensures that all children have an excellent education.