Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

About Us

Hektoen International featured in the National Institutes of Health NIH Record article, “Journal Posts Article on Origin of NIH Grants”

Hektoen International was founded in 2008 by the nonprofit Hektoen Institute of Medicine with the goal of “bringing culture into medicine and exposing health care professionals to art, ethics, literature, history, anthropology, literature, philosophy, religion and sociology,” according to the journal’s website. Readers include physicians, nurses, administrators and pharmacists in most countries of the world, primarily the United States, England and Australia, and also other parts of Europe, Russia, Asia and Africa.

Tabor, who formerly served as head of the Biological Carcinogenesis Program in NCI’s Division of Cancer Etiology, is a scientist and author with more than 300 publications on viral hepatitis, liver cancer, pharmaceutical regulatory affairs and medical history.”

Review of Hektoen International as published in the Winter 2022 newsletter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine article by Dr. Tonse Raju, “Studying and Publishing History of Medicine Papers: Sources and Resources”

“There is an online journal available for free, Hektoen International: A Journal of Medical Humanities, published by the Hektoen Institute for Medical Research in Chicago…The Journal has 30 main sections covering topics from Anatomy to War and Veterans. There are eight other sections, one of which is the delightful Quotations section, an excellent source for quotations one can incorporate into one’s presentations. After the website visit, a worthwhile exercise would be to read the inspiring biography of Dr. Ludvig Hektoen (1863–1951), an American pathologist after whom the Institute and the Journal were named.

The Journal has brief, but high-quality articles on wide ranging subjects, including Birth, Pregnancy & Obstetrics. It has a worldwide circulation…It conducts an annual Hektoen Grand Prix essay contest that attracts [hundreds] of submissions from its worldwide subscribers.

The National Library of Medicine’s PubMed has indexed Hektoen International. Therefore, publications in this journal are “formal” papers. The journal reviews the submissions within days, makes decisions quickly, and publishes the accepted articles within weeks. I have listed a few of my publications in Hektoen International as examples…”

Papers in Hektoen International by Dr. Raju:

“Hektoen International, which describes itself as an online journal of the medical humanities, has been published quarterly since 2008. Its editor, George Dunea, is a nephrologist and professor of medicine at the University of Illinois; he is also the CEO of the Hektoen Institute of Medical Research, a not-for-profit venture based in Chicago and dedicated to medical research and education.

The rubric “medical humanities” is interpreted liberally. The history of medicine (and surgery) is a staple of the journal, with essays about celebrated physicians of the past, the discovery of important drugs, or the development of key surgical techniques. While many of the subjects will be familiar to anybody with a passing knowledge of the field, there is a welcome admixture of the obscure and the overlooked. A recent issue includes a fascinating profile of Justine Siegemund, a pioneering midwife from seventeenth-century Silesia, one of the first women to write a German-language medical textbook – while another looks at the work of Doris Unland, an American surgical nurse thought to have taken part in more operations than any other person in history.

One of the themes to which Hektoen International returns repeatedly, and with particular success, is the medical histories (in the clinical sense) of the great and the good. Topics have included George Gershwin’s brain tumour, the hand injury that ended Robert Schumann’s performing career, and the various ailments of Samuel Johnson. The current issue includes essays on the deaths of two American presidents, James Garfield and Andrew McKinley. Both died after being shot by assassins, but in both cases the precise cause of death has long been debated. The cardiologist Philip Liebson suggests that President Garfield succumbed to an infection caused by poor hygiene (we learn that the White House basement was “awash with excrement”, while the President’s personal physician did not believe in the new-fangled aseptic methods introduced by Robert Lister). President McKinley was even more unlucky: as Dunea explains, recent research suggests that he died from traumatic gunshot pancreatitis – the first recorded case of this rare complication.

The journal also publishes occasional book reviews and ventures into short fiction. Other essays look at works of art, literature and even music through a medical-historical lens. Typical subjects include the anatomical descriptions of Homer’s Iliad, and the possibility that the subject of Vermeer’s painting “The Girl with a Pearl Earring” was suffering from syphilis. The Ugandan writer Yvonne Kusiima suggests that severe migraines suffered by Lewis Carroll caused visual disturbances which inspired the shape-shifting antics of his heroine Alice.

As its title implies, Hektoen International draws its contributors from all over the world: Ukraine, Nigeria, Israel and India are all represented in the latest issue. There is a strong contingent of emeritus professors, who write about the history of their disciplines with as much enthusiasm as erudition. But the recently retired rub shoulders with the not yet qualified: one of the most interesting recent articles, contributed by a medical student, explains how Covid-19 has moved the teaching of anatomy from the cadaver to the computer screen.”

Thomas Morris is the author of two books about the history of medicine. The Dublin Railway Murder: The Sensational True Story of a Victorian Murder Mystery is published this month.

The APEX Award of Excellence announced last week that Hektoen International, the Hektoen Institute of Medicine’s digital medical humanities journal, has been named a winner of their Award of Excellence in the Magazines, Journals & Tabloids – Electronic Publications category for the fourth consecutive year. The APEX Awards are sponsored by Communications Concepts and has held the publishing, editing, writing and design competition for 33 years.  Other 2023 APEX Award winners include publications by:

  • The American College of Radiology
  • AARP – The Magazine
  • The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
  • The American Society of Plastic Surgeons
  • The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America

Launched in November 2008, Hektoen International is an open access, online journal dedicated to the intersections between medicine and the humanities. This unique journal is named in honor of pathologist Ludvig Hektoen (1863-1951), and is currently authored and edited by an international team of researchers that includes medical professionals as well as scholars in other fields. Visitors can explore articles in Hektoen in a couple of ways. On the site’s homepage, visitors can check out the most recent issue of this quarterly publication, while all previous issues are available via Past Issues. Alternatively, visitors can explore articles through the Hektorama, where articles are organized by categories including Anatomy, Famous Hospitals, Moments in History, Literary Essays, and Surgery. Recent articles include an essay by medical resident and interdisciplinary scholar Katrina Genius that examines the historical and medical context of the Isenheim Altarpiece; a piece on Baghdad’s first general hospital by physician Hussain Al-Sardar; and an article by medical student and neurology researcher Christopher Hemond about prosopagnosia, a condition that makes it challenging to recognize faces. Written in an accessible manner, Hektoen will appeal to a broad range of students and scholars, as well as members of the general public interested in historical and contemporary issues related to health care.