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University of Texas Medical Branch
Institute for the Medical Humanities
News Release
Thursday, February 28, 2008

Culture vultures, prepare for an intellectual feast

GALVESTON—A reception featuring “Liver Die” – reprising a faculty member’s art installation at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. mimicking a hepatitis C clinic – plus a student soprano soloist’s selection of Italian art songs, a filmed readers’ theater presentation of a tragedy by Sophocles and hors‘doeuvres and wine will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. Friday, March 7.
This edifying three-ring cultural extravaganza, which is free and open to the public, will  be held in the foyer of Levin Hall on Market Street Between 10th and 11th streets. Free parking for visitors at the evening event will be available at both surface parking lots J and D on 11th street across from Levin Hall between Market and Mechanic streets and at the DA surface lot on Mechanic Street between 12th and 13th streets.
It is happening as the Institute for the Medical Humanities (IMH) marks the 20th anniversary of its Medical Humanities Graduate Program – the world’s first and oldest such endeavor. This is the first of several planned celebrations in 2008 commemorating not only the IMH graduate program’s 20th anniversary but also the 35th anniversary of the founding of the IMH and the 10th birthday of Frontera de Salud, an IMH-initiated program that encourages medical, nursing and allied health sciences students to help provide health care to residents of some of the nation’s poorest communities along the Rio Grande Valley.
The Friday evening event is also part of  an international conference being held March 6-9 at Levin Hall and the Tremont Hotel titled “Graduate Education in the Medical Humanities: Models and Methods.” The conference is drawing presenters from as far away as Peking University in China and the University of Sydney in Australia as well as from United States venues including Baylor University, Connecticut College, Drew University, Hiram College, Indiana University, Northwestern University, St. Louis University, Tulane University, the University of Nevada School of Public Health and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, as well as from UTMB.
What do people with an M.A. or Ph.D. in medical humanities do for a living? “Many graduates of our Medical Humanities Graduate Program hold faculty appointments in medical schools, nursing schools, schools of allied health sciences, law schools, universities, and colleges,” said Dr. Anne Hudson Jones, director of the graduate program. “Others practice law or work as ethics consultants for hospitals and their institutional review boards and as administrators in medical research.  One directs the Ethics Resource Center of the American Medical Association and another is the North American senior editor of The Lancet, the oldest medical journal in the English language.”
For more details on the Graduate Education in the Medical Humanities conference agenda or to register for it, call 409-772-9396 or go to 
The Friday, March 7, public reception in the Levin Hall foyer features not only art by Dr. Eric Avery, a UTMB physician, associate member of the IMH and noted print-maker and artist, but also art works by one former and four current IMH graduate students who have taken Avery’s Art Practicum, a course in the medical humanities graduate program.

Meanwhile, soprano Julie Kutac, a Ph.D. student in the IMH graduate program, will sing a selection of Italian art songs, accompanied by Mark Pedersen, a piano performance major and pre-med student at Baylor University who also studied at the IMH last summer as part of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences’ Summer Undergraduate Research Program.

Beginning at 6:30 p.m., the intended centerpiece of the evening is an hour-long showing of a film of Sophocles' tragedy Philoctetes, presented as a readers’ theater version of the play at the Philoctetes Center in New York City.  This rendition is a contemporary American translation by Bryan Doerries, a New York-based writer and director. One of the oldest existing descriptions of chronic illness in western literature, Sophocles' telling of the story focuses on the special bond that forms between a young, inexperienced soldier and a suffering veteran, whom he has been ordered to betray. Torn between allegiance to his army and compassion for a fellow human being, the young soldier soon finds himself struggling with difficult questions, not unlike those that continue to weigh on medical students and doctors 2400 years after the play was first performed.

After the presentation, starting at about 7:30 p.m. there will be a 45- minute discussion of the play, led by two respondents who will make brief remarks and then open the floor for general discussion.
The Friday evening reception is co-sponsored by the IMH and a Scholar in the John P. McGovern Academy of Oslerian Medicine, Dr. Frederick S. Huang, whose generous financial assistance will have made the evening’s activities possible.
Speaking about the various IMH milestones, institute director Dr. Howard Brody, said, “The fact that the Institute for the Medical Humanities at UTMB is a thriving and growing concern 35 years after its inception, and 20 years after the creation of its graduate program, is due to a number of forces—the vision of great UTMB leaders of the past such as Drs. Chauncey Leake and Truman Blocker; the nationally distinguished faculty who have been attracted to UTMB and who have remained for so many years; Dr. Ron Carson’s sure hand as director of the Institute for more than 20 of those 35 years; and more recently, the superb graduate students and alumni of the graduate program.
“We now face the challenge of how best to build on this strong base, so that in the future, UTMB will continue to be recognized as the ‘go to’ place for medical humanities and also will be seen as a premier bioethics institution in the U.S.,” Brody added. “Medical humanities often focuses on the voice of the patient, and UTMB serves one of the most culturally diverse populations of any academic medical center in the U.S. UTMB has the historic mission of care for the underserved, a clear statement of its ethical and humanistic values. UTMB itself, and the Galveston community, have been generous in their support of the Institute and of the medical humanities mission. We remain one of a handful of academic health centers to ground bioethics and health policy in a truly interdisciplinary humanities environment.”

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