Tag Archives: Medical Humanities

The revolution of Abraham Flexner and its aftermath

Picture of Abraham Flexner. From The World’s Work, 1910, by W. M. Hollinger. Via Wikimedia. Unlike his brother Simon, who became a celebrated infectious diseases specialist and director of the Rockefeller Institute, Abraham Flexner was mainly interested in culture and education. He also grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, where his father had ended up after […]

Girolamo Cardano: Renaissance physician and polymath

Born at Pavia in the duchy of Lombardy in 1501, Girolamo Cardano practiced medicine for fifty years but is remembered chiefly as a polymath. He composed 200 works, made important contributions to mathematics and algebra, invented several mechanical devices (some still in use today), and published extensive philosophical tracts and commentaries on the ancient philosophers […]

“Looking at … Looking away”: a challenging and vital skill

Florence Gelo Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA   Alice Neel Self-Portrait. Alice Neel. 1980. Oil on canvas. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. © Estate of Alice Neel, 1980. For nearly a decade, I have used images of paintings to teach students in health care professions how to cultivate the skills of looking while learning to recognize their […]

Thank you notes

Margaret Mitchell Boston, Massachusetts, United States   Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash I wrote thank you notes after matching in my residency program, though I found I was thankful for things I had not anticipated. I began working with Dr. Langerman in my first year of medical school, both in clinical settings and research. […]

“Do I look gay to you?”

Elena Hill New York, United States   Joaquim, Refugee, Tijuana 2020. Richard Hill. When I first went to Tijuana to the US-Mexican border to volunteer as a physician, I was expecting to see women fleeing abuse, men escaping gang violence, and families pursuing a better life. I was not expecting to see a large LGBTQ […]

Abraham Colles—giant among surgeons

Abraham Colles. Source. Abraham Colles was born in Kilkenny in Ireland in 1773. The story has it that as a boy he found an anatomy book in a field after a flood had destroyed a doctor’s house. He took the book to his owner, a Dr. Butler, who, finding he was so interested in it, […]

Another look at the medical problems of Jean-Paul Marat: searching for a unitary diagnosis

Howard Fischer Uppsala, Sweden   L’Assassinat de Marat / Charlotte Corday. Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry. 1860. Musée d’Arts de Nantes. Via Wikimedia. Jean-Paul Marat (1743-1793) was a practicing physician, scientist, and a leader of the French Revolution. He also suffered from a chronic, intractable skin condition, which troubled the last five years of his life. A tormenting […]

My very own back pain

Andrew Bamji Rye, East Sussex, UK   Illustration by Claude Serre. As a rheumatologist, now retired, I spent a good portion of my working life dealing with patients who had back pain. I reckoned over the course of thirty-three years in the specialty that I had back pain largely nailed. I developed an algorithm which […]

Phillipe Gaucher (1854-1918)

Philippe Charles Ernest Gaucher. Via Wikimedia. In the days when syphilis was rampant in Europe and diagnostic modalities few, many unrelated medical conditions were erroneously attributed to it. There was, for example, the distinguished professor of syphilology and dermatology at the Hôpital Saint-Antoine and the University of Paris, who “aggressively promoted” the idea that poliomyelitis […]

Monet’s illnesses: beyond cataracts

Sally Metzler Chicago, Illinois, USA   Fig. 1: Claude Monet, Apple Trees in Blossom, 1872, Union League Club of Chicago. Fig. 2: Claude Monet, The Japanese Footbridge, ca. 1922, Modern Museum of Art New York. No other artist in the world is more beloved than Claude Monet (1840-1926), the father of French Impressionism. From Shanghai […]