Humanities, Social Sciences & The Arts in Relation to Medicine & Medical Training

The Literature, Arts and Medicine Database (LitMed) is a collection of literature, fine art, visual art and performing art annotations created as a dynamic, comprehensive resource for scholars, educators, students, patients, and others interested in medical humanities. It was created by faculty of the New York University School of Medicine in 1993. The annotations are written by an invited editorial board of scholars from all over North America.

We define the term "medical humanities" broadly to include an interdisciplinary field of humanities (literature, philosophy, ethics, history and religion), social science (anthropology, cultural studies, psychology, sociology), and the arts (literature, theater, film, multimedia and visual arts) and their application to healthcare education and practice. The humanities and arts provide insight into the human condition, suffering, personhood, and our responsibility to each other. They also offer a historical perspective on healthcare. Attention to literature and the arts helps to develop and nurture skills of observation, analysis, empathy, and self-reflection -- skills that are essential for humane healthcare. The social sciences help us to understand how bioscience and medicine take place within cultural and social contexts and how culture interacts with the individual experience of illness and the way healthcare is practiced.

The site also includes a blog and resource section. Readers are also invited to join a LitMed list serve for those interested in posting resources related to the field.

Lucy Bruell, MS was appointed editor-in-chief on September 1, 2011. The original site was created by Felice Aull, Martin Nachbar, Karen Brewer, programming specialist Roy Smith, and then-medical student Irene Chen, '96. It is a project of the Division of Medical Humanities in the Department of Medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. Database programming, design and technical support is provided by the Institute for Innovation in Medical Education (IIME) -- the multi-disciplinary development laboratory for application of information technologies to medical education at New York University School of Medicine.

Editorial Policy

Annotations are written by the editors--an invited group of scholars--and, in rare instances, by individuals working under their direct supervision. The editors choose the works they annotate because they have found them to be useful in Medical Humanities teaching or related projects, or because they have potential usefulness for teaching and scholarship in the Medical Humanities. We regret that we are unable to consider unsolicited contributions. We are open to suggestions for works not yet included.

Updating the Database

New annotations are added regularly and can be accessed directly from the database home page, "What's New", which lists as "new" any material added during the previous 90 days. For more information about the database, contact Lucy Bruell at

Photo Credits

  • Visual Art landing page images (left to right):

  • Laura Ferguson
  • Cerebrum, coronal view, with floating colors (large detail), 2012
  • inkjet pigment print: composite of original drawings and 3D MRI/radiology scan
  • 10” x 12 1/4”
  • © Laura Ferguson. Courtesy of the artist
  • Pavel Tchelitchew (1898‐1957)
  • Interior Landscape, 1946
  • ink and watercolor on paper
  • 13 3/4" x 10 3/4", signed and dated
  • Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY
  • Sopheap Pich (1971-)
  • Buddha 2 (detail), 2009
  • Rattan, wire, dye
  • 100” x 29” x 9”
  • © Sopheap Pich. Courtesy of the artist and Tyler Rollins Fine Art
  • Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
  • The muscles of the shoulder (detail), c. 1510
  • Brown ink and wash over black chalk
  • 292 x 198 mm
  • Windsor Castle, Royal Library
  • Performing Arts landing page image:
  • Axis Dance Company 2012
  • Dancers: Emily Eifler, Sebastian Grubb, Joel Brown & Sonsherée Giles. In choreography by Amy Seiwert. Photo by David DeSilv.


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