In an age of remarkable advances in medical science, the humanities are more important than ever to understanding health, illness, mortality, and well-being. Medical knowledge has always been shaped by culture, narrative, philosophy, and history. As medicine extends human life and physical capability, it brings with it difficult ethical questions about the alteration of the body, the unequal distribution of care, aging, disability, and the end of life. For this reason, leading physicians and institutions worldwide have recently called for the urgent return of the humanities to medical education and practice. This movement, "the medical humanities," emphasizes the human experience of illness and suffering through the study of history, literature, philosophy, religion, art, anthropology, and other humanities disciplines. Beyond the training of future health practitioners, these approaches offer all of us a deeper understanding of the lives we lead, the values informing our medical decisions, and the nature of our commitment to collective health and well-being.

The 2016-2017 Altman Program invites faculty, students, alumni, and the public to explore matters of life and death at the intersection of medicine and the humanities. How does culture influence conceptions of disease, health, aging, and mortality? How is medical knowledge affected by philosophical assumptions, economic conditions, and political considerations?  How might the study of narrative, ethics, and history—even the history of long-dismissed theories—cultivate not only humility and empathy but also diagnostic acumen? How do we navigate the complex ethical dilemmas spawned by technologies capable of extending human life, modifying the body, and controlling reproduction?  And how can the humanities inform our sense of well-being, our ideas about our bodies and our health, and our desire to craft a meaningful life in the face of our own mortality? 

Kimberly Hamlin and Cindy Klestinec, Altman Fellows, and the entire community of Altman Faculty Scholars and Altman Student Fellows invite you to participate in this year's program of public events: 


John McGowan
John W. and Anna H. Hanes Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
“Can Medicine Save the Humanities, and Vice Versa?”
Thursday, September 1, 4 p.m.
Dolibois Room, Shriver Center

Wendy Kline
Dema G. Seelye Professor in the History of Medicine, Purdue University
“The Power and Politics of Countercultural Medicine”
Wednesday, September 14, 5 p.m.
Miami University Art Museum

Sonia Shah
Author and Science Journalist
“Pandemics: Tracking Contagion from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond”
Thursday, October 13, 7 p.m.
Armstrong Student Center, Pavilion C

David Serlin
Associate Professor of Communication, University of California, San Diego
“Designs for Living: Rethinking the Medical Model of Disability through Architecture”
Thursday, November 10, 4 p.m.
Shideler 152

A Staged Reading of Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-Winning Play
Directed by Ann Elizabeth Armstrong, Featuring Saffron Henke 
Tuesday, November 15, 7 p.m.
Leonard Theater, Peabody Hall

Keith Wailoo
Townsend Martin Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton University
“The Politics of Pain”
Thursday, January 26, 7 p.m.
Shideler 152

Judith Farquhar
Max Palevsky Professor of Anthropology, University of Chicago
“Philosophical Differences: Comparing Chinese and American Medical Thinking”
Monday, February 27, 4 p.m.
Heritage Room, Shriver Center

John H. Evans
Professor of Sociology, University of California, San Diego
"The Eclipse of the Sacred Human: Are Human Rights Under Threat from Medical Science?"
The Arthur C. Wickenden Memorial Lecture in Religion
Monday, March 13, 4 p.m.
Doliobois Room, Shriver Center

Arthur W. Frank
Professor of Sociology, University of Calgary
“Whose Narrative? What Medicine?”
Thursday, March 9, 7 p.m.
Dolibois Room, Shriver Center

Philip van der Eijk
Alexander von Humboldt Professor of Classics and History of Science, Humboldt-Universität, Berlin)
“Health, Responsibility, and Lifestyle in Ancient Medical and Philosophical Thought”
Thursday, April 6, 4 p.m.
Dolibois Room, Shriver Center

THE 2016-17 Altman Symposium: Medicine and the Humanities
1 p.m., Thursday, April 20 – 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 21
Dolibois Room, Shriver Center 
Keynote Lectures:                              
Suzanne Anker
Artist and Chair of the BFA Fine Arts Department, School of Visual Arts, New York City
“From Zoetropes to Embryoscopes: What are Little Girls Made of?” 
Domenico Bertoloni Meli
Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at Indiana University               
Pathology and Visual Representation”
Anne Harrington
Franklin L. Ford Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University
“Culture Under the Skin: What We Learn from Strange Bodies in History and Why It Matters”
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