American Sociological Association

John McKinlay Award Statement

John McKinlay Award Statement  

John McKinlay is an internationally prominent medical sociologist who has made landmark contributions not only to medical sociology but also to public health, gerontology, sexual medicine, psychology, epidemiology, medical training, clinical decision making, and health policy. He is a prolific scholar who has authored, co-authored or edited more than 250 professional papers and 17 books, and an intellectual giant with over three decades of seminal articles in public health and clinical health care.

McKinlay’s research has been conducted both within and outside the academy.He is founding director of the widely recognized social science and public health research institution, New England Research Institute, now in its 21st year.Prior to NERI, McKinlay was a distinguished academic and administrator at Boston University, holding simultaneous professorships in Medicine, Biostatistics and Epidemiology, and Sociology, and directing BU’s Center for Health and Advanced Policy Studies and its Gerontology Institute.He has been associated with Harvard Medical School’s Division of Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital for 25 years.

His research has made major impacts in the real world.For instance, his research and dissemination efforts led to a critical change in the teaching and practice of medicine.Until the 1990’s most medical textbooks framed discussion of heart disease as a male problem, despite cardiovascular disease’s being the leading cause of death for women in the United States.In a series of studies spanning two decades, John McKinlay and collaborators documented the professional and organizational bias in graduate school norms, type of treatment offered, and technology applied that cumulatively resulted in disadvantages for women in cardiovascular diagnosis, treatment and outcomes.Large scale medical studies replicated these findings; but McKinlay’s work is partly, if not largely, responsible for changes which occurred in training and practice.Today’s medical textbooks no longer reify a gender difference in heart health.

John McKinlay’s career in sociology and its practice began in his native New Zealand with studies of heart disease among Maoris and the health consequences of migration by Polynesian Tokelau Islanders.At Aberdeen University, Scotland, he pursued questions of perinatal mortality and health care use by very low-income families.Since 1973, he has collaborated on studies of menopause, culminating in the highly regarded Massachusetts Women’s Health Study.His own longitudinal Massachusetts Male Aging Study continues to make pioneering contributions in such fields as endocrinology, urology, cardiovascular disease, geriatrics, and behavioral medicine.He has collected the first wave of an epidemiologic laboratory in the Boston inner-city area involving a large random sample followed over time (the Boston Area Community Health Survey).This BACH Study is designed to investigate a range of urologic symptoms in men and women of diverse race and ethnicity.With colleagues at Boston Medical Center, he has begun one of the first large epidemiology studies of osteoporosis in a racial and ethnically diverse population of aging men (called BACH BONE).He is continuing over 15 years of work on a video series of vignette factorial experiments that included the NERI gender studies.

Central to John McKinlay’s winning this award is his application of sociological knowledge wherever he does research.He not only imparts new insights into medical sociology as with his work on professions and the proletarianization of medicine; but he also uses sociology to identify gaps in literature, frame new research questions, and convince others of the importance of his ideas in areas others may view as entirely unrelated to sociology.At NERI, he trains public health and biostatistics professionals to consider sociological theory and methods in their work and to talk intelligently about sociological concepts. In presentations and collaborations, he teaches colleagues in other disciplines to think sociologically.In fact, his literal practice of sociology has helped change epidemiological approaches while simultaneously nurturing sociologically-receptive audiences where none existed previously.

We recognize John B. McKinlay for these numerous outstanding contributions with the 2008 American Sociological Association Distinguished Career Award for the Practice of Sociology.