After graduating Doctor of Medicine at the University of Zurich in 1917, Sigerist devoted himself to the study of history of medicine. Socialized Medicine in the Soviet Union (1937), and History of Medicine were among his most important works. He emerged as a major spokesman for "compulsory health insurance".
From 1932 to 1947 was director at Johns Hopkins University institute of history of medicine.
He received financial aid from the Rockefeller Institute. He attacked the American Medical Association because of his conflicting views on socialized medicine.
Doctor Sigerist was influential in the creation of socialized medicine in Canada. He made four trips to Canada in the 1930s and 1940s at the invitation of various medical groups to speak on this topic.
This was the basis for the eventual adoption of government funded health care in all of Canada.
Sigerist died in 1957, and his passing was mourned among many in the medical community, although his views on socialized medicine were often glossed over in obituaries in national newspapers. Although Sigerist"s influence waned during the mid 1900s, he has slowly become an important figure again in medical history. In 1999 an article in Hopkins Medical News described his view that "the entire history of medicine was spiraling toward one inevitable end: socialized medicine." and said that "he invested all his enthusiam on the wrong horse - the Soviet Union".
An organization of medical historians have named themselves the Sigerist Circle, and books such as Making Medical History: The Life and Times of Henry East. Sigerist by Theodore M. Brown and Elizabeth Fee have begun to reintroduce Sigerist"s legacy to the world.