Quite simply, oral history is history that is shared by word of mouth– i.e., verbally. Oral histories can play a fascinating and colorful role in documenting history. Anecdotes, jokes, stories and other first-hand recollections by individuals can often help bring the dry facts and outlines of historical events to life like no other resource available to historians.
The best way to make an oral history is to conduct an interview with a subject, and record the conversation. Usually this is done either with an audio recorder, or by using a video camera. For tips on how to conduct your own oral history interviews, see our Oral History Interviewer's Handbook.
Since 1992, the Center for the History of Family Medicine (CHFM) has been actively collecting oral histories as part of our efforts to document and preserve the history of the specialty.
At present, the CHFM holds oral histories in both audio and video formats. As part of our oral history project, we have also developed a list of subjects throughout the eight family medicine organizations (AAFP, AAFP Foundation, ABFM, ACOFP, ADFM, AFMRD, NAPCRG and STFM) that we have targeted for interviews.
For more information on how you can help to preserve the history of family medicine through conducting oral histories, please contact the Center.
In preparation for the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM) in 1992, Drs. John J. Frey III and William B. Ventres conducted a series of extensive oral history interviews with a variety of leaders and educators in the specialty.
The resulting interviews, titled "Voices From Family Medicine," were published as part of a multi-part anniversary series in STFM's Family Medicine journal in 1992-1993.
Below are PDF versions of these articles:
Maestas, R.; Ferguson, J.; Naumburg, E.; Schwenk, T.; Younge, R. "Voices from family medicine: toward the 21st century." Interview by William B. Ventres and John J. Frey. Family Medicine 25 (January 1993):48-53.(6 page PDF)
Magraw, R.; Odegaard, C.; Ruhe, C.H.W.; Fink, D. "Voices from family medicine: cooperation across disciplines." Interview by William B. Ventres, John J. Frey, and Alfred O. Berg. Family Medicine 24 (November-December 1992):618-622.(5 page PDF)