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Rishi Goyal is Director of the Medicine, Literature and Society major in the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University, and an Attending Physician in the Emergency Department of Columbia University’s Medical Center. Dr. Goyal’s research, writing and teaching focuses on the reciprocal transformation that results when new ideas about health, disease and the body find forms of expression in fiction and memoirs. His most recent work explores the political, aesthetic, and social dimensions of the representation of physical trauma in literature. His writing has appeared in The Living Handbook of Narratology, Aktuel Forskning, Litteratur, Kultur og Medier, and The Los Angeles Review of Books among other places.
Arden Hegele is a Medical Humanities Fellow at the Society of Fellows in the Humanities and a Lecturer in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She received her PhD from Columbia in 2016. Dr. Hegele’s book-in-progress investigates how British Romantic literature is transformed on a formal level by the era’s medical discoveries in pathology and psychiatry. Her work has appeared in Public Books, European Romantic Review, Romanticism, Partial Answers, and other scholarly publications.
Liz Bowen is a Ph.D. candidate in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, where she is working on a dissertation project that traces the intertwined literary deployments of disability, animality, and cognitive otherness as sites for aesthetic experimentation in 20th and 21st century American literature. Liz is also a widely published poet and poetry critic. Her first full-length poetry collection, Sugarblood, was published by Metatron Press in 2017, and her chapbook Compassion Fountain is forthcoming from Hyacinth Girl Press. Her poems and critical essays have appeared in Boston Review, Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, Humanimalia, The Wanderer, Dream Pop Press, Cosmonauts Avenue, The Atlas Review, and elsewhere.
Copy Editor: Naazanene Vatan is a senior in Columbia College studying Biology and Medicine, Literature & Society. She is interested in studying how literature intersects with the histories of medicine and public health.
Social Media Editor: Malvika Jolly tweets @synapsisjournal
Site Designer and Guest Editor: Lan A. Li is Assistant Professor of Medical Humanities at Rice University. She is a historian of the body and filmmaker, and a former Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience at Columbia University. She received her PhD in Science Technology and Society Studies from the HASTS program at MIT. Her work centers on comparative and cross-cultural histories of medicine. As a documentary filmmaker, Lan has also collaborated with integrative practitioners in India, Brazil, and China. She seeks to expand these collaborations across disciplinary and geographic spaces. Lan is an alumna of the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans.
Meet our Contributors-in-Residence
Dr. Alicia Andrzejewski is an Assistant Professor at the College of William & Mary. She holds a PhD from the English program at the Graduate Center, City University of New York and an MA from Appalachian State University. Her current project, “Queer Pregnancy in Shakespeare’s Plays,” addresses a conspicuous absence in queer readings of Shakespeare’s work: the pregnant body. This project reflects her ongoing research interests: early modern literature and culture; critical race, gender, and sexuality studies; and the medical humanities. Her work is forthcoming or has appeared in the peer-reviewed journals Shakespeare Studies, Shakespeare Bulletin, and The Tennessee Williams Annual Review.
Brent Arehart is a PhD candidate in Classics at the University of Cincinnati who specializes in ancient medicine. His dissertation focuses on the relationship between medical ideation and sexual dysfunction in Greco-Roman antiquity, particularly during the first several centuries of the Common Era. He has previously written on the subject of sexually stimulative substances in Pharmacy in History, and in his spare time he updates WordDoctors.org, a site dedicated to bibliographical resources for the study of primary medical texts in Greek and Latin. He is also broadly interested in the history of the life sciences, music, and gardening.
Jordan Babando is a PhD candidate in sociology at Queen’s University. His research interests are the sociology of medical practice, sociology of emotions, and industrial health and safety. His current research is primarily focused on uncovering and grappling with the hidden emotional milieu in health care interactions. Jordan is a researcher with the Office of Health Sciences Education (Queen’s University), and a member of the Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health (Laurentian University), and the acquired experiences and knowledge from these opportunities help inform his writing.
James Belarde is an MD/PhD candidate in the neurobiology program at Columbia University with a clinical interest in pediatric neurology. He began performing standup comedy in college and, since 2010, has trained at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City as a student in their Advanced Study Programs for both improv and sketch comedy. Since beginning medical school, James continues to perform in the city and has developed an interest in exploring the intersection between humor and medicine. He currently co-teaches an improv workshop for medical students, and his creative writing has been included in The Principles and Practice of Narrative Medicine, as well as on the front of various refrigerators owned by his mom over the years.
Sarah L. Berry, PhD, is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at State University of
New York—Oswego. She is the author of essays on medicine, gender, race, and
cultural history that have appeared most recently in Research Methods in the Health
Humanities, Journal of Medical Humanities, Mosaic, the essay collections Black Bodies
and Transhuman Realities and From Reading to Healing, and online at The Millions
and the National Library of Medicine. She serves on the Health Humanities
Consortium steering committee, co-chairing its Curriculum and Assessment
Subgroup. She co-authors the annual report Health Humanities Baccalaureate
Programs in the United States. Her book in progress is titled Patient Revolutions:
Health and Social Justice in America from Abolition to the Affordable Care Act.
Erica Cao is a PhD student studying music at the University of Cambridge Centre for Music and Science. Her research interests are in the arts, health, and civil society. She conducts fieldwork in NYC with the nonprofit Humans in Harmony.
John Carranza is pursuing his PhD in the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests focus on the history of medicine, disability history, and gender and sexuality in the United States. John taught survey courses on Texas, the United States, and World History at San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word before he arrived in Austin. He also spent over ten years working as a care provider and case manager for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Currently, John writes for the Faculty Fellows Seminar on “Health, Well-Being, Healing” with the Humanities Institute at the University of Texas. He has contributed entries to Great Events in Religion: An Encyclopedia of Pivotal Events in Religious History and written for UT’s public history website, Not Even Past.
Benjamin Gagnon Chainey is a physical therapist and a PhD candidate in French language literature and medicine at Université de Montréal and Nottingham Trent University, UK. As a physical therapist, he is currently developing an expertise in neurology at Montréal’s Villa Medica rehabilitation hospital, mostly with patients suffering from the impacts of a stroke or fighting against a brain tumor. His MA in literature examined the caregiving relationships in the AIDS novels of Hervé Guibert. His current PhD work, supported by Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Vanier scholarships, analyzes the evolution of empathy between the caregiver and the dying patient in both 19th-century medically-inspired literature and contemporary AIDS literature. His work has been published in Muse Medusa and Fixxion, and presented at the Midwest Modern Language Association. Other creative and critical works are forthcoming in creative writing journal Mœbius, and in Interférences littéraires, Multilingual e-Journal for Literary Studies.
Neşe Devenot is the Medicine, Society & Culture Postdoctoral Scholar in Bioethics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, she received her PhD in Comparative Literature & Literary Theory from the University of Pennsylvania. Her current project, Chemical Poetics: The Literary History of Psychedelic Science, explores the function of metaphor and other literary devices in narrative accounts of psychedelic experience. She was a 2015-16 Research Fellow at the New York Public Library’s Leary Papers and a Research Fellow with the New York University Psilocybin Cancer Anxiety Study, where she participated in the first qualitative study of patient experiences.
Emilie Egger is a PhD candidate at Yale University whose research focuses on eugenics and family planning in Latin America and the United States. Her dissertation follows the aftermath of a family-limitation campaign in Peru during the 1990s in the context of the global shift toward socially conservative reproductive policy after decades of population-control efforts. Emilie also holds a master’s degree in women’s history from Sarah Lawrence College, where she was the recipient of the Gerda Lerner Prize in Women’s History in 2014.
Chuka Nestor Emezue is a Nursing Ph.D. student at the University Of Missouri Sinclair School Of Nursing. His art and research interests tackle transcultural manifestations of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), focusing on ecosocial and comparative interventions for men who abuse women. He also studies how these interventions link to expression of toxic masculinities, misrecognition of black masculinity, potential psychopathologies of IPV; trauma-informed care for survivors; childhood psychological injuries correlating to IPV; power/control behavior, and intergenerational trauma. In 2016, he obtained a Master’s in Public Health MPH) and a Master’s in Public Affairs (MPA). He currently resides in Columbia, Missouri working on ongoing IPV intervention research by day and a novel by night, and he curates a literary blog, www.plainblacktees.com.
Mia Florin-Sefton is a second-year PhD Candidate in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Her research examines the interface of cultural production and the discriminatory logics of biocapitalism; with specific attention to questions of gender, sexuality, race, age and disability. Before coming to Columbia she worked as a Curatorial Assistant on an exhibition on science fiction at the Barbican Centre, London; and from 2015-16 she was a Thouron Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania. At present she is the graduate fellow for the Queer Studies Working Group at Columbia’s Center for the Study of Social Difference; and is working towards a certificate in Teaching Feminist Theory at the Institute for Research in Gender and Sexuality Studies.
Josh Franklin is an MD/PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. His research explores gender and sexuality, childhood and culture, and mental health. He is currently working on a project that charts the experiences of transgender and gender nonconforming youth, both in care and beyond clinical spaces. In addition, as the student co-director for the Introduction to Medicine and Society course for first year medical students, he is interested in the potential for scholarship in the humanities and critical social sciences to transform the experience of medical education.
Liora O’Donnell Goldensher is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at Princeton University. Her research considers homebirth midwifery and the broader community of practice surrounding natural or alternative childbirth. Proceeding from debates about professionalization in homebirth midwifery, the dissertation considers community struggles over the meanings and status of expertise, scientific knowledge and facticity, law and regulation, and freedom and choice. She is jointly enrolled in Princeton’s Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities and is affiliated with the Prison Teaching Initiative and with the programs in American Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies.
Salvador Herrera is a PhD student in English literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. His work focuses on Latinx literature and culture at the intersections of race, technology, and urbanism. His interests in the medical and health humanities include critiquing racialized discourses and practices of science and medicine, and highlighting how populations practice health otherwise.
Botsa Katara is a third-year PhD student in English literature and Medical Humanities at Durham University. She studies depictions of amputations and prostheses in postmodern literature, with a particular focus on late life sensory and physical impairments as portrayed in literary fiction, life writing, graphic novels, and comics. This research incorporates philosophical and theoretical approaches such as phenomenology and affect theory, which are an important aspect of the recent work on critical medical humanities. From a “literary” perspective, it engages in the literature on phenomenological experience of prosthetic bodies that has also focused on the commodified, essentialized body, and on issues such as identity, gender, proprioception, sense of limits, and experience of the body as machinic.
Sanaullah Khan is a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology at the Johns Hopkins University. His research interests include violence and medical pluralism, militarization, geography and health. His doctoral research is based on the ethnographic work among soldiers and officers who have fought at the Siachen Glacier: the highest battle field in the world, where a state of protracted warfare has taken place between Pakistan and India for more than 30 years. Sanaullah’s research explores issues of militarization on the Glacier, as well as the ways in which the infrastructural changes in the Siachen area and the neighboring villages have revolved around the logistical requirements of providing expedited medical care to the soldiering body. He is a recipient of the Society of Psychological Anthropology – Robert Lemelson Foundation (SPA-RLF) Student Fellowship for his research titled “‘War above the Clouds’: Maladies of the Soldiering Body on the Siachen Glacier.”
Dr. Roanne Kantor is an Assistant Professor of English at Stanford University. Her current research concerns representations of health and medicine in literature from South Asia, and other areas of the Global South. Her recent scholarship appears in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East and South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies. Other pieces are forthcoming in Comparative Literature and the collected volume Sounds of South Asia in 2018. Kantor has also taught at Harvard, Boston University, Brandeis, and The University of Texas at Austin, where she earned her Masters and Ph.D.
Jessica Kirwan is a PhD candidate at the University of Florida Department of English specializing in nineteenth-century British literature about medicine and the history of medicine. Her current research focuses on the myths, metaphors, and images associated with women’s health in popular British literature of the long nineteenth century, which, through various dialectics, reflected and challenged prevailing medical and imperial discourses. Jessica is also Assistant Director of Research for the University of Florida Department of Radiation Oncology where she coordinates outcomes studies and manages publications for the physician faculty. In addition, she serves as Managing Editor of the International Journal of Particle Therapy, an open access peer-reviewed journal on radiation therapy.
Erik Larsen is Assistant Professor of Medical Humanities at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, where he teaches narrative medicine. He holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Notre Dame. His research interests include biopolitics, continental philosophy and medicine, and nineteenth-century American culture.
Dr. Travis Lau recently completed his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania Department of English and will be a postdoctoral teaching fellow at the University of Texas at Austin beginning in Fall 2018. His research interests include 18th- and 19th-century British literature, the history of medicine, and disability studies. His academic writing has been published in Journal of Homosexuality, Romantic Circles, Digital Defoe, and English Language Notes. His creative writing has appeared in Wordgathering, Assaracus, The New Engagement, The Deaf Poets Society, Up the Staircase Quarterly and QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology.
Chia Yu Lien is a psychiatric nurse practitioner and a PhD student of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. Her research interests sit at the intersection of anthropology, gerontology, psychiatry, and disability study. Her current research focuses on how people live and perceive their aged and disabled bodies under the ideological force of neoliberal agency, in which the body must be continually managed and nurtured. Specifically, she explores how older adults make sense of their bodies, constitute their relations with others, and inhabit the world while navigating competing cultural and moral frameworks between the pursuit of “health” and of pleasures. She focuses mainly on former working-class nursing home residents in the U.S., but will expand her project to Taiwan.
Claire Litt is pursuing a PhD in History at Queen’s University. Her research interests include the cultural significance of extraordinary and beautiful objects in late Renaissance Italy and the intertwined development of magic, science and religion and their relation to healing practices leading up to the Scientific Revolution. Her doctoral dissertation will investigate the revival of the ancient Greco-Roman practice of using gemstones for healing in early modern Florentine medicine, art, and literature.
Sinethemba Makanya is a Doctoral Fellow in Medical Humanities and Psychology at the Wits Institute of Social and Economic Research (WiSER). Her research; Ukugula KwaBantu: How traditional healers construct mental health, uses her own experience as a traditional healer as well as conversations with other traditional healers to arrive at an understanding of the forms knowledge can take within the South African traditional healing worldview.
Dr. Madeleine Mant is an anthropologist of health currently lecturing at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Her interdisciplinary research, utilizing human skeletal remains and archival documents, investigates how historical health-related events affected the lifestyles and activities of individuals in the past, particularly the poor. Her work has appeared in journals such as International Journal of Paleopathology, Social History of Medicine, and Medical History. Her co-edited volume Bioarchaeology of Marginalized People was published in 2019 with Elsevier Academic Press. Twitter: @maddymant
Lauren Mitchell is an author, a feminist speaker, and full-spectrum doula and founder of The Doula Project. She is a graduate of Columbia’s Narrative Medicine program, and was formerly one of the coordinators of the reproductive choices service of one of New York’s largest public hospitals. Her book, The Doulas: Radical Care for Pregnant People was published by Feminist Press in 2016. She currently lives in Nashville where she is a doctoral candidate at Vanderbilt University, as well as a part-time carpetbagger and full-time cat mom. Her dissertation, entitled “Alienating Aesthetics: Performance Art and the Medical Imagination,” has been shaped by her clinical experience.
Sasheenie Moodley is a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford. Sasheenie strives to mix Social Policy & Intervention and African Studies for her qualitative work in South African townships. Her research focuses on understanding lived experiences of pregnant youth living with HIV. Email Sasheenie at firstname.lastname@example.org
Michelle Munyikwa is a student in the MD program at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her PhD in cultural anthropology in 2019, also from the University of Pennsylvania; her dissertation focused on humanitarian practices of care for refugees and asylum seekers in Philadelphia. She is interested in bridging the critical medical humanities and social sciences with medical education at all levels.
Diana Rose Newby is a PhD student in the English & Comparative Literature Department at Columbia University. Diana teaches a course on Readings in Gender & Sexuality in Columbia’s University Writing Program, and she was recently awarded a Lead Teaching Fellowship with Columbia’s Center for Teaching and Learning. Diana’s research tends to focus on Victorian and modernist literature, exploring the intersection of the life sciences and their attendant philosophies with issues of bodily identity and precarity in the long nineteenth-century novel.
Dr. Bríd Phillips is a lecturer at The University of Western Australia. She received her PhD in 2017 after completing research on emotions in Shakespearean drama through a History of Emotions lens. She also has a background in emergency nursing and until recently was a senior registered nurse in a busy metropolitan emergency department. She is currently working to develop content for a new undergraduate major in Health Humanities and her research interests are in history of emotions, early modern literature and culture, and health humanities.
Pauline Picot is a PhD candidate in Theater Studies at the Université Lumière Lyon 2. Her thesis is titled “Magnétisme, électricité, spiritisme : imaginaire du fluide dans le théâtre du XIXe siècle” [Magnetism, electricity, spiritualism: on the imaginary representations of fluid in French XIXth century theatre]. She is also a published playwright and poet.
Amala Poli is a literary scholar interested in exploring the intersections between medicine and literature. She is currently pursuing her PhD in the Department of English and Writing Studies at Western University, Ontario. She holds an MA in English Studies from the Manipal Centre for Humanities, MAHE, situated in Karnataka, India, with an interdisciplinary orientation to philosophy and sociology. Her research focuses on the expression of the self in medical memoir, and the possibilities of re-imagining the spectrum of health through reading medical memoirs. She is also a freelance writer and an editor of academic papers. Her forthcoming book, set for release by the Manipal Universal Press in 2019, is a study of personal narratives that engage with notions of health and illness.
Kaitlin Price Pontzer is a PhD candidate in history at Cornell University. She studies gender, political culture and the history of emotions in 17th and 18th century Britain. Her dissertation focuses on the affective construction of political subjecthood in partisan discourse after the English revolution in 1688. Her interest in medical history stems from a desire to understand the political importance of changing ideas of the body and its emotive potentials, particularly with regard to the formation of emotive links between the feeling political subject and the state.
Sara Press is a PhD candidate in English Literature and Science and Technology Studies at the University of British Columbia. Her work in postcolonial theory is grounded in a critique of Western knowledge construction and the socio-medical classifications that hierarchize bodies. Her research explores how intersecting modes of oppression limit people in their physical and rhetorical abilities, as well as how the standardization of medical bodies has been used to reinforce a Eurocentric ideal of health, for both the individual and the nation. Sara is currently on a two-year Visiting Fellowship in the History of Science department at Harvard University.
Sarah Roth is a PhD student in Cultural Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. Her research explores cancer care and history of the body in the United States and Mexico. An avid reader and writer, Sarah holds an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Notre Dame. She is currently a Graduate Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for Medical Humanities & Social Medicine.
Dr Jac Saorsa is a visual artist and writer based in Cardiff, U.K. She works primarily in the medical field at the intersection of art and biomedical science. Her work is rooted in a specifically adapted autoethnographic approach and focuses on articulating patient experience through a creative synthesis of word and image. Jac is currently a PhD candidate in Creative and Critical Writing at Cardiff University and her thesis, entitled “Awakening Monsters,” explores our conceptualizations of mortality. The project draws on Jac’s work with cancer patients, and on her experience, as an anatomist, of cadaveric dissection.
Gabi Schaffzin is pursuing his PhD in Art History, Theory, & Criticism with an Art Practice concentration at the University of California San Diego. His art and research consider the visual representation of pain and illness in a technologically mediated world dominated by a privileging of data over all else. His project plans center on pain measurement technologics, approached as a history and theory and as a framework for an ongoing media art and design work oriented toward gallery installation and online platforms. You can see the emerging dialog between his research and artistic practice—much of which draws on the imagery and rhetoric of advertising and product design—at utopia-dystopia.com. Twitter: @GabiSchaffzin
Dr. Calloway Scott received his PhD in 2017 from NYU, where he is currently a Lecturer in the Classics Department. His work takes a multidisciplinary view on the relationship between science, religion, and social structures in ancient Greece and the Mediterranean more widely. Currently, he is adapting his dissertation into a monograph which explores Greek conceptions of health as both a biological and social phenomenon through the lens of cult. A second book project reevaluates the social, cultural, and epistemic roles played by “heredity” and “inheritability” in Greek antiquity. In addition to work published in Classical Antiquity, he has written on medical history and contemporary politics for popular publications like The Verge.
Steve Server is an MD/PhD candidate at the University of Chicago. His PhD is in the Department of History and the Committee on the Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science. He has interests in the history of medical education, the history of medicine and public health in Latin America, psychiatry, and the medical humanities.
Bojan Srbinovski is a doctoral candidate in Cornell University’s English Department. He studies the relationships between Romanticism and trauma, the histories of mourning and bereavement, and the impact of Christian hermeneutics on our understanding of the body. His dissertation, titled “Figures of Catastrophe,” explores “catastrophe” as an overlapping name for dramatic upheaval and traumatic collapse as it appears in the writings of several nineteenth-century British authors.
Lesley Thulin is a PhD student in English at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research interests include British literature of the long eighteenth century, disability studies, and affect studies. Lesley received an M.St. in English Language and Literature from the University of Oxford, and her B.A. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University.
Dr. Brian J. Troth is a junior scholar who earned his PhD from the Department of French and Italian at The Ohio State University in the United States. Originally inspired by Freudian theories of trauma and Holocaust studies, Dr. Troth specializes in the representations of HIV/AIDS risk in French film and literature. His dissertation confronted traditional narratives of risk with contemporary changes in risk perception as HIV evolved from a death sentence to a preventable illness. His recent work focuses on risk and responsibility in a post-PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) world and iterations of the digital body and digital spaces in contemporary France.
Emily Wheater is a Wellcome Trust funded PhD student in Translational Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh. In her research she investigates the impact of premature birth on the developing brain. Although she has followed the path of the scientist, she retains an interest in the arts and humanities and their interaction with the sciences. She is particularly interested in the role the visual arts have played as a means of recording scientific knowledge, and as a tool for disseminating it.
Dr. Livia Arndal Woods (University of Illinois at Springfield, Literature) ’17
Lara M. Boyle (Columbia University, Neurobiology and Behavior) ’17
Kathryn Cai (UCLA, English) ’17
Dr. April Edwell (Medicine) and Jennifer Edwell (Literature) (University of North Carolina) ’18
Dr. Anna Fenton-Hathaway (Northwestern University, Literature) ’17
Kristina Fleuty (Anglia Ruskin University, Veterans and Families Institute) ’17
Dr. Andrew Godfrey-Meers (University of Dundee, Graphic Medicine) ’17
Darian Goldin-Stahl (Artist-in-Residence) (Concordia University, Humanities) ’18
Dr. Cynthia Harris (Massachusetts General Hospital, Pathology) ’17
Julia Katz (Rutgers University, History) ’17
Bennett Kuhn (Musician-in-Residence) (Creative Resilience Collective, Philadelphia) ’18
Dr. Sneha Mantri (Duke University, Neurology and Narrative Medicine) ’17
Ittai Orr (Yale University, American Studies) ’18
David Robertson (Princeton University, History) ’18