Marta Hanson '85

Josette Souza '14 interviewed Marta Hanson '85 about how Brown changed her career intention from medicine to the study of the history of Chinese medicine.  An excerpt is below.

JS: How did you get from Brown University to being a Chinese medicine historian? 

MH: I’m a freshman at Brown. I’ve had some Chinese… I’d also just spent the year in France but I also really wanted to do premedical work and sciences so I continued Chinese, I took French literature and I took a two year-[long] courses in applied math and physics. And basically came up for air at the end of these two years and figured out how to get to China so my junior year I spent the second semester in China for the first time. I was at Nanjing University and I also had my first Chinese course, which as you know was a disaster.   

At that stage my Chinese language was much higher than the other students in the group and as I told you today I was more interested in reading the Chinese newspaper and Chinese articles than reading a slim book on Chinese history and listening to lectures of the leader of our group who read his notes word by word.  I mean, it really was boring for me. And, history was not my favorite subject in high school either which I made very clear so I never imagined I would become a historian of Chinese history, of all things. The one course I got a D in…  but I did decide that senior year to take a full-year course in Chinese history with Jerry Grieder

...that senior year at Brown transformed my life—I never imagined I was going into the humanities and as I told you from the beginning I never thought I’d become a historian, much less a historian of China. Um, but graduate school again transformed me in different ways you know it’s because it’s a discipline and you learn as you go along and I have no regrets and as I said before I never did get back to Organic Chemistry. Um, but my main regret would be that I didn’t take any other history courses here at Brown. At the time they had an incredible department and but fortunately at least I took one and that then that made all the difference.