A newsletter from the Division of Medical Humanities at NYU Langone Health
July 9, 2021

The Medical Students Who Shunned Fear and Dove Into COVID Care

On Medicine and the Machine, co-hosts Abraham Verghese, MD, and Eric Topol, MD, interview Emma Goldberg, author of the new book Life on the Line: Young Doctors Come of Age in a Pandemic, and Sam Dubin, MD, an internal medicine resident at NYU Langone Health, about the medical students who graduated early to help fight COVID in New York City, storytelling in medicine, and more.
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Advancing Understanding of Compassion and Compassion Training

Laura Weiss Roberts, MD, MA, editor-in-chief of Academic Medicine, writes about the need to better understand and advance compassion training in medical education. A collection of articles published by the journal on the theme of compassion was compiled to accompany this editorial.

Medical Technologies Past and Present: How History Helps to Understand the Digital Era

Authors Vanessa Rampton, Maria Böhmer & Anita Winkler explore the relationship between medicine’s history and its digital present through the lens of the physician-patient relationship.

On the Arts and Humanities in Medical Education

This recent paper by Danielle G. Rabinowitz "aims to position the birth of the Medical Humanities movement in a greater historical context of twentieth century American medical education and to paint a picture of the current landscape of the Medical Humanities in medical training."

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

New Annotation:
Howard Trachtman on East West Street and Ratline by Philippe Sands

“In these two linked books, [the author] tells an extraordinary real life story that combines personal experience and world history into a narrative that is as powerful as any novel.”

Judging Medicine's Past: A Lesson in Professionalism

"The topic of historical judgment is ubiquitous these days," writes Barron H. Lerner, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and population health at NYU Langone, "and the medical profession has not been spared." In this recent piece, the author examines how lessons of the past can inform modern medicine.
(Full-text link is active through August 9)

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

Public Disinfectors: London Epidemic Sanitary Workers, London, 1877

The Industrial Revolution and immigration brought millions of people into cities. Intestinal and respiratory diseases were rampant for a multitude of reasons: poor sanitation, little or no refuse removal, contaminated and inadequate water supplies, deficient heat in the winter, poor diets, and, especially, the extremely crowded living conditions in poorly ventilated buildings. Epidemics often killed thousands. In 1842, Edwin Chadwick (1800-1890), a barrister concerned with sanitary reform, published a study which demonstrated that communicable disease was associated with filthy environmental conditions. Disease was now considered an enemy of the entire community, not merely an eye-averting characteristic of the poor. The English pioneer epidemiologist William Budd, MD (1811-1880), hypothesized and demonstrated that both typhoid and cholera were diseases spread by waterborne contagion, publishing results in The Lancet in 1856. He advocated for clean water supplies and general disinfecting as a means of preventing the spread of all diseases. Although it took until 1875 to create an effective Public Health Act, which included the General Board of Health, conditions were radically improved once it was established.
      This ‘disinfection’ cart with its supervised sanitary workers was documented soon after the implementation of the Public Health Act. The white garb was introduced in this era, symbolizing cleanliness in the sanitary uniform. Typhoid fever and other intestinal diseases were dramatically reduced with the improved sanitation and clean water supply, although tuberculosis and infectious respiratory disease would remain present because of crowded living conditions. One of the awkward but indispensable tasks of the workers was to remove all infected clothes, bedding, and personal effects from the victims of these contagions, after which they were required to promptly sterilize the contaminated belongings in ovens specially designed for this purpose. Following his return from photographing the Far East, John Thomson (1837-1921) documented Victorian conditions in the landmark 1877 book Street Life in London. Thomson, a pioneering social photographer whose work helped lay the foundations for photojournalism, graphically captured the plight of the urban poor so that society could no longer ignore their terrible reality.

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


Quick Links

Calls for Submission & Other Opportunities

Survey: Developing Narrative Medicine Programming in U.S Healthcare Settings
Those who have developed or implemented narrative medicine programming in U.S. healthcare clinics, hospitals, or systems are invited to participate in an online survey about your experiences. More information.


Events & Conferences


Facing Grief in the Healthcare Workplace


Historical Nonfiction: Research-Based Writing With Hadley Meares

4-week workshop
Section A: Meets Saturdays beginning July 17
Section B: Meets Wednesdays beginning August 18

Life and Death in 1918

This virtual tour will explore what made the flu of 1918 so devastating and how New York City responded to this global crisis.

MedHumChat: Medical Trainee Transitions


Science and Poetry Café



A comedy show dedicated to the illnesses and injuries we endure in our lifetime.

All That Remains: The Moth at Green-Wood Cemetery


SheNYC Arts: Plague Doctor!


Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health

Dr. Leana Wen + Brooke Baldwin

Shakespeare’s Developing Sense of Empathy


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.

Making Art About Death

A six-week online class with artist and educator Jill Littlewood
Dates: Sundays, September 26, October 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31 

There will be no newsletter next week.
The next edition will appear on July 23.


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