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Medicine & The Body: Exploring Narrative Mysteries

By Richard Byrne

Are you ready for the increasingly multidisciplinary university of this moment?

Johns Hopkins Summer Pre-College Programs can give talented high school students the tools to prepare for an undergraduate environment in which even introductory courses are constructed with an eye to disciplinary synergies. There look not only to familiar shared territories (biology and chemistry, say), but also prepare the ground for bold leaps between disparate bodies of knowledge.

One course offered at JHU this summer – Medicine & The Body:  Exploring Narrative Mysteries – explores the powerful connections between medicine and the cluster of humanities and social sciences

Co-Instructor, Lakshmi Krishnan, MD, Ph.D., is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for Medical Humanities & Social Medicine.

(including literature, anthropology, and history) involved in the study of how human beings tell stories.

Storytelling is the foundation of any civilization. Tales of ancient cultures remain as long, or even longer, then any physical trace they may leave behind. They are related and reinterpreted by each new generation.

Yet telling stories is also essential to diagnosis, treatment, and healing. Every consultation between patient and doctor is a dialogue rooted in a shared narrative. Patient trace an arc from wellness to the appearance of symptoms. Doctors must analyze these stories closely, offer their knowledge and wisdom, and shape paths forward to health or a cessation of suffering. Even medical charts relate the stories of patient journeys.

Co-Instructor, Iro Filippaki, is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Johns Hopkins University Center for Medical Humanities and Social Medicine.

Medicine & The Body:  Exploring Narrative Mysteries examines the profound and unexpected ways that the humanities intersect with medicine, science, and technology. It is a street with two-way traffic. Disease is a central concern in the human condition, recorded vividly in fiction, opera, and poetry, and studied in a variety of social sciences. Yet stories reside at the center of the medical experience, doctors and researchers often require the tools of consolation and inspiration possessed by the most compelling storytellers to be effective in their profession.

Students will be guided in this exploration by Lakshmi Krishnan, a researcher who has blazed paths of excellence in both medicine and the humanities. Krishnan is an alumna of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (M.D., 2014), and a recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship, who took her Ph.D. in English Literature at the University of Oxford.  Co-leading the course is Iro Filippaki, a post-doctoral fellow in the Johns Hopkins University Center for Medical Humanities and Social Medicine.

Krishnan’s interest in cross-disciplinary research methods is animates the course. Her scholarship focuses on the shared history of diagnosis and disease – and the puzzle solving qualities that diagnostic methods possess across genres including detective fiction to medical case reports. Her work envisions diagnosis as a dynamic and evolving process influenced by history, technology, narrative, ethics, pedagogy, and trends.

The course draws upon the resources offered by the world-renowned Johns Hopkins medical school, as well as the deep traditions of excellence in the university’s departments in the arts and sciences.

It is an opportunity for students to discover that the quality of the stories told by patients and doctors exerts a profound effect on our own health and the science of medicine itself. And they will emerge from the course – and many others offered by Johns Hopkins Summer Programs – energized by the possibilities of profound discovery across disciplines.


Learn more about medical narratives, and why the humanities, especially literary study, is so important in medicine. Medicine & The Body:  Exploring Narrative Mysteries  is offered to qualified pre-college (high school) students who have an interest in exploring science, medicine, health, humanities, and literature. This non-credit course meets June 24 – 28, 2019. The cost is $2,575.

A residential only course, Medicine & The Body:  Exploring Narrative Mysteries is offered through Johns Hopkins Summer Programs’ debut Summer Immersion program, providing one-week, immersive courses to qualified pre-college (high school) students looking for a short-term, high impact, summer college experience.

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