Renée C. Fox, Founding Determine of Medical Sociology, Dies at 92

Renée C. Fox, Founding Figure of Medical Sociology, Dies at 92

In one of her earliest and most influential essays, "Training for Uncertainty" (1957), Professor Fox picked up a subject that she would revisit throughout her career. The more sophisticated the medicine became, the more questions were raised.

"Uncertainty – if something needs to be carved on my headstone, that's it," she told the Penn Arts & Sciences Alumni Newsletter in 2002.

Renée Claire Fox was born in Manhattan on February 15, 1928. Her father Fred founded P.F. Fox & Co. Investment Securities and her mother Henrietta (Gold) Fox promoted her educational advancement even though she only had elementary school education herself.

During the summer after her freshman year at Smith College, she began to feel sick and her doctor diagnosed her symptoms as polio. She never forgot the date: August 15, 1945, also known as V-J Day, when Japan surrendered and ended World War II.

"From my bed in our apartment," she wrote, "I could hear the cheering crowds on the street through the open windows."

Polio is highly contagious, and finding a hospital that would accept them took some effort. She was taken to Sydenham Hospital in Harlem, which mainly served black patients. Her polio was severe and made her swallowing and breathing difficult, which she could hardly do in the hospital.

In her memoir, Professor Fox paid tribute to a black nurse who got her through the first night. "I don't know her name," she wrote. "But I know I survived that night because she laid her head next to mine on the pillow I was on and breathed every breath with me."


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