Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Month: February 2024

  • Measles again

    JMS PearceHull, England “Measles is tearing through the UK, spooking health chiefs and parents alike.”– Daily Mail, 25 Jan 2024 Measles is notoriously infectious. Ninety percent of people exposed to an infected person will contract the disease. In many countries, because of misguided anti-vaccine activists, Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccination rates have fallen in recent…

  • The musical and medical journey of Jean Sibelius

    Michael YafiChaden YafiHouston, Texas, United States The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865–1957), one of the twentieth century’s greatest composers, was known for his ability to capture the stark beauty of his country’s landscapes through his unique, austere musical style. Born into a family with diverse talents, his father, Christian Gustaf, served as a municipal and…

  • Did Chopin die from tuberculosis?

    Philip LiebsonChicago, Illinois, United States Frederic Chopin, remembered for his brilliant piano works, suffered from a chronic illness leading to a short life of only thirty-nine years. Yet he lived longer than Mozart, Schubert, Mendelssohn, or George Gershwin. Born in a suburb of Warsaw, he was sickly even as a youth and appeared on the…

  • On Hortons among history

    Avi OhryTel Aviv, Israel I believe I met Dr. Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, in 1999 in Glasgow during the two-day symposium on Medicine & Literature on the 400-year anniversary of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. On that occasion, I also met and chatted with Professor William Bryan Jennett CBE…

  • Spirit possession in Jewish folklore: The dybbuk

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden In the folklore of both Eastern European and Mediterranean Jews, a certain kind of possession was considered a real threat. A demon called a “dybbuk” was a malicious, possessing spirit, believed to be the soul or ghost of a dead, sinful person. The dybbuk was almost always the spirit of a Jewish…

  • Tea with Walter de la Mare by Russell Brain

    JMS PearceHull, England “The little nowhere of the brain” Many physicians have dabbled in literature and the arts, or as “medical truants” have abandoned medicine for such ventures. A unique collaboration of medicine and literature was the friendship and exchange of diverse stories and speculative ideas of human experience between the eminent neurologist Walter Russell…

  • Dr. Davis discovers desirable dietary decisions

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “[Clara Davis did] one of the most fundamental and far-reaching pieces of work that has been done in my time.”1– Dr. Joseph Brennemann (1872–1944), chief of pediatrics, Children’s Memorial Hospital, Chicago Clara M. Davis (1878–1959) received her M.D. degree in 1901. While practicing pediatrics in Chicago, Illinois in the 1920s, she thought…

  • The final illness of Thomas Wolfe

    Thomas Clayton Wolfe was one of the most important American novelists and short story writers of the early 20th century. When he died as a young man in 1938, he joined the long list of literati victims of the dreaded “captain of these men of death”—John Keats, Percy Shelley, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Louis Stevenson,…

  • Diptheria: Horses and dogs to the rescue

    Jayant RadhakrishnanChicago, Illinois, United States Pierre-Fidèle Bretonneau described diphtheria as a distinct entity in 1821.1 He named it after the Greek word for leather2 because of the thick gray membrane that forms in the throat. Physicians before him, starting with Hippocrates, considered asphyxiating diseases as a group that also included tonsillitis, croup, and malignant angina.…

  • The Rosenbach eyelid sign

    J.D. BartlestonCynthia J. ChelfDietlind L. Wahner-RoedlerRochester, Minnesota, United States Functional neurological disorders are difficult to diagnose and treat, in large part because there are no objective physical, laboratory, or pathological findings to confirm or exclude the diagnosis. This brief communication describes the Rosenbach eyelid sign (RES) and its association with hyperthyroidism and possibly with functional…