Essays on Literature and Medicine by Rafael Campo

"Illness as Muse", an essay in Bellevue Literary Review

Read a new essay, "Can We Save the Art of Medicine?"


Art + Humanities @ HMS

The difficulties of practicing medicine in a modern era increasingly dominated by economic constraints, technological hubris, and multicultural differences are well described. Yet little constructive work has been done to refocus the attention of care providers on the universal nature of human suffering itself, and how empathy can continue to be modeled for aspiring care providers, especially medical students, under these changing and sometimes hostile conditions. The growing body of art and literature that responds to the illness experience is a powerful but underutilized medium for pondering and valuing the work of physicians, and for nurturing their personal growth and their dedication to what was once termed “the healing art.”

Medical students and house staff, as well as their medical faculty supervisors, find Art + Humanities @ HMS an invaluable resource in renewing their commitment to medicine, by stimulating their personal growth, mirroring their own life experiences through the lens of diverse peoples, and offering an alternative discourse of empathy and mutual respect to counter the growing cynicism in our profession. The Art + Humanities @ HMS program endeavors to study the interactions between patients and these care providers as they confront a wide range of representations of illness, in an effort to develop improved curricular approaches to doctor-patient communication and cross-cultural medicine, and archives and disseminates its findings to other institutions through the publication of studies evaluating students' responses to program activities, and through its library and journal. Its overriding aim is to affirm the indispensability of creative expression to the healing process, and to develop novel, constructive approaches to patient care and medical education that make use of the tremendous power of the human spirit in the face of illness.


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