Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University

Health Humanities
Reading Group

The Health Humanities Reading Group gathers weekly to think critically about health as it is understood through various disciplinary perspectives, social contexts and value systems. This ongoing program is open to students and faculty/staff, and offers an informal learning environment facilitated by participants. Each week, a brief reading is posted in advance on Blackboard within the Jefferson Humanities & Health organization, then discussed during the meeting. Participants may self-enroll in the Blackboard organization, or email Megan Voeller at megan.voeller@jefferson.edu to request the reading.

Lunch provided; first-come, first-served.

All are welcome! No RSVP required.

Spring 2019

Monday, January 14, 12-1 p.m.
Scott Memorial Library 200A

To commemorate One Book, One Philadelphia--The Free Library of Philadelphia's signature event--the Health Humanities Reading Group will be discussing this year's chosen book: Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. One Book, One Philadelphia is an annual event  that promotes literacy, library usage, and citywide conversation by encouraging the entire greater Philadelphia area to come together through reading and discussing a single book. The 2017 National Book Award winner Sing, Unburied, Sing is an American road novel about a family's journey from their Gulf Coast town to the Mississippi State Penitentiary.

Our January 14 discussion will pay special attention to Chapter 4 (Leonie). This chapter addresses the following themes: the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, prison violence, the use of plants and herbs for healing.


One Book, One Philadelphia
Monday, January 28, 12-1 p.m.
Scott Memorial Library 200A

To commemorate One Book, One Philadelphia--The Free Library of Philadelphia's signature event--the Health Humanities Reading Group will be discussing this year's chosen book: Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. One Book, One Philadelphia is an annual event  that promotes literacy, library usage, and citywide conversation by encouraging the entire greater Philadelphia area to come together through reading and discussing a single book. The 2017 National Book Award winner Sing, Unburied, Sing is an American road novel about a family's journey from their Gulf Coast town to the Mississippi State Penitentiary.

Our January 28 discussion will cover the book, broadly, with special attention to Chapters 12 and 15. Chapter 12 (Richie) explores Richie’s vision of the land and follows Leonie into the graveyard. The novel’s title takes on its full meaning in this haunting and lyrical final chapter, Chapter 15 (Jojo).


Monday, February 4, 12-1 p.m.
Scott Memorial Library 200A

Coming home from the war in Iraq, U.S. Army private Roy Scranton thought he'd left the world of strife behind. Then he watched as new calamities struck America, heralding a threat far more dangerous than ISIS or Al Qaeda: Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, mega-drought—the shock and awe of global warming.


Monday, February 11, 12-1 p.m.
Scott Memorial Library 200A

By weighing in from a physician’s perspective, Jay Lemery and Paul Auerbach try to clarify the science, dispel the myths, and help readers understand the threats of climate change to human health. No better argument exists for persuading people to care about climate change than a close look at its impacts on our physical and emotional well-being.


Monday, February 25, 12-1 p.m.
Scott Memorial Library 200A

Atwood revisits a piece of speculative writing from 2009 entitled “The Future Without Oil.” Six years later, she reflects on the potential for changing cultural values to prepare for such a future. [This piece is accompanied by pictures and animated graphics.]

https://medium.com/matter/it-s-not-climate-change-it-s-everything-change-8fd9aa671804


Monday, March 4, 12-1 p.m.
Scott Memorial Library 200A


Monday, March 18, 12-1 p.m.
Scott Memorial Library 200A


Monday, March 25, 12-1 p.m.
Scott Memorial Library 200A


Monday, April 1, 12-1 p.m.
Scott Memorial Library 200A


Monday, September 24, 12-1 p.m., Scott Memorial Library 200A
Reading: Lamas, D. (2018). Life on Battery. In You Can Stop Humming Now: A Doctor’s Stories Of Life Death, And In Between. (pp 65-89). New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

In the chapter, “Life on Battery,” from her book, You Can Stop Humming Now, critical care physician Daniela Lamas explores her interest in understanding the experience of individuals living with a left-ventricular assist device (VAD).  The chapter specifically explores themes of mortality, the journey of discovering what is important in one’s life, and the dynamics of family structure and support, especially in terms of caregiver roles. 

Monday, October 1, 12-1 p.m., Jefferson Alumni Hall M25
Reading: Meier, Diane E. “‘I Don’t Want Jenny To Think I’m Abandoning Her’: Views On Overtreatment.” Health Affairs 33, no. 5 (May 2014): 895–898.; and Institute of Medicine, Excerpts from Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2015.

Diane Meier’s article introduces a patient, Jenny, whose doctor prescribed treatment for her terminal cancer despite knowing it wouldn’t help her. The article reveals that overtreating patients near the end of life is a common, yet fixable, issue. "Dying in America" uses personal narratives in conjunction with quantitative research to underscore the importance of effective communication between clinicians and patients near the end of life.

Monday, October 8, 12-1 p.m., Scott Memorial Library 200A
Reading: 
Stevenson, Lisa. "Anonymous Care." In Life Beside Itself: Imagining Care in the Canadian Arctic, pages 75-100. Oakland: University of California Press, 2014.

Stevenson draws on her ethnographic research in a Canadian Inuit community to propose that government suicide prevention campaigns send mixed messages to Inuit youth.  

Monday, October 15, 12-1 p.m., Scott Memorial Library 200A
Reading:
Aviv, R. (2018, February 8). What Does It Mean to Die? The New Yorker.

Aviv discusses current issues regarding the legality behind death, especially with regard to brain death.  To examine these issues, the article studies legal, biomedical, and religious definitions of death and what that means for individuals who are placed on ventilators. In addition, Aviv explores issues of social injustice in regard to how healthcare providers treat patients of varying races and religious backgrounds.

Monday, October 22, 12-1 p.m., Scott Memorial Library 200A 
Reading:  
Span, Paula. "A Debate Over 'Rational Suicide.'" The New York Times. August 31, 2018.

This week’s reading discusses suicide among the elderly and whether or not it can be considered a rational choice. Using anecdotes, statistics and physician insights, the author presents various sides of this controversial topic. The arguments surrounding rational suicide involve concerns such as mental health and quality of life. Throughout the article, the author underscores the importance of open communication and discussion with regard to suicide among the elderly. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/31/health/suicide-elderly.html

Monday, November 5, 12-1 p.m., Hamilton Building 212
Reading: 
BBC Earth Lab. “Could we live forever?” YouTube video, 6:46. Posted [January 2018].

This week's "reading" is a YouTube video by BBC Earth Lab entitled “Could we live forever?” Link to video.

Monday, November 19, 12-1 p.m., Scott Memorial Library 200A 
Reading: 
Rich, Nathaniel. “Can a Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality?” The New York Times Magazine, November 28, 2012.

Nathaniel Rich explores an obscure species called Turritopsis dohrnii in the article, “Can a Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality?” Also known as the Benjamin Button jellyfish, this species has the ability to age in reverse when it gets old, and then repeat the process when it reaches its earliest stage of development again. While no one knows how it ages in reverse, we do know that there is a high degree of genetic similarity between jellyfish and humans. Many scientists believe that research into immortal jellyfish may have medical implications for humanity, especially in the fields of cancer research and longevity. In fact, there are multiple organisms that are immortal. The question among scientists is which one will teach us the most about human beings. www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/magazine/can-a-jellyfish-unlock-the-secret-of-immortality.html

Monday, November 26, 12-1 p.m., Scott Memorial Library 200A 
Reading: 
Tufekci, Zeynep. "Data-Driven Medicine Will Help People - But Can It Do So Equally?" The New York Times Magazine, November 15, 2018

Zeynep Tufekci describes how the “knowledge gap” that is primarily technology driven will soon be applicable to healthcare. He believes that those who already able to research and implement the data provided by their healthcare professional will benefit from healthcare’s transition to data driven medical techniques.  However, he concludes that those who cannot research and implement the provided data will not benefit from the new technology. Furthermore, the article discusses how this phenomenon will increase health inequality and discrimination without government regulation. The article also explores other potential issues surrounding this transition such as healthcare as a fundamental right, the hiring process, and health insurance. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/15/magazine/tech-design-inequality-health.html 

Monday, December 3, 12-1 p.m., Jefferson Alumni Hall M23 
Reading: 
"From Gene Editing to A.I., How Will Technology Transform Humanity?" The New York Times Magazine, November 16, 2018.

"From Gene Editing to A.I., How Will Technology Transform Humanity?" is a conversation with five scientists and thinkers, moderated by New York Times Magazine story editor Mark Jannot. The five members of the conversation have worked in various disciplines and industries, ranging from physics, genetics, literature, biology, medicine and more. As a result, each had their own unique insights into the topics at hand. Throughout the conversation they discussed genetic engineering and therapy, and how gene editing will change humanity. In addition, they considered how AI will change medicine and health care for both providers and patients. The conversation ended with a discussion of longevity and age reversal as two possible strategies moving forward. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/16/magazine/tech-design-medicine-phenome.html

Monday, December 10, 12-1 p.m., Scott Memorial Library 200A 
Reading: 
Black Mirror Netflix series (2011-present): Season 1, Episode 3 - The Entire History of You (49 min) OR Season 3, Episode 1 - Nosedive (63 min) 

Black Mirror Netflix series (2011-present). Pick one episode to watch—or feel free to watch both! This sci-fi anthology series explores a twisted, high-tech near-future where humanity's greatest innovations and darkest instincts collide. -Netflix