Literature and Medicine

One Thursday a month, 5:00 - 8:00 pm
Diastole Scholars Center

Interdisciplinary Reading Group for the Health Sciences

Pot-luck dinner served at 5:30 pm, discussion follows.
RSVP REQUIRED - no drop-ins
Send questions and RSVP to Marie Thompson, Dental Librarian (link above)

Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care® is a national, award-winning, humanities reading and discussion program for health care professionals that benefits both them and their patients. The program has received major support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and has been cited as a patient-quality initiative. Open to all students, faculty and staff at UMKC Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Health Sciences. Discussions are facilitated by Dr. Lynda Payne, UMKC Professor of History, Women and Gender Studies.

Participants are highly encouraged to attend all or most of the meetings in each season. That helps to form a group who becomes comfortable discussing issues that could have personal significance. In addition, we need to know how many to expect for dinner!

Below is an overview of the 2017-2018 Season.

September 21 - Session One: Pre-modern health
Readings: Jeanne Abrams, Revolutionary Medicine: The Founding Fathers and Mothers in Sickness and in Health, 2013

Before the advent of modern antibiotics, one’s life could be abruptly shattered by contagion and death, regardless of social status. As both victims of illness and national leaders, the Founders occupied a unique position regarding the development of public health in America. Revolutionary Medicine refocuses the study of the lives of George and Martha Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John and Abigail Adams, and James and Dolley Madison away from the usual lens of politics to the unique perspective of sickness, health, and medicine in their era.



October 19 - Session Two: Gender and Anatomy
Readings: Brad Watson, Miss Jane: A Novel, 2016

Longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction: Astonishing prose brings to life a forgotten woman and a lost world in a strange and bittersweet Southern pastoral. Now, drawing on the story of his own great-aunt, Watson explores the life of Miss Jane Chisolm, born in rural, early-twentieth-century Mississippi with a genital birth defect that would stand in the way of the central "uses" for a woman in that time and place: sex and marriage.




November 9 - Session Three: Childhood and Romance
Readings: Joan London, The Golden Age, 2014

Frank Gold’s family, Hungarian jews, flee the perils of World War II for the safety of Australia, but not long after their arrival, thirteen-year-old Frank is diagnosed with polio. He is sent to a sprawling children’s hospital called The Golden Age, where he meets Elsa, the most beautiful girl he has ever seen, a girl who radiates pure light. Frank and Elsa fall in love, fueling one another’s rehabilitation, facing the perils of illness and adolescence hand in hand, and scandalizing the prudish staff of The Golden Age.




January 18 - Session Four: Sexuality and Activism
Readings: David French, How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Stories of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS, 2016

The definitive history of the successful battle to halt the AIDS epidemic. A riveting, powerful telling of the story of the grassroots movement of activists, many of them in a life-or-death struggle, who seized upon scientific research to help develop the drugs that turned HIV from a mostly fatal infection to a manageable disease.




February 22 - Session Five: Science and Trust
Readings: Jo Marchant, Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind over Body Cure, 2016

A rigorous, skeptical, deeply reported look at the new science behind the mind's surprising ability to heal the body. while we accept that stress or anxiety can damage our health, the idea of "healing thoughts" was long ago hijacked by New Age gurus and spiritual healers. Recently, however, serious scientists from a range of fields have been uncovering evidence that our thoughts, emotions and beliefs can ease pain, heal wounds, fend off infection and heart disease and even slow the progression of AIDS and some cancers.




March 15 - Session Six: Feelings and Indifference
Readings: Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the World of Consciousness, 2015

Another New York Times bestseller from the author of The Good Good Pig, this fascinating…touching…informative…entertaining” (Daily Beast) book explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus—a surprisingly complex, intelligent, and spirited creature—and the remarkable connections it makes with humans.