A newsletter from the Division of Medical Humanities at NYU Langone Health
August 27, 2021

The Online “Personal Responses Tour”: Adapting an Art Museum–Based Activity for a Virtual Setting

In this Educational Case Report, Margot Kelly-Hedrick and colleagues describe their experiences using an art museum-based method—the Personal Responses Tour (PRT)—with medical students to address specific curricular needs (e.g., exploring personal, relational, and professional identities; community-building; support of self-care), as well as the creation of an online version of the PRT during the COVID-19 pandemic.

National Library of Medicine Historical Collections: Health At Home

In their latest virtual tour, the National Library of Medicine features materials that document how people have taken responsibility for managing their own physical and mental health, as well as recommendations of medical professionals and public health officials on addressing threats to health. As they note: "Taken together, across all the periods and places they represent, these collections reveal stories about personal responsibility and the intersection of individual and public health."

How DNA’s Spirals Help Us Understand the Shape of Life

From 19th-century croquet-ball representations of molecules to the double helix structure ubiquitous today, images have always been central to our understanding of science. Charlotte Sleigh explores the reciprocal roles of imagery and scientific innovation in visualising new discoveries.

Preventing a Pandemic's Toll—We've Been Here Before

In this narrative medicine essay, an infectious diseases physician recalls the reluctance of some patients with AIDS who feared taking antiretroviral medications, offering the same arguments being raised for refusing COVID vaccinations, and suggests that storytelling may be a compelling way to convince people to be vaccinated.

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

New Annotation:
Russell Teagarden on Should We Stay or Should We Go by Lionel Shriver

“Readers will appreciate the book for the questions it raises and the thinking it inspires...[about] taking measures to avoid devastating enfeeblement and infirmity during old age.”

New Annotation:
Cortney Davis on Freud on My Couch by Richard Berlin

“Berlin writes as a physician, husband, father, friend, lover of music – and as a man who understands that he and his patients share a common and fragile humanity.”

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

Alexander Fleming Examining Petri Dish, circa 1944

One of the most crucial discoveries of twentieth century medicine was the creation of the first wonder drug: the antibiotic penicillin. Penicillin saved millions of lives and changed the course of human history. It also revolutionized medicine and opened up new fields of research, altering centuries-old bacterial scourges, syphilis, gonorrhea, and other primary and secondary bacterial infections.
       This photograph shows Sir Alexander Fleming in his laboratory in the mid-1940s. Fleming worked at the Inoculation Department at St. Mary’s Hospital in London. In 1928, while doing research on the influenza virus, Fleming discovered that a mold had accidentally developed on a culture plate of staphylococcus and had inhibited the growth of the bacteria. He named the mold ‘penicillin’ and in 1929 reported his findings in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology. But Fleming misinterpreted and misunderstood the phenomena he observed, and physicians’ reaction to the phenomena was unenthusiastic. In 1939 and 1940, at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology of Oxford University, Ernst Boris Chain and Howard W. Florey developed penicillin into a usable drug. Penicillin is bactericidal, killing bacteria by destroying and preventing construction of the outer cell wall of susceptible microorganisms, and does not affect cell wall construction in higher animals and thus is not toxic.
       Chain and Florey figured out how to produce the drug on a large commercial scale. As World War II waged on, the drug was recognized as a powerful secret tool for the Allies, and was subject to secrecy acts. American pharmacies were better able to manufacture the drug, and tons of penicillin were produced and shipped to Europe. After the war, the race was on to develop new antibiotics. Now, antibiotic resistance has become a major problem, especially in hospital acquired infections, and many people expect that new antibiotic wonder drugs will solve this growing problem.

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


Quick Links

Calls for Submission & Other Opportunities

Health Humanities Consortium Steering Committee - open positions
This fall there will be three openings on the Health Humanities Consortium Steering Committee. These will be selected via a vote of the HHC Membership. Only members will be able to serve and/or vote. Membership (which runs from July 1 – June 30) is open for renewal and the link to join is on the HHC website.
      To nominate or self nominate, please send your name and one paragraph describing your interest and potential contribution (intended to be shared with the membership) to by Tuesday, August 31st. They are particularly seeking a candidate who would like to train for and eventually assume the role of Treasurer. Voting will occur during the month of September and the three-year term will begin on October 1st. Current steering committee members ending their first term are eligible to run again for a second term.
      The role of the steering committee is to review and amend the By-laws as appropriate (also available on the website), advise and consult with working groups (a steering committee member serves on each of the working groups), advise and consult on the direction of the HHC, communications, collaborations and governance, and help to plan the annual conference. Officer positions within the HHC (Chair or Co-Chairs, Secretary, Treasurer, Membership Chair) are selected from and by the elected Steering Committee members. Members of the Steering Committee are expected to participate in bi-monthly conference calls and attend the annual meeting of the HHC (which will be virtual for 2022).
      Please feel free to reach out with any questions to current HHC Co-Chairs, Erin Lamb ( and Sarah Berry (


Events & Conferences


SICK!!! A Chronically 'Ill'arious Venture into illnesses, injuries, and healthcare


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.

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

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

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.

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

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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