Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons professor named 2002 Guggenheim Fellow

May 21, 2002

Dr. Rita Charon, professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons (P&S), has been awarded a 2002 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for her work in the sciences and humanities. Dr. Charon, who will use her grant to complete scholarly research in the field of narrative medicine, was chosen from an applicant pool of 2,800 to receive one of only 184 Guggenheim fellowships. The results of the annual competition were announced April 10 by Guggenheim Memorial Foundation president Joel Conarroe.

Dr. Charon, a 1978 graduate of Harvard Medical School and a practicing general internist, received a doctoral degree in English from Columbia University in 1999 and currently is the director of the narrative medicine program at P&S. A prolific researcher and scholar whose essays and reviews have appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Charon has published and lectured extensively on linguistic studies of doctor-patient conversations, narrative competence in physicians and medical students, literary analyses of medical texts, narrative ethics, empathy in medical practice, and the impact of training in narrative writing on medical education. In addition, Dr. Charon is editor-in-chief of the journal Literature and Medicine and co-editor of the forthcoming "Stories Matter: The Role of Narrative in Medical Ethics" (Routledge).

In her capacity as a Guggenheim Fellow, Dr. Charon will complete work on a book entitled "Narrative Medicine," which will probe the literary and narrative techniques through which physicians can achieve empathy for their patients--such as personal reflection, nuanced interpretation, attuned listening, and expository writing.

"I am thrilled and honored that the Guggenheim Foundation has chosen to recognize the significance of my work in such a real and tangible way," said Dr. Charon. "Their generous gift will give me the freedom and flexibility to complete my book, enabling me to call greater and more thoughtful attention to the importance of communication, reflection, relationship-building, and empathy in sickness and healing."

"We are delighted to hear of Dr. Charon's award from the Guggenheim Foundation," said Dr. Gerald D. Fischbach, Executive Vice President of Health and Biomedical Sciences, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Columbia University. "Dr. Charon's work at the intersection of science and the humanities is not just inspired, it epitomizes the spirit of humanism in medicine that we have worked so hard to encourage in our students throughout every phase of their schooling and training. Her thoughts and writings on narrative medicine have put forth a new approach to medical education. We commend the Guggenheim Foundation for its decision."

The Guggenheim Fellowships were established in 1925 to assist exceptionally promising professional researchers and scholars in the natural and social sciences, humanities, and creative arts--providing them with the resources to pursue academic, research, artistic, or creative endeavors freely and without economic impediment. Selected individuals receive grant support for up to one year, giving fellows the blocks of time, creative autonomy, and financial discretion to produce a work of singular scholarly importance.

Since the program's inception, the foundation has granted more than $200 million in fellowships to more than 15,000 individuals, who have been selected solely on the basis of past achievement and potential for future accomplishment. Many Guggenheim Fellows have gone on to world renown--as well as Nobel- and Pulitzer-Prize-winning careers--in the arts, humanities, and sciences.

Former winners include photographer Ansel Adams, composer Aaron Copeland, poet Langston Hughes, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and DNA pioneer James Watson.
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Columbia University Medical Center

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