Anton Chekhov in the ER
“To whom shall I tell my grief?” sighs Iona Potatov, the main character of Anton Chekhov’s 1886 short story, “Misery.” This question echoes in my head often, particularly during overnight ER shifts when I struggle to make sense of vague patient complaints, stories told in vexing drips and evasive responses. Continue reading →
Can an Aristotelian examination of rhetorical strategy help us increase the number of children vaccinated? To find out, Vital interviewed Amanda Taylor, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota who specializes in rhetorical theory and the history of medicine. Continue reading →
When it comes to international aid, attempts to improve public health, assist in development, and respond to natural disasters can be thwarted by political strife and global economic inequality that stretch far beyond the control of the individuals whose lives are at stake. In this context, expertise in the culture, history, and language of a country, in addition to scientific and medical knowledge, can go a long way toward improving the potential success of public health policies and interventions.
The cholera epidemic that spread in Haiti nine months after the 2010 earthquake, for example, was started by U.N. peacekeeping forces, but only six years after its initial outbreak did the U.N. admit it played a role in the affair. In an effort to understand how deeply-rooted assumptions about a culture can have significant impact on public health policy, Lesley S. Curtis, Vital’s Editor-in-Chief and scholar of Haitian Studies, interviewed Jonathan M. Katz, the journalist whose investigation first revealed the U.N.’s responsibility for the epidemic and the author of The Big Truck that Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. Continue reading →
In a democracy, political animals reign supreme; recently, the 24-hour, non-stop, binge-inducing, all-consuming social media train ride that is barreling down the tracks to Election Day appears to be on a collision course with our lives—and no sign of a course correction is in sight.
In the era of personal technology, you might find it difficult to step away from the madness long enough to hit pause and take a breath. Between Trump’s tweets and Hillary’s email leaks, the phenomenon of FOMO is in full effect. Perhaps you find yourself fiercely loyal to one of the candidates, convinced that a loss for your team would bring about immediate Armageddon; or perhaps you are merely a political junkie, refreshing FiveThirtyEight.com twice a minute for the thrill of the chase. Continue reading →
It is not uncommon for scholars to spend so much of their time focused on books and the ideas held in them that they neglect physical activity, which is just as well, because strengthening the body is still deemed a less rigorous or less sophisticated pursuit within some corners of the professional cultural climate. This old idea still has broader influence. We almost take it for granted that one can’t be both intellectual and athletic. Just think of common stereotypes: the nerdy kid with glasses who doesn’t know how to throw a pass or, conversely, the high school football star who can’t pass his classes.
The pressure to focus so intensely on the intellectual side of life can be particularly intense for humanists, whose research less often concerns the physical body and more often focuses on human creation, its ideas, formation, and influence. In this funny and insightful essay, Ben Utter, a specialist in the literature, culture, and history of the Middle Ages, “confesses” to his hypothetical humanist professor that he has, in fact, abandoned his life of the mind to pursue, at times, a life of the body. This essay highlights the tension present in a professional culture that privileges one over the other and, through an expertly detailed historical analysis of this juxtaposition, invites us to reconsider the concept of dividing mind and body in the first place. Continue reading →
What American History Can Tell Us about Health and Social Change
Today, health and healthcare are hotly debated political issues. We are also witnessing a resurgence of civil rights movements that call attention to race, gender, sexuality, ability, age, and structural inequality. American history shows us, though, that grassroots, patient-centered change actually flourishes in times of concentrated civil rights activity. What we can learn from this history is that health is not merely an objective state of physical being. It is also, and perhaps first and foremost, a lived experience in a political, economic, and social climate. Continue reading →