Let’s teach doctors there are more ways of knowing

Almost three years ago exactly, I published an essay here on Synapsis titled “In Defense of Humoralism.”  In it—to briefly summarize—I highlighted how common ways in which patients understand the etiology of their illnesses and formulate folk treatments can often be understood as humoralistic.  Consequently, physicians dismiss these ideas as superstition, as they do not…

“It hath left behind it so foul and filthy broad scars, that touched the lives of four persons”: Stories of Medical Malpractice in Elizabethan England

In the preface to his 1588 treatise on surgery, Elizabethan surgeon William Clowes declared to his reader that “mine intent is not to hold my tongue at abuses” (A prooued practise sig. A1r). Thus began a section in which he discussed several stories of medical malpractice.1 In one, he described a “pernicious pill” that had…

“A Hallowed Institution”: The Bordel Militaire de Campagne (Mobile Field Brothels) and the Making of Military Prostitution in France Following World War One

Reflecting on the French system of military prostitution known as Bordels Militaires de Campagne (BMC, Mobile Field Brothels) during the First World War, Dr. Léon Bizard wrote in his memoirs (1925): It was a mêlée, a hard, dangerous, and disgusting business. Fifty, sixty, up to a hundred men of all colors and races to relieve…

Calories: The measure of nurture

The date was October 28, 1935. The night could have been peaceful and relaxing for 26-year-old Fukuda Katsu living in Tokyo if her husband did not complain about dinner. After quibbling about her cooking of rice, he rebuked Katsu for lack of knowledge: “You are too indifferent about calories.” His words were like a slap…

Humanizing Black Patients

Misconceptions and Fallacies on Race and Medical Treatment The Health Humanities is the study of the intersection of health and humanistic disciplines (such as philosophy, religion, literature)  fine arts, as well as social science research that gives insight to the human condition (such as history, anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies.)* The Health Humanities use methods…

Searching the Supernatural: Cause and Cure in Mental Illness

In 2020 alone, approximately 21 million adults in the United States suffered from at least one major depressive episode (that’s 8.4% of all American adults). If anything, that number is an underestimate. To make matters worse, treatment options aren’t great. While traditional allopathic relief is available, people regularly turn toward alternative options in treating mental…

Rice in Bowls

It was the mixed rice again. Four months had passed since the Japanese soldiers of the First Regiment of Imperial Guard first saw such staple in November 1886. Instead of shining white rice, their bowls held some yellowish rice with barley kernels. They heard that soldiers in the Second and Third Regiment had the same…

Boccaccio’s Two Little Pigs: Animal Deaths during the Black Death

In his account of the 1348 plague outbreak in Florence, Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio described the deaths of two pigs who had been exposed to the clothes of a plague victim. He explained:    One day […] the rags of a pauper who had died from the disease were thrown into the street, where they…