Donna Patterson, Wellesley College Expert on Africa

(781) 283-2564
Africana Studies
B.A., University of Houston; M.A., Ph.D., Indiana University

Donna A. Patterson
Assistant Professor of Africana Studies

Historian with training in Africa and the African Diaspora with research in the history of medicine, gender, pharmaceuticals, drug policy, and entrepreneurship.

Donna A. Patterson is a historian of Africa and the African Diaspora with interests in pharmaceuticals, global health policy, gender, and the history of medicine. Her most recent book is Pharmacy in Senegal: Gender, Healing, and Entrepreneurship (Indiana University Press 2014).

Pharmacy in Senegal: Gender, Healing and Entrepreneurship examines the rise of pharmacists in twentieth-century Senegal. It chronicles the beginning of the pharmacy profession in Senegal beginning in the early twentieth century with the initial training in French biomedical traditions through the end of the twentieth century, with pharmacists at the forefront of biomedical healing. Relying on evidence from archives and oral interviews from several cities in Senegal and France, this book raises new questions about African medical professionalization in colonial and postcolonial Senegal, women entrepreneurs, biomedical care, and the pharmaceutical marketplace. Her work has appeared in the Journal of Women's History and the Journal of Healthcare for the Poor and Underserved. Her current projects include a monograph-in-progress on illicit drug trades in West Africa and the Horn of Africa and a project on BRICS countries investment in health and medicine in Africa.

Patterson teaches classes in the Africana Studies Department that are interdisciplinary and transnational and include Health, Medical Professionals, and the Body, Francophone Africa, Women in the Civil Rights Movement, History of West Africa, and Introduction to the Black Experience (African Diaspora).

She has provided cultural and trade expertise to corporations, NGOs, and government agencies while working and living in Washington, DC and West Africa. While working at the Dakar Embassy, she advised businesses and foreign governments on trade, public relations and humanitarian concerns and reported on women's economic activity in rural and urban Senegal. She also helped to coordinate the U.S. Secretary of Transportation's Open Skies Summit in Senegal.

She holds a Ph.D. in African history and studies from Indiana University at Bloomington. She has received fellowships from Fulbright IIE, the Woodrow Wilson Center, Princeton University, the American Historical Association, the West African Research Association (WARA) and the Institute for the Medical Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). She is also active in a number of professional associations including the American Historical Association, the African Studies Association, and Health and Medicine Coordinate Organization of the African Studies Association.

Read her thoughts on public education and the Ebola outbreak on the Huffington Post and read more about her book Pharmacy in Senegal: Gender, Healing, and Entrepreneurship in this February 2015 interview with the NPR blog Goats and Soda.