Medical Humanities Introduction

Johanna Shapiro PhD

This inaugural section presents two very different articles that nevertheless are intimately linked through the thread of medical humanities1.

The essay by Larry Zaroff is a first-person, no-holds-barred reflection on aspects of his career as a cardiac surgeon. In it, he admits to embodying the purely mechanistic approach favored by many of his fellow surgeons. The heart is a pump, he asserts, and in his surgeon’s mind, that seems to be the long and the short of it. Dr. Zaroff is baffled, and somewhat annoyed, when a patient whom he expects to be grateful to him for saving his life, complains of impotence. Go see a urologist, the surgeon curtly advises. It is only in retrospect that the pump metaphor seems rather limited, as he contemplates the extraordinary symbolism that saturates turns of phrase involving the heart.

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