Message from the Founding Editor

November 1, 2010

You may have noted a brief hiatus in our publication, a mixture of good and bad.  Good, in that George Trone has moved from  Michael Moore’s Flint to Carl Sandburg’s Chicago.  With his wife, Ahn-Mei, and their two children George is gradually  settling into a new position in the President’s office at the University of Chicago, while his wife advises that genius of institutions, the MacArthur Foundation. All to the good, but bad in that his big move has been taking George away from his customary solicitude for our contributors.  It has  taken us a while to get things back on even keel.

George was the founder, with me, of this e-journal, and has been a mainstay ever since. .  His common sense and literate skills, together with his understanding of the obligations of the humanities to medicine   (George's father is a physician) have provided a sense of order to what we have been doing.  I hope he will soon be able to come back to us in a big way.  Meanwhile, all of you can  join me in wishing George and his family all the best in that wonderful city by the lake!

Our journal continues to thrive as a store-house of contributions to the broad area of humanities in medicine. Looking back, I am thrilled by all the material that we have, still pertinent today, but  I wish we had an index that could be searched easily.  We will try, soon, Alan Astrow has provided much for readers to think about, in the essays he has edited on religion in medicine, broadly described nowadays as “spirituality.”
The electronic format remains ideal: cheap and rapid, and as limitless as the Atlantic. So many hard-copy journals, with the very same goals, have failed owing to the expense of editing a paper journal, but George has stayed the course! Bill Rector as our poetry editor for more than a year soldiers on. He enlarges my own mid-19th century predilection for meter and rhyme, and I am grateful.

I'm happy to report that Randi Hutter Epstein has come aboard, to continue my nautical metaphor, as managing editor to inspire confidence in the folks the age of my grandchildren.  She has the requisite Yale connection, a medical student here in the late 90s.  Randy will be writing something to let you know more about herself but I can tell you that she is a gracious mother of four who bicycles around Manhattan in a bicycle that folds up and that she carries on her back, rain or shine!  Just published a book about childbirth, Get Me Out, and doubtless will have more to tell you in the future.

We are grateful also to Michelle Joy who has ferreted out the requisite metaphorical wires that enable us to send your words out to what used to be called the “ether.”

We continue to welcome words from anyone who hopes to influence and educate “health-care providers;” their contributions should be reasonably literate and pertinent to the broad field of medicine and medical practice, or to nursing and nursing practice.

Observations from medical students and student nurses are especially valued. As yet untrammeled by indoctrination and not yet hardened by experience, their visions often prove as illuminating as the narratives of patients. Their stories  and those of our patients— “narrative” now the style is —show physicians at our worst and, one hopes, sometimes at our best. Descriptions of the patient-physician encounter have been an unfailing source of correction and insight.

Physicians have been educated to believe that we are scientists skeptical about anything that cannot be tested or measured. But all of us are, in the old phrase, “body, mind, and spirit,” a trinity still too often ignored by doctors, to our patients’ sorrow. Psychotropic drugs can cure depression, but they do not banish sorrow. There is much more to say on this topic; continuing dialogues between the clergy and physicians has always been a source of courage, as each generation wrestles with eternal questions.

Our new YJHM Blog is thriving , I call your attention to Ed  Volpintesta , among the most prolific blogger/ essayists  I have ever known.  A family practitioner in Danbury Connecticut ,.he knows what he is talking about.  But Ed is also fond of the classics  and literate in  many other ways that widen the sense -the common sense- of his contributions  You can view the bulk of his recent essays on our  blog site (http://blog.yjhm.org). 

Copyright continues a murky question, most advisers holding that copyright flows from the “pen.” We claim no copyright on anything published in this journal. You can re-publish it anywhere you want, but we appreciate a link to your endeavor.

So continue to send along your contributions by e-mail to me at howard.spiro@yale.edu or to Randi at  randihepstein@gmail.com. Poetry submissions should be directed to Bill Rector at poetry@yjhm.org. And send us advice about any new directions we should take. We continue to invite book reviews and from time to time, notices of classics that need rereading.

Bless you all.

Howard Spiro