Health and Well-Being in Amish Society
A Multidisciplinary Conference

June 6-8, 2019

This multidisciplinary conference will focus on health, healing, health care, and individual and community welfare and well-being in Amish life. Since at least 1964, with the publication of the essay “Genetic Studies of the Amish,” by Victor McKusick, John Hostetler, and Janice Egeland, scholars have identified the unique contribution that Amish communities play in advancing medical knowledge. In the years since then, clinical studies, ethnographic research, and creative new avenues for providing health care have flourished with the active participation of the Amish.

The three-day event, which is open to the public, will highlight topics such as genetics, culturally appropriate care, Amish understandings of healing and well-being, mental health, alternative and complementary medicine, preventive medicine, insurance, aging, and death and dying. Speakers will address cultural resources for, as well as barriers to, health and well-being.

Registration is now open. Visit for conference details and registration information.


Joseph B. Martin, PhD, MD
Edward R. and Anne G. Lefler Professor of Neurobiology, Emeritus
Harvard Medical School

“Ancestral Antecedents of Illness: Opportunities for Assessment and Amelioration”

Joseph B. Martin received his medical degree from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, in 1963, completed a residency in neurology in 1966 and fellowship in neuropathology at Case Western Reserve University in 1967, and received his PhD in anatomy from the University of Rochester in 1971. Martin began his career in academic medicine at McGill University in Montreal, where he later became chair of the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery. In 1978, he joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School as the Bullard Professor of Neurology and Chief of the Neurology service at the Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1984, he was appointed the Julieanne Dorn Professor of Neurology at Harvard. Martin began his tenure as dean of the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, in 1989, and went on to serve as chancellor of UCSF for four years. He returned to Harvard in 1997, serving as dean of the medical school until 2007 and then as Lefler Professor of Neurobiology until his retirement in 2016.

Martin is the author or coauthor of more than 300 scientific articles and reviews, and is a former editor of Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, a widely used medical textbook. He has served on the editorial boards of the New England Journal of MedicineAnnals of Neurology, and Science. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member and past president of the American Neurological Association. Martin has received numerous national and international distinctions throughout his career.


Katherine Hempstead, PhD
Senior Adviser to the Executive Vice President
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

“The Amish as Healthcare Consumers”

Katherine Hempstead received her doctorate in demography and history from the University of Pennsylvania and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Office of Population Research at Princeton University. Since late 2013, she has directed the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s work on health insurance coverage. In addition, she works on issues related to health care price transparency and value. She also holds a visiting faculty position as an assistant research professor at the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy. Previously, Hempstead was director of the Center for Health Statistics in the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services.

Martha King, PhD
Teaching Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

“Medicine and the Modern Amish”

Martha King is a scholar and teacher working on the intersections of belief systems, expressive culture, rural communities, healthcare, and the body. She holds an MA in folklore and a PhD in anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her current research considers the bodily care employed by the Amish and their relationships with biomedicine. King has also worked in areas including representation in ethnographic research, social issues of returning genetic data in sick populations, the production of knowledge in medical genetics, and rural folk practices in the American South.

Melissa Thomas, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine
Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, Athens

“Understanding the Why:  Engaging Amish and Plain Communities in Addressing Health Disparities”

Melissa Thomas received her MS in administration from Central Michigan University and her MSPH and PhD in public health from Walden University. She has worked on addressing health disparities through community-engaged research and outreach models for over 20 years, with a specific emphasis in rural and Appalachia Ohio. As founding director of the nonprofit Center for Appalachia Research in Cancer Education (CARE), Thomas has served as principal investigator on a number of research studies aimed at reducing the burden of cancer through culturally-competent health education programs.

About the site

Amish Studies is an academic website developed by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College to provide reliable information on Amish life and culture. Designed to assist scholars, students and the general public, the site was developed with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Amish population statistics are updated annually in the summer. Other information is updated periodically.

For more in-depth discussion about the Amish:
The Amish book cover

Authors: Donald Kraybill, Karen Johnson-Weiner, and Steven Nolt (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013; paperback, 2018)

Recent books

In partnership with the Johns Hopkins University Press, the Young Center Books in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies publishes innovative and creative scholarship. The latest volume in the series explores the Amish relationship with the environment:
Nature and the Environment in Amish Life book cover
Authors: David McConnell and Marilyn Loveless (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018)