The C2S blog draws on the arts, the social and biological sciences to explore the many meanings of health and "dis-ease." Designed to be a locus where patients, their families and professionals can meet on a level playing field, it is the natural off-shoot of the Cell 2 Soul Online Journal. We encourage the submission of ideas, essays, poems, stories, humor, and timely reviews relating to the humanities and health care.
7.4.2015: Michiko Kakutai’s essay on the eulogy Obama delivered in Charleston on Friday June 26, 2015 is a moving and informative discussion of the speech and the week it was delivered in. He writes, “it [the speech] was the capstone to a dizzying and momentous week in which Southern politicians began calling for a renunciation of the Confederate battle flag, while the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act and found that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriages.
It was a week in which a lot of Americans felt they were actually watching the arc of history bend in front of their eyes*, and it was a eulogy that both spoke to the moment and connected that moment to the past and the future of what Mr. Obama calls the great “American experiment.”
* This quote originated with the 19th Century abolitionist, Theodore Parker (NPR segment). "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice." A century later, Martin Luther King, Jr. paraphrased these words to great effect in his famous "Where Do We Go From Here?" speech of August 1967 to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, when he said, "The arc of the Moral Universe Is long, but It bends toward Justice".
When Robert Gupta was caught between a career as a doctor and as a
violinist, he realized his place was in the middle, with a bow in his
hand and a sense of social justice in his heart. He tells a moving story
of society’s marginalized and the power of music therapy, which can
succeed where conventional medicine fails.
“For those living in the most dehumanizing conditions … music offers a chance for them to transcend the world around them, to remember that they still have the capacity to experience something beautiful.” Robert Gupta
Arthur Kleinman's recent Perspective piece in the New England Journal of Medicine deserves a wide audience. Unfortunately, full access is open to only NEJM subscribers or those affiliated with academic institutions. If, after reading the following quotes, you want to read the entire article, please email me and I'll send you a copy.
picture from http://kennonsburgumc.com
"Modern medical practice's greatest challenge may be finding
a way to keep caregiving central to health care. The moral core of medicine may
seem abstract, until you see health professionals passionately struggling to be
useful, compassionate, responsive, and responsible while working with the indifference
of bureaucratic rules, the cold counting and costing of institutional audits,
and hard-to-balance personal demands on their time and concern.
Looking at medicine [as a caring vocation] reinforced my
belief that the structure and demands of medical schools and hospitals create
obstacles to caregiving. How to revivify caregiving in medicine became the
issue. Teaching about illness experiences remains important. Yet the
moral–emotional core of those experiences deserves greater primacy — as does
the social suffering that affects everyone, but especially marginalized people
already injured by poverty, isolation, and other forms of structural violence."
From Illness as Culture to Caregiving as Moral Experience Arthur Kleinman, M.D. N Engl J Med 2013; 368:1376-1377April 11
Dr. Rakesh Biswas alerted us to an article in the Stanford Medical Alumni Magazine about Kleniman and his work -- especially his recent epiphany. See: Medicine: A Love Story. The past few paragraphs are especially important.
The holiday season is a time for joy
and celebration. Sometimes coughs and
colds get in the way of the festivities.
There is one useful therapy that should not be overlooked when you or a
loved when gets sick: chicken soup.
All of us can remember coming home on
some wintry night with a bad cold, sore throat and fever. We would climb into bed and someone would
give us a nice hot, delicious bowl of chicken soup that made us feel better.
Interestingly, chicken soup has been
used since antiquity to treat illness.
The Talmud (Shabbos 145b) suggests that Rabbi Abba used something akin
to chicken soup for medicinal purposes.
More recently, scientists have studied chicken soup and found it to have
beneficial effects on the respiratory system.
How chicken soup works is
unclear. Is it the aroma, humidity,
temperature, calcium content or some other mysterious property that gives it
its effectiveness? I suspect these researchers are spending too much time
looking at the chicken soup itself instead of focusing on what goes into the
making of the chicken soup. The real
ingredients behind the magic of chicken soup are the following:
Nothing can compare with a mother’s love for her sick child. Mom always knew how to make you feel
better. Every bowl of chicken soup
carries within it the memory of mom’s love.
By warmth I am not referring to temperature. Rather warmth is the special feeling that
exists between close friends or family.
A gentle caress, a compassionate smile and just being there for someone
are examples of how people show warmth for one another. When you are sick and someone makes you
chicken soup, you know they really care about you.
TENDER LOVING CARE:
There is more to a cure than giving a pill. The healing process involves a therapeutic
relationship between two people. When
someone is sick, they get better much more quickly when their spirits are
uplifted through another’s compassion and caring. Tender loving care is part and parcel of the
healing properties of chicken soup.
Although pneumonia, influenza, coughs
and colds affect millions of persons worldwide each year, there is a much more
serious epidemic we all face. Today we
live in a cold, cruel world that is unfortunately filled with hostility, war,
terror and hate. Our leaders have
established a United Nations and peace keeping forces to find an answer to
These are important steps toward
peace. Perhaps what civilization really
needs is to get back to the basic human relationship and promote more love,
warmth and tender loving care between people and their neighbors. Maybe the answer to what ails humanity can be
found in something as simple as chicken soup!
Persistent scratches ripping
through the tranquility of the night,
and bedsheets dusty with flaked skin,
mingled with dried blood in the mornings.
Her skin stained with the purple sting of potassium permanganate,
burning from the relentless scorch of tea tree oil, smothered in topical
Bandaged to retain moisture. Unbandaged to promote air flow.
A blur of diagnoses and
“diagnoses” paraded by,
convictions by professionals and well-meaning relatives:
“No heat, no chlorine, no sunshine, no pollen. No butter, no wheat, no potato chips,
no fat, no chocolate, no seafood, no meat, no sugar, no salt!”
Too much American food. oxidized oils,
pesticides, hormones-those damn Oreos, all to blame.
“This doesn’t appear to be a food allergy, but we can run some tests…”
“You see, the American doctors don’t study this. This is a question of inner
A question of hotness and coldness of the body, toxicity, mystery, cortisone
And a vicious cycle of irritation, scratching,
skin, infection, itchiness,
scolding, shouting, scratching…
And the mingling of voices of
authority spilled over the reddened cracks in her skin
and filled her heart with guilt and inadequacy.
“You are the only one who knows your body. Only you can know what to do for yourself-”
And the bitterness of her condition was accentuated
with the bitterness of soups and broths and
darkly resplendent with Chinese medicinal herbs, kernels, stalks, and shoots.
disappointment and failures came desperation
Cycling through past attempts, various diets.
The doctors’ echoes weren’t very much help-
the relief provided through the prescribed creams and ointments was ephemeral.
Though some knowledge provided comfort - like the dreaded skin prick testing -
back gridded into a 5x7 rectangle and stabbed thirty-five times
to reveal her body’s weaknesses
towards watermelon, shrimp, milk, Kentucky bluegrass,
hay, walnuts, chicken, turkey, sea bass, lobster, dust, mold, and cockroaches -
Her skin still burned and flared, cracked and red and dry and unforgiving,
I’ve watched the parade
of well-meaning people walking in and out of her life: smiling
pediatricians, puzzled dermatologists,
vehement relatives. No one is to blame.
I’ve watched her sneak
Oreos away from the pantry, stealing bites of childhood innocence;
for turtlenecks; being tormented by other children
the ragged appearance of her skin.
Watched my father drive three
hours to the only Costco that stocked unscented Keri Soothing Dry Skin Formula
and return home with thirty cases of three bottles each
by the way, also didn’t work).
And I’ve watched her grow up and out of her skin,
which still bears the scars and rough patches of struggles and treatments,
up and out of reticence, sensitivity, resentment, confusion, worthlessness.
Rising above the motley patchwork of voices to wholeness.
Author Note: Clara Luu was born and raised in San Jose, CA. She is currently a
sophomore at Stanford University, studying Human Biology and living an
exciting pre-med life. "Quilted" is drawn from a composite of
household dermatological experiences from her childhood. This piece written
for the "Becoming a Doctor" medical humanities seminar taught by
Professor Larry Zaroff. It exemplifies the key motifs motivating
Clara to pursue a career in medicine: the mutifaceted aspects of
wellness, the importance of culturally sensitive medicine, the strong
role of family in the healing process, and the mysteries of some medical
conditions that are the catalyst for exploration, discovery, and
Thousands of years ago, yoga was developed in India by Hindus as part of an eight-limb discipline to help achieve a balanced life.
As a certified yoga teacher, I am often asked, “There are so many yoga classes, is it normal to be confused?” “Will my religion fit in with yoga” “I'm not flexible, can I do yoga?” The one answer to all these questions is, “Yes.” Consider that the word “yoga” literally means to unite and what we're uniting is our mind, body and breath - no matter what condition our minds, bodies and breath may be in. Yoga helps develop flexibility and strength. But perhaps more importantly, it can boost your self-confidence. So, even if you never touch your toes, you'll be more accepting of yourself. For more details read: Download Beaudin Yoga
Author Bio: Paula Boyajian-Beaudin is certified in Interdisciplinary Yoga and Yoga for the Special Child. Currently she is part of the palliative care team at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children (Bayside, NY) and The Sunshine Rehab Center and Hospital (Ossining, NY). She also works with Community Access to the Arts and Berkshire County ARC in Massachusetts. A more complete bio is on the pdf. You may contact Paula at paulabeaudinATyahoo.com
Recently, I was visiting Kauai, that magical Pacific island, and some friends took me to their favorite Indian restaurant in Kapaa town. There, I chanced to meet my old friend, Tim Lee, an ophthalmologist and an accomplished pianist. During our brief conversation, he told me about work he’s been doing with other physician-musicians in Hawaii, particularly, his partner on Kauai, Dr. Jean Shein, and Honolulu ophthalmic surgeon Dr. Jorge Camara.
The good doctor's famous mustache and bow-tie quivered with every sorrow and every joy.
His empathy was such that he lost and gained organs after his patients' transplants, felt every bloody nose and broken ankle.
Author, Aaditya Shidham was born in the foothills of northern India, then moved to Arar, Saudi Arabia, New York City, Milwaukee, WI and Columbus, OH. He currently is a sophomore at Stanford University studying computer science and biology. He has been fascinated by poetry ever since he was a sophomore in high school. Email Aaditya.
Like all 4-year-olds, Skipper had his likes and dislikes, his favorite activities and things he would rather not do. Like most 4-year-olds, Skipper’s world consisted of family, friends, pre-school and home. And like few 4-year-olds, Skipper’s world came to a grinding halt when his doctor diagnosed him with a brain tumor. more»
Brian T. Maurer has practiced pediatrics as a Physician Assistant for thirty years. His "Marginal Notes" column appears periodically in the Cell2Soul Blog. The title "Marginal Notes" is taken from a quote by Henry David Thoreau: "I love a broad margin to my life."
Today is the holiest day of the Jewish year. Today is for reflection; for Awe. Most religions have a similar day.
Today, sheer chance directed me to an amazing video. Most of you will like it. It's a real "keeper" -- perhaps it is a "Yom Keeper." Click on the image and wait a few seconds for it to load up. The video is six minutes long.