Featured Writing

Gate to Bellevue Hospital with decorative sign, bicycle, and people in distance.

Introducing Featured Writing

Among the NYU Department of Medicine’s 1,263 full-time and clinical faculty members is a cadre of distinguished writers. We here inaugurate a series of “Featured Writing” by members of our faculty with essays by two leading physician-authors, Dr. Barron Lerner and Dr. Jerome Lowenstein.


Why History of Medicine?

By Barron Lerner, MD, PhD

History is a key subject within the humanities and, not surprisingly, the history of medicine is a key subject within the medical humanities. What can history teach modern health care professionals?

On one level, history can inform us about the successes and failures of past endeavors. Although many historians cringe when people quote George Santayana’s simplistic phrase—“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”—it does contain an element of truth.

Medicine has countless cautionary tales. For example, nineteenth-century physicians, concerned about their prestige, stubbornly held onto outdated theories about the value of “heroic” treatments, such as bloodletting, in the treatment of certain diseases. There is an extensive, often sordid, history of quackery in medicine, in which patients were victimized by unorthodox physicians who promised them miracle cures. For much of the Twentieth ... >> more



By Jerome Lowenstein, MD

Her request seemed innocent enough. “Doc, I’m going to be eighteen very soon and I will be too old for the pediatric dialysis unit where I have been treated. Will you become my doctor and take care of me in the dialysis unit here?”

Gabrielle had large, beautiful brown eyes and had a way of rolling them upward when she wanted to make a point. Her hair was drawn into tight braids dotted with small silver beads. She was small, the consequence of her long history of kidney disease, but she did not look chronically ill. She had a way of bridging the gap between us. Few of my patients call me “Doc” and none start a conversation saying “Hey, Lowenstein” as she often did. I suppose it was the many years she had spent in hospitals as well as her way of establishing her unique identity. I assured her that I would take over the role as her nephrologist. “That’s cool, Doc. I think we will get along fine, but you have to get to know a little about me.” What followed was akin to a tour one might get when ... >> more