The intersection of wisdom and science is the territory of this anthology—ground that is contested, sometimes harrowing, and often ennobling.
The human experience of health care, whether ancient or modern, has always engaged those who practice it and those who encounter it as patients. Both those who live with illness of body and mind, and those who live and work alongside the patients, crave the opportunity to reflect on their experiences. In recent years, practitioners and patients alike have called attention to a crisis in our collective experience of medicine. There is a growing awareness of very different cultural expectations about the nature and treatment of illness.
The intersection of medicine and the humanities is busy. Machinery seems to crowd the space, while human encounters are often brief and deeply unsatisfying to patients and caregivers alike. Despite disparate approaches to the crisis in health care—from economics to ethics—there is agreement that patients and the world of medicine need more time together, so that illness does not find expression only in the context of the emergency room.
It is as a response to the collective sense of crisis and alienation that Imagine What It’s Like has been constructed. Inside and outside the health care community, many have called for the chance to use the humanities not only as opportunities to reflect on their own experiences, but also as a means of improving the experiences of all of us whose lives will be touched by illness and healing, birth and death.
Created by the Maine Humanities Council for its Literature and Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care programs, Imagine What It’s Like contains eighty-three selections ranging from poems to short stories to excerpts from longer works. The selections are divided into five sections—The Experience of Illness, Beginnings and Endings, Trauma and Recovery, Coming to Terms, and Healing Costs—and are followed by suggestions for longer readings.
A Biography Monograph
Published for the Biographical Research Center, University of Hawai‘i
Editor: Nadelhaft, Ruth; Bonebakker, Victoria;Ruth Nadelhaft
taught at the University of Maine until 1997. She has been actively involved in the Literature & Medicine project of the Maine Humanities Council since its inception.