Volume 1 Issue 4 – Summer 2009

Medicine and Literature

The Psychiatrist in Literature

Solomon Posen, MD

Emeritus professor of medicine, University of Sydney

The perception that the entire discipline of psychiatry represents a meaningless ritual goes back to the early days of the specialty and persists to this day. Of all medical specialists in fictional literature, psychiatrists are given the most negative treatment, with some authors participating in “shrink bashing” even though they are or were psychiatrists themselves. More…

Merchant of Venice ImageMauro Spicci, PhD

Università degli Studi di Milano

In the last few years the steadily growing number of attempts to read Shakespeare’s plays from a medical perspective has been justified by the idea that they are not simply the immortal fruits of a genius, but also documents reflecting the historical, cultural, and social background of Elizabethan England. More…


Medical History

Citizen Zinsser: Portrait of a Renaissance Man

Philip Liebson, MD

Rush University Medical Center, Chicago

Zinsser PhotoHere is someone who could easily be a role model for Strauss’s Ein Heldensleben. He lived during a pivotal time in medicine – the year he was born was the year of Karl Rokitansky’s death, William Welch was studying pathology in Germany, the classification of bacterial organisms was 6 years old, Edison had just invented the phonograph and the Congress of Berlin was attempting to separate the Ottoman Empire from the Balkans. More…



GI Joe: The Life and Career of Dr. Joseph B. Kirsner

James L. Franklin, MD

Hektoen Institute of Medicine, Chicago

Kirsner Photo Dr. Joseph B. Kirsner began his professional career with the strong desire to care for the individual patient. Over the years, the doctor-patient relationship became the cornerstone of his career. Through fortuitous and felicitous circumstances, he found his way to a great university, the University of Chicago. There his vision was expanded to encompass the many possibilities of medical research and the importance of continuing medical education. On September 21, 2009, Dr. Kirsner will celebrate his 100th birthday. More…

A Journey Across Time

Mindy A. Schwartz, MD

Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago

Ruberculosis Poster Few diseases have captured the imagination more than tuberculosis. TB fascinates many people – scientists and epidemiologists, artists and humanitarians, sociologists and physicians. It is as much the stuff of art and song as a merciless killer of the young and old. Even its name conjures the image of the waif with a chronic cough and worrisome hemoptysis. More…

“High Tracheotomy, Low Tracheotomy”
High Drama in the Scullery

George Dunea, MD

Hektoen Institute of Medicine, Chicago

Then, as now, many hospital doctors, especially the more recent graduates, have tended to look down on the efforts of the “local M.D.,” the general practitioner or primary care physician. They often regard themselves as better educated, more competent, and more up-to-date. They forget that much of their prowess is based on their ready access to the facilities of a modern teaching hospital, whereas the local M.D. is often struggling on his own, left to his own resources. More…


Art and Medicine

Color, Image and Symbol: Memory Recalling the 1990 Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait Through Drawings

Iraqi Invasion Drawing

Dr. Yvonne Pepin-Wakefield                                    Kuwait University College for Women

Over the course of one year, I collected drawings by my female students that addressed three questions related to the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait: What is your first memory of color, what is your first memory, and what objects do you remember being surrounded by during the invasion? The resulting drawings, done outside of the classroom by young women in their early 20s, were collected and analyzed. Visual results from this study revealed color, image and symbol patterns in drawings that represent a select population’s response to the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. More…

Marc Chagall Brings a Message of Hope and Faith to the Disabled     .

Marc Chagall Image

Job, 1985,
Marc Chagall (1887 – 1985)
Tapestry, 13 x 11.5 ft. (396.2 x 350.5 cm)
Courtesy of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago
Gift of The Friends of the Chagall Tapestry, 1986 More…

Blades of the Mill: A Man Battling with Cancer

Artist Statement

Barb Schwarz Karst

Barb Schwarz Karst

I wanted this show to be about more than just cancer. I wanted people to know my brother is more than just a statistic or a case study; he is a human being with feelings, a life filled with love, relationships, self-worth, fears, mistakes, and creative thoughts. More..

Artist depiction of her brother’s struggle

Barb Schwarz Karst and Robert Schwarz

Montana, USA

Blades of the Mill is a series of eighteen mixed media paintings representing my brother Bob, four months into his eight-month treatment for cancer. In a collaborative effort, Bob wrote short stories and dialogues to accompany the paintings. Blades of the Mill was designed to be an educational, inspirational, and uplifting testament to all those conquistadors who are called to fight a similar battle. Featured in this issue of Hektoen International are select works from the series. More…


Non-Fiction Creative Writing

Learning Compassion – Learning Forgiveness

Larry Zaroff, MD, PhD

Stanford University, California

I once made a technical error that injured a patient. An error of commission. Distressed, I wrote to several cardiac surgeons with whom I was acquainted through training or practice. I asked if they had made similar mistakes and how they were dealing with their mistakes. Were they embarrassed, ashamed? Did they feel guilty? Had they lost confidence? How did they manage to go on to the next case? More…

Maximum Security Kindness or the Public Health Nurse Accrues her CEU’s

Geraldine Gorman, RN, PhD

College of Nursing, University of Illinois at Chicago

Within walls of the peeling paint and behind barbed wire, beneath the gun-turret towers, I find sustaining peace. Looking around at the sangha members assembled on their black and green zafus and mats, I see testimony to fortitude. And more—to integrity. These men, with a minimum sentence of twenty years, could easily have calcified into molten artifacts of rage, despair, and nihilism. Instead, they chose a different path. They opted not only to care but to care deeply, paying close attention in a way that we, who are too much of the world, do not. More…

The Vaudeville Revue

Terry Wahls, MD, MBA

Roy J. and Lucille Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa.

I stare at Grandma, my mother. She is young, barely over sixty. What is happening? I decide it must surely be her heart. I cannot reach to hold her hand. Within minutes, we are inside the garage at the emergency room. Doors fly open. Mom is unloaded. The nurses on one side, the paramedic on the other, they grab her gurney and run into the emergency room. I jump down and follow. They take her to the trauma room, filled with people waiting. I stop as the double doors close. More…


Body Electric – The Medical School Journey

A Window on Iatrogenesis

Norm Lieska, PhD

University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine

The medical school journey is a roadway lined with many mileposts. These appear suddenly and pass quickly – in laboratories, lecture halls, clinics, and patient rooms. Often the travelers are not even aware that they have passed a milepost in the fogs of their arduous journey. We who attempt to help these travelers learn the intricacies of the roadway are amazed to see how quickly they mature – in medical, world, and personal knowledge. More…

My First (Do No Harm) Patient

Paul Karagiannis, Class of 2011

University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine

The door to room 7403 was opened slightly, and a TV inside hummed the midday news – nervous but resolute, we knocked and crossed the threshold. Inside, sitting knees-up in bed, his height accentuating the awkward angularity of his position, sat Mr. C., Bed No. 2, United States Veteran, my first patient and, most visibly, a man in pain. More…


Lawren VandeVrede, Class of 2011

University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine

I stand in a room where over
half of the people are dead.
Students stand like vultures
over corpses barely identifiable as human. More…



Carol Battaglia

Carol Battaglia was born and raised in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. She recently retired from Loyola Medical Center after practicing nursing there for 30 years. She is the author of 3 books, and has been described as a minimalist who writes with a Haiku rhythm. She is currently completing a book of spiritual poems. More…

Shirley Stephenson

Shirley Stephenson is an ER nurse and writer. She is currently studying to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. Prior to becoming a nurse she worked as a communications and development professional for a global health non-profit and later a literary organization. She has lived and worked in Latin America and the Caribbean. Her writing, which has been supported in part by an Illinois Arts Council Artists Fellowship, has appeared in various literary journals, including Southern Review, Diagram, Ninth Letter, Black Warrior Review, and others. More…


Creative Thinking In Medicine

Creative Thinking in Medicine: Can We Learn it from the Masters and Practice it?

Creative Thinking ImageLydia Usha,

MD Rush University Medical Center, Chicago

Although many great medical discoveries have been the result of creative thinking, they have often been attributed in retrospect to logical or scientific reasoning. These two ways of thinking, though complementary, are different: scientific reasoning is based on something already known or assumed; creative thinking can arrive at something nobody had suspected. More…


A Look At Leprosy

A Trip to the Leprosarium: Forgotten People and Their Hope for Treatment

Robert R. Schenck, MD

Rush University Medical Center, Chicago

Thirteen Congolese patients had gathered under the shade of an acacia tree and sat waiting their turn to come forward and be examined. It was a clinic day like many others, and a young woman, perhaps in her early 30’s, sat amongst the older people, her chin supported rather nonchalantly by her right hand, her elbow perched on her knee. Henrietta Mbumbu’s attitude seemed to convey that she was bored and possibly puzzled why she was in the Tshimuanza Leprosarium with twelve other people, all much older than herself. More…

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