Dr. Savelli: Critical Perspectives of Medical Expertise

Health / Aging Studies, McMaster University, Medicine, Mental Health Forum, Original 3 Key Works, Social Sciences
Mat Savelli


About Dr. Mat Savelli

  • Field: History of Health/Medicine
  • Post-Doctoral Fellow, McMaster University
  • Department of Health, Aging & Society



Dr. Savelli’s recommended readings to inspire your own research in the history and sociology of medicine.

Dr. Savelli’s 3 Key Works:

Critical Perspectives of Medical Expertise

1) Prescribing by Numbers: Drugs and the Definition of Disease

Reference: Greene JA. Prescribing by Numbers: Drugs and the Definition of Disease. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.

This book does a brilliant job of demonstrating how our notions of health have been increasingly “statistified” (for a lack of a better word) over the past few decades.  Holding both a PhD (in history) and an MD, Greene highlights exactly how and why we’ve come to understand (poor) health through numerical expression rather than through people’s personal experiences.

2) The Myth of Mental Illness

Reference: Szasz, T.  The Myth of Mental Illness.  New York: Harper & Row, 1961.

I fundamentally disagree with Szasz’s politics and I’ve got strong doubts about some of the company he kept but it’s hard to deny this book’s importance in forcing people to think critically about mental illness and psychiatry.   Almost 60 years on, many of his central arguments remain poignant starting points when thinking about the dominant biomedical approach to psychological and emotional difficulties.

3) Diagnosing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

Reference: Cooper, R.  Diagnosing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  London: Karnac Books, 2014.

Cooper is a philosopher of science with a particular interest in the issue of mental health.  Her latest book is short but tremendously insightful; she goes well beyond the usual criticisms about “psychiatry’s bible” to present a nuanced picture of how alterations in the DSM can reshape people’s lives.

Contact Info

Inspired to learn more? Reach out to Dr. Savelli

  • E-mail: savellm@mcmaster.ca
  • Brief Bio:
    • I conduct research from the perspective of the “medical humanities.”  I’m not exactly sure what it means but I generally borrow from history, cultural studies, and various social sciences (politics, sociology, and anthropology especially) to write about social dimensions of health.

 Please take the opportunity below to write your own thoughts and conference on these readings!


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