A newsletter from the Division of Medical Humanities at NYU Langone Health
September 3, 2021

The impact of a medical improv curriculum on wellbeing and professional development among pre-clinical medical students

Nicholas Neel and colleagues hypothesize that medical improv—which "takes the basic ideas of improvisational theatre and applies them to clinical situations"—has the potential to not only mitigate burnout, but also enhance the professional development of physicians-in-training. Here, they assess the outcomes of an elective created for pre-clinical students.

On Time and Tea Bags: Chronos, Kairos, and Teaching for Humanistic Practice

Drs. Arno K. Kumagai and Thirusha Naidu explore how the ancient Greek concepts of time—chronological, linear, quantitative time, or chronos; and qualitative, opportune time, or kairos—can be used in medical education and training.

2021 Summer Reading List for Compassionate Clinicians

The Gold Foundation recently released their annual summer reading list, highlighting books published over the last year that help foster humanism in healthcare. Among the books on the list are memoirs by a young woman detailing her experiences with cancer and a hospital leader discussing challenges and teamwork during the coronavirus pandemic.

How the talented Oscar Levant broke taboos by talking about mental health

Each month, Dr. Howard Markel's column for PBS NewsHour highlights the anniversary of an important event that continues to shape modern medicine. His latest piece looks back at Oscar Levant, a multi-talented musician and actor—and perhaps the first celebrity to publicly discuss his mental health and prescription opiate addiction.

Highlights from Projects and People in
Humanities and Ethics at NYU Langone Health

New Annotation:
Albert Howard Carter III on The Hospital: Life, Death and Dollars in a Small American Town by Brian Alexander

"While the timeline of the story is short, it has wide breadth in local and national issues. These are illustrated by the stories of specific people.... dramatic and painful stories."

Those Who Survived the Polio Epidemic See Similarities in the COVID-19 Pandemic

David Oshinsky, PhD, director of the Division of Medical Humanities at NYU Langone, compares his experience living through the time of both COVID-19 and polio.

Support the Literature, Arts, and Medicine
Database and Magazine

As someone who is interested in Medical Humanities, we hope you will join us in support of the Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database and Magazine. One of the core components of NYU Langone’s Division of Medical Humanities, LitMed is an open access collection of more than 3,000 annotations of works of literature, art, and performing arts that provide insight into the human condition. Please make a gift today. Learn more.

The Burns Archive Photo of the Week

Waiting Out the Pneumonia Crisis, circa 1895

In the pre-antibiotic era, pneumonia was a dreaded killer of the young and old alike. Prior to the therapies and antibiotics of the twentieth century, many patients were better off letting their disease run its natural course. Numerous bacteria cause pneumonia and, depending on the pathogenicity of the bacteria, patient survival rate varied. For example, untreated lobar pneumonia had a 30% mortality. One of the most common infections was pneumococcal pneumonia. It had a predictable, natural course and included the symptoms of dyspnea, blood-tinged sputum, pleuritic pain, fever, and chills. After 7 to 10 days, a ‘crisis’ occurred consisting of sweating with defervescence and spontaneous resolution.
       During much of the nineteenth century, physicians attempted to intervene in the course of the disease with drastic therapies and medications. Bloodletting was commonly used in lung disease ‘to relieve congestion’; mercury, opium, alcohol, and other dangerous drugs were utilized in an attempt to rally the patient, some of which suppress respiration. Alternative medical practitioners, such as homeopaths, with their extremely dilute medications, provided little intervention and thus seemed to help patients as the disease ran its course. Once physicians realized they could not safely alter the course of the disease, they offered supportive therapy, fluids, blankets, and watchful waiting. Thus, doing nothing was often the best therapy. By the turn-of-the-century, distrust of doctors was almost a thing of the past.
       This type of photograph was common and is similar to other images of physicians, nurses, and the family around the bedside. Many times, comments such as “she will be better” were attached to the photographs, the implication being the physicians knew what they were doing and had confidence in the outcome. It must be noted that pneumonia is still a deadly disease, especially when combined with influenza. In the 1990s, this combination was the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

With thanks to The Burns Archive for providing historic medical photographs and commentary for this weekly feature


Quick Links

Calls for Submission & Other Opportunities

William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition
The William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition, sponsored annually by the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Northeast Ohio Medical University, is open to students attending allopathic or osteopathic schools of medicine in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada. The top three prize-winning poems receive a monetary award ($300, $200, and $100 for first, second, and third place, respectively) and are considered for publication in the Journal of Medical Humanities. Submissions will be accepted through December 31, 2021. Submission Details and Eligibility Criteria

Call for Writers: Synapsis
The editors of Synapsis: A Health Humanities Journal seek new writers to contribute to the journal. Synapsis is an online publication designed to bring together humanities scholars and students from across institutions and disciplines in a "department without walls." The site is founded and edited by Arden Hegele, a literary scholar, and Rishi Goyal, a medical doctor.
      The editors are looking for 10-12 PhD candidates, junior faculty, and health professionals whose work intersects with the medical humanities to become regular writers for the publication. The commitment is one piece of writing every two months. These pieces can intersect with your research, or be one-off creative explorations. Contributions need not be long (500 to 1,000 words is ideal).
      To apply, please complete the application form and upload a CV. The deadline to apply for a writing position is September 15, end of day. Questions in the meantime may be directed to the managing editor, Lilith Todd, at


Events & Conferences


Narrative Medicine Rounds with Reginald Dwayne Betts

“An Hour with Reginald Dwayne Betts: Prison, Law, Poetry”

The Healing Classics: Medical Humanities and the Graeco-Roman Tradition


Facing Grief in the HealthCare Workplace- Compassion Fatigue


Activating Art for Health Professionals

Speaker/performer: Ray Williams
Part of "Let's Jam, The Arts in Medicine series" from the Center for Compassionate Communication at UC-San Diego

Sayantani DasGupta on "Abolition Medicine"

Part of the Health Humanities Research Seminar (HHRS) Series at the Humanities Institute, University of Texas at Austin

The Art of Death With Tessa Fontaine

This five-part seminar explores notions of death and dying around the world, drawing from biology, history, and beyond. Each 1.5 hour session takes place on consecutive Mondays beginning September 13.

Online Information Session: M.S. and CPA in Narrative Medicine (Columbia University)


Engaging Across Disciplines: Toward a Practice of Transdisciplinarity

Mayo Clinic Humanities in Medicine Symposium 2021
September 17-18, 2021, with additional dates through October 9, 2021

Ethics and the Theater: The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams


Humanity in Music

Humanity in Music is a nationwide fundraising music festival, in support of the Alzheimer Society.

The Mudroom: Guided Creative Workshops for Health Professionals

The Mudroom is a creative and reflective writing workshop for health professionals. Meetings are held monthly and provide a space to write, read, try out exercises in prose and verse, share work and give feedback. The Fall 2021 sessions occur on one Wednesday each month, beginning on September 22.

Poetry & Parkinson’s

A viewing of the short documentary Hal and Minter, followed by a discussion with the creative team.

Inequalities Unmasked: What Pandemics Reveal About Race And U.S. Society, From Yellow Fever To COVID-19

The Iago Galdston Lecture, part of The New York Academy of Medicine Library’s History of Medicine series

Leonardo da Vinci: A Union of Art and Science


ASBH’s 23rd Annual Conference

Program Theme: Bioethics and Humanities at the Crossroads
Virtual Meeting

Resilience During a Pandemic and Beyond


The Examined Life Conference

Enjoy discussions and presentations on how the arts can be used in medical education and patient and provider care.

The Need for Narrative: Grappling and Reckoning with These Times

This new narrative medicine basic workshop invites you to join the narrative medicine international community in bringing our creative resources to the task of locating ourselves in these unprecedented times and exploring the power of narrative work to bring our experiences into focus. Earlybird pricing through October 1st.
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