From Heraldtribune.com October 25, 2018
The list of people selected as the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Jefferson Lecturer has included some of the most brilliant and creative people in America: writers Toni Morrison and John Updike, academics Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Drew Gilpin Faust, filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Ken Burns.
Last week, Dr. Rita Charon, a Harvard-trained physician who teaches at Columbia University’s medical school and practices at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital delivered the annual Jefferson lecture. While practicing medicine, Charon went back to school and received a doctorate degree in English from Columbia. She developed the concept of “narrative medicine,” in which doctors apply skills learned from studying literature to better treat patients.
Research suggests that narrative medicine enhances what medical students are able to understand and value about the patients they treat, and, as such, it is becoming a core component in medical schools’ programs. In Charon’s words, “training in the humanities frees the physician and the scientist from the bias of the observer, achieving a position outside one’s own loyalties to adopt the perspective or the subjectivity of another.” She and her collaborators have shown that the empathy gained from studying literature improves medical care.