Professor shares his passion for history, healthcare, and music

Sometimes people think they should have “one professional identity and one thing you do for fun,” said George Aumoithe. “But I look at both sides as different modes of expression — and I want to practice sharing scholarship in many different registers.”

Aumoithe is able to do just that. With dual appointments in the History Department and Department of African and African American Studies, he begins the day teaching “Healthcare in the Welfare State.” In the evening, the assistant professor conducts a seminar on “how Black electronic musicians responded to urban history’s unfolding.”

Aumoithe, who joined the faculty last year, said he finds it particularly interesting to study topics like health inequity, medical racism, and music in a “solidly resourced institution” like Harvard. “It’s this world-class university,” he said. “You have this golden ticket to shape and highlight the leading edge of thinking across fields such as Black studies and U.S. history.”

As an undergraduate at Bowdoin College, Aumoithe, a Haitian American, pursued a double major in history and African American Studies.

“Public health policy has become the site where we interrogate healthcare’s place in the welfare state,” he explained, noting that healthcare, public health, and welfare are distinct entities in the U.S., while they’re more interconnected in other countries.

These concerns followed Aumoithe to Columbia University, where he earned a doctorate in history under the mentorship of pioneering welfare state studies scholar Alice Kessler-Harris. At Columbia, Aumoithe began to research the ways healthcare and public assistance became “strange bedfellows” in the 20th century U.S.

His graduate dissertation served as the impetus for his upcoming book, “Medical Scarcity: The Resegregation of Healthcare in America,” which provides a history of how the wartime-scarcity mindset became a postwar search for “efficiency” in a desegregating America. The book tells a national story of federal health planning’s transformation and hospital closures with cases in New York City, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Atlanta, and the rural South.

Amid his scholarly work, Aumoithe started creating music under the act Efemèr, which means “ephemeral” in Haitian Creole. Released during the pandemic, the debut EP “Yearning” is an electronic six-song project exploring themes of intimacy, misconnection, and nostalgia in a world struck by pandemic, socio-political turmoil, and violence.

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