A newsletter from the Division of Medical Humanities at NYU Langone Health
August 13, 2021

Plagues and Classical History

"The medical history of plagues is fascinating, but it is seldom the critical issue.... What is more interesting is how people react to plagues and how writers describe their reactions." Author Christopher Smith looks to the past to discuss what the humanities will tell us about COVID in years to come.

New Issue: Journal of Medical Humanities

The latest issue of the Journal of Medical Humanities features articles on the power of mass media and feminism in the evolution of nursing’s image, the art and practice of clowning in children’s rehabilitation, and explorations of popular culture from Thirteen Reasons Why to Japanese manga (graphic novels).

Winners of the 2021 Hope Babette Tang Humanism in Healthcare Essay Contest

The Gold Foundation recently announced the six winners of the 2021 Hope Babette Tang Humanism in Healthcare Essay Contest. More than 270 medical and nursing students submitted essays on the human connection in healthcare, prompted by a quote from Amanda Gorman's poem "The Miracle of Morning." The winning essays will be published in Academic Medicine and the Journal of Professional Nursing later this year.

Science and Culture: At the nexus of music and medicine, some see treatments for disease

Music and healing have been connected for centuries, from ancient Greece through more recent advances in musical intervention for the treatment of patients with dementia. Here, Amy McDermott reviews recent projects that are studying music and health.

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

New Annotation:
Sebastian Galbo on An Enemy of the People by Satyajit Ray

“In this 1989 Bengali-language film, the director and screenwriter Satyajit Ray presents an arresting contemporary reimagining of Henrik Ibsen’s 1882 play, An Enemy of the People....Writing over a century apart, both Ibsen and Ray depict physicians who struggle to share scientific truth under the weight of public vilification and skullduggery.”

New Annotation:
Jack Coulehan on Secret Wounds by Richard M. Berlin

“Richard Berlin’s poems are revelatory. They reveal the healing power of attention, empathy, witness, and love. He transforms the wounds of a life in medicine, a life on the line, so to speak, into affirmation...”

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

Skundoo, a Chilkat Shaman, Treating a Woman for Tuberculosis, Juneau, Alaska, 1908

This photograph is perhaps the only surviving visual representation of the killing of Native Americans by pulmonary disease and the treatment provided by their healers. The Chilkat, a branch of the Tlingit tribe, lived in the panhandle of the South Alaskan coast. Most of the Northwest coastal tribes lived in relative solitude and immunologic isolation until the last third of the nineteenth century. The Yukon and Alaska gold rushes, along with the fishing and timber industries, brought white settlers—and their diseases—in unprecedented numbers. Many villages were abandoned as the native population succumbed in horrifying numbers to common childhood diseases, in addition to smallpox. It is estimated that over 80% of these Native Americans perished; a population drop from 500,000 to 100,000. Tuberculosis, the leading killer in the nineteenth century, proved to be the final straw and decimated the surviving population.
       This rare photograph depicts Skundoo, a well-known shaman, treating a woman for tuberculosis whose exposed chest reveals her disease state. Skundoo is dressed in his traditional clothes, consisting of a crown headdress, robes, and bone rattle. In the background is a Tlingit pillow and carved poles. These are not totem poles but instead represent guardian figures associated with the power of the shaman. As tuberculosis ravaged communities, shamans and shamanism lost much cultural significance. With the recent work done to restore lost Native American culture, shamanism has resurfaced once again. All known historic shaman healing scenes (of which there are fewer than a dozen) are posed as healing sessions and typically occurred at night in the patient’s home. The posed images, however, allow a glimpse into the nature of this important healing practice.

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


Quick Links

Calls for Submission & Other Opportunities

Call for Abstracts: Advocacy in Medicine 2021 Conference
The New York Academy of Medicine's fourth annual Advocacy in Medicine Conference will feature an opportunity for selected health professions students to present their original clinical and scientific research. Prizes will be awarded to the top three submissions. Abstracts on the theme of health equity are due September 6, 2021. More information.


Events & Conferences


The Graphic Medicine 2021 UnConvention: What Are You Working On?


Facing Grief in the HealthCare Workplace: Compassion Fatigue


Virtual: Life and Death in 1918

The Tenement Museum explores what made the flu of 1918 so devastating and how New York City responded to this global crisis.

Building A Collection: Personal Narratives From The 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic

Sponsored by The New York Academy of Medicine Library

MedHumChat: Healthcare and Harm


Historical Nonfiction: Research-Based Writing With Hadley Meares

4-week workshop
Section B: Meets Wednesdays beginning August 18
Section C: Meets Sundays beginning September 19

Bibliotherapy & Marginalized Identity: Borders, Boundaries, Crossing Lines


The Bridge: Narrative Medicine & Healthcare

A 9-week Narrative Medicine course that provides training in attentive listening, empathy, and self-care through literature, philosophy, and the arts. Next course begins September 2021.

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


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

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)


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.

ASBH’s 23rd Annual Conference

Program Theme: Bioethics and Humanities at the Crossroads
Virtual Meeting

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.

There will be no newsletter next week.
The next edition will appear on August 27.


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