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Literature-Centered Medicine: The Story of Ignac Semmelweis

Author(s): Jennifer M. Martinez | Neha Kumar | Kelsey Shelton-Dodge | Elizabeth J. Wilkinson | James S. Newman

Journal: Eä : Revista de Humanidades Médicas & Estudios Sociales de la Ciencia y la Tecnología
ISSN 1852-4680

Volume: 2;
Issue: 1;
Date: 2010;
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Keywords: hospital-acquired infections | nosocomial infections | hand washing | noncompliance | puerperal fever | history of medicine | medical education | nineteenth-century | medical economics

Literature-centered medicine is a nontraditional learning method developed to supplement medical didactic curricula. With this method, a work of medically related fiction was used as a starting point in the exploration of various historical and contemporary topics. The project initially involved reading Morton Thompson’s The Cry and the Covenant, a fictionalized biography of the Hungarian obstetrician Ignac Semmelweis, known for promoting antisepsis in nineteenth-century Europe. Subsequently, a branching analysis of five major topics generated from this work was conducted. Multiple parallels were identified between nineteenth-century and twenty-first century medical communities. The group concluded that approaching medicine from this nontraditional angle was an intellectually stimulating way to learn and an excellent supplement to didactic education. Literature-centered medicine led to an exploration of issues that would have otherwise been overlooked in a standard learning environment, while also providing an opportunity to apply history to the understanding of modern medical practice.
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