March 2011

Medicine Out of Context

I ducked into the ladies’ room at La Guardia Airport in New York for a pitstop before boarding my flight. Inside I encountered a housekeeper washing the floors. She flashed me a broad smile.

“Doctora,” she said, and then hesitated. I could see that she was waiting for a response. “Recuerdame?” Read more

Maladies, Remedies, and Anthologies: Medicine Taken at Its Word

The urge to anthologize seems to be one of those primordial drives, nestled in our genomes alongside the compulsions to eat heartily, imbibe lustily, and slaughter enemies willfully. Or at least that’s how the Greeks appear to have experienced it. Read more

Chekhov and Public Health

At first glance, it might seem odd that a public health journal would initiate a section about arts and humanities. Public health, after all, deals with populations; it eschews the individual except as it forms one of a group. The creative arts, however, deal almost exclusively with individuals. Literature, in particular, always has a protagonist, and the protagonist is never ‘alcoholics with pancreatitis,’ ‘female prisoners receiving hepatitis B vaccination,’ ‘South Asians with cardiovascular risk factors,’ ‘UK asylum seekers with infectious disease,’ or ‘teenaged asthmatic smokers.’1 A protagonist is an individual.

Madame Bovary, Huckleberry Finn, Jay Gatsby, Pip, Hamlet, Odysseus, Harry Potter, Holden Caulfield, Captain Ahab, Anna Karenina, Sherlock Holmes and Jean Valjean are individuals, not populations. What happens to each is entirely unique. There is nothing in their characters that is ‘applicable’ to larger populations; they define individualism. Our pleasure in reading these novels is the exhilaration of being swept up in the singular journeys of these remarkable individuals. Read more

Books by Danielle Ofri

  • what-patients-say-what-doctors-hear-cover
  • singular-intimacies-cover
  • incidental-findings-cover
  • medicine-in-translation-cover
  • intensive-care-cover
  • what-doctors-feel-cover
  • bellevue-cover

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