New book narrows gap between sciences and humanities in medical knowledge

Miriam Solomon’s latest work, “Making Medical Knowledge,” examines how it’s never just an “either/or” with art and science. Both play a role in advancing medicine.

by Sara Curnow Wilson
Miriam Solomon
Like many College of Liberal Arts students and faculty, Miriam Solomon thrives in an interdisciplinary environment as she pushes the limits of her field—and her new book, recently published by Oxford University Press, does just that. “Making Medical Knowledge” examines the medical humanities by investigating how new medical knowledge is created.

We sat down with the philosophy professor and department chair to discuss her latest work, the divide between science and art and how she’s seeking to advance medical studies.

In your book, you argue that the conceptual divide between “science” and “art” limits the understanding of modern medicinal practices. Can you explain how this divide has existed historically?

The idea that medicine involves both “science” and “art” goes back to Greek thought, but it has been particularly prominent since the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a time often described as “the birth of scientific medicine” because of the experimental methods developed and the discoveries (in microbiology, physiology, pathology, anesthesia, antisepsis, and surgery) that transformed the practice of medicine.

While the new scientific discoveries and methods were exciting, many felt that the focus on microbes and microscopes devalued both the humanity of the patient and the humanism of the physician. Medical students today still read a 1927 article by Francis Peabody, who passionately advocated for medical education to include more than medical sciences. He is often quoted as saying, “The secret of the care of the patient is the care of the patient.”

Have recent epistemological approaches to medicine, what you call methods, widened or narrowed this disciplinary divide?

In some ways, the development of new methods in medicine has widened the disciplinary divide.  The disciplinary contrast between so-called “scientific” approaches, such as evidence-based medicine and “art” approaches, such as narrative medicine, is immediately apparent. In other ways, the development of new methods shows that two categories—art and science—is not enough for describing important characteristics of both kinds of methods.

Furthermore, philosophers of science have discovered that science, in general, is not so different from the humanities; science has been idealized as more objective and law-like than it is in fact. The work of Thomas Kuhn in the 1960s stimulated this new work in philosophy of science, and I am extending it to philosophy of medicine.

How and why does your work rethink the science and art paradigm? 

My work shows that the science vs. art paradigm is okay as a first approximation to understanding medical knowledge, but misleading when we explore things more deeply. It turns out that there is more than one way of being “scientific.” Some methods are difficult to classify as either “science” or “art.”  And “science” is not so different from the humanities, and the humanities not so unscientific, as the science vs. art paradigm suggests. I argue that it is more helpful to think in terms of a plurality of methods.

Rather than focusing on one method, as recent book-length works in the field tend to do, you explore four different recent epistemological approaches to medicine. What does this approach allow you to do that would not be possible if you limited your scope to one method? 

Actually, the book was originally intended to be a book about the use of consensus conferences in medicine—the first method discussed, which began at NIH in 1977. As I started thinking about how consensus conferences changed over time, I found that I had to discuss the impact of evidence-based medicine in the 1990s, which was a challenge to the epistemology of consensus conferences. Moreover, evidence-based medicine, while sounding obvious and straightforward, turns out to have some puzzling features, such as a hierarchy of evidence. It was also heavily criticized, especially by those who thought that it devalues the expertise of the physician and the individuality of the patient.

Narrative medicine is a recent development on the “art” side that claims to restore the human side of medicine. Translational medicine emerged in the early 2000s. As I understand it, it was a response to shortfalls with both consensus conferences and evidence-based medicine. Understanding the interrelations between the methods over time turns out to be a productive way of exploring their strength and their weaknesses. It also illustrates that medical knowledge, as a whole, is the result of a plurality of methods.

You suggest in your introduction that each method you discuss has something “obvious” about it and something “odd” about it. Can you elaborate? 

Consensus conferences rest on the weight that we give to the opinion of experts, especially when they discuss the matter rationally and come to agree with one another. Yet there is something odd about the idea that scientific (rather than political) disputes could be settled in this way.  When physicists disagree about a matter, say, the number of types of neutrino, they do not convene a consensus conference to discuss and settle the matter. Instead, they do more experimental research, or reanalyze the data, or theorize further. They do not expect 10-20 people seated around a table for 48 hours to be able to resolve scientific disagreements.

Evidence-based medicine at first seems to state the obvious—that medical knowledge is based on evidence—yet it has a precise (some think narrow, and some think refined) view of what counts as quality of evidence.

Translational medicine seems to be a new term for old practices of causal reasoning and trial and error intervention, yet it has been championed as a new method.

Narrative medicine emphasizes listening to the patient, which is widely regarded as good basic medical practice, yet also claims that listening with the tools of literary analysis, rather than simple commonsense, gives the physician the most information.

What are your goals with this book? What disciplines do you see it influencing? In other words, who can benefit from your findings, and how can your findings be applied in the real world?

This book is intended to advance “critical medical studies”—the use of broadly humanistic methods to criticize as well as to enrich medical knowledge. It is aimed at a wide and interdisciplinary academic audience, but it is also written to be accessible to both medical audiences and broader educated audiences. I hope that it helps with understanding medical controversies, which often result from methodological weaknesses of particular methods or from conflicts between the methods.

I hope that the ideas in the book are used to guide funding initiatives in medical research, improve medical education, and help with understanding the changing roles of physicians and other health care professionals.


Parking day 1

Temple University Ambler Students, Faculty to Create “Pop Up” Park in Doylestown

A brand new park is about to pop up in Doylestown Bourough, but it isn’t somewhere off the beaten path. It will be right in the heart of town thanks to a collaboration between temple University Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture faculty and students and community volunteers.

Park(ing) for People, a temporary 120-foot, by 12-foot “pop up” park will be open to the public on Friday, September 18 and Saturday, September 19, taking up a few parking spots right in front of the County Theater, 20 E. State Street, at the main intersection in Doylestown.

This community outreach effort is part of Park(ing) Day, a global event designed to bring attention to the need for more urban open space, spark discussions about how public space is created and allocated and improve the quality of the places in which we live and work.

Temple’s part of the Doylestown project is being spearheaded by Associate Professor Baldev Lamba, chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture.

“Imagine a greener, more people-friendly space in place of parking spots. This pop up park is a true partnership between our students and faculty and volunteer architects, horticulturists, landscape architects, artists and organizations in the region,” said Lamba. “It’s been a wonderfully energizing, fun and rewarding experience. The outpouring of encouragement and offers of help from the community has shown over and over again just how amazing people in the Doylestown area truly are.”

According to Lamba, Park(ing) for People will highlight “an urban meadow theme.”

“It will include plants, perennial grasses and trees that can handle an urban environment in addition to seating areas for people passing by,” he said. “All of the material will be reused within the community. Our park and streetscape is 100 percent sustainable.”

Several events are planned around the pop up park, said Lamba.

The grand opening, which includes a concert by Faith and Practice, will begin at 12 p.m. on Friday, September 18. A concert by the Lucas Ebeling Trio will also be held on September 18 from 3:45 to 5:45 p.m.

On Saturday, September 19 community members are invited to join Dtown Bike Riding Basics on a bike ride to the pop up park beginning at 8:30 a.m. at Linden Elementary School. Additional events on September 19 include “Story time with Miss Larissa” from 10 to 10:45 a.m. and a concert by the Overtone Acoustic Duo from 12 to 1 p.m.

“We will also host a photography competition. We are looking for interesting photographs taken of the pop up park during Park(ing) Day, which will be used in an event photo gallery,” Lamba said. “Two winning photographers will be awarded gift certificates from local restaurants and shops. Submissions may be made at popupark@temple.edu by September 25.”

In addition to the lush displays of plants and trees, Lamba said, Abby Sernoff, a local mixed media collage artist, is creating a 6-foot-tall cylindrical art installation titled “Taking Flight,” which incorporates several of her original bird and nature inspired works.

An additional art installation by Central Bucks West senior Olivia Horan titled “Diaphanous Bloom” is, according to Horan, a “reflection on my generation’s struggle in claiming ownership of our future and our role in securing and improving a better world.”

Lamba is no stranger to the concept of pop up gardens. He coordinated the award winning design of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s first pop up garden in 2011. Located at 20th and Market Streets, the garden took its inspiration from Temple’s award winning Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit — Écolibrium – French Traditions/Modern Interpretations — from the same year. While that park was a touch larger — 32,000 square feet — the message and premise is the same as the Doylestown pop up park, Lamba said.

“It’s about changing mindsets. It’s showing people that urban centers can have areas that are green, innovative and inviting,” he said. “With the Philadelphia pop up gardens, people hate to see them go — it builds a sense of community. It’s such a unique concept. No one expects to see a park just spring up in the center of town, and this is the most active part of the borough.”

Among the many supporters of the Park(ing) for People project are Schumacher Landscaping & Construction; Sentinel Process Systems Inc.; the Pennsylvania/Delaware Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects; Bucks Beautiful; Clearview Nursery Inc.; Doylestown Borough’s Environmental and Recreation Committee; Doylestown Business Alliance; Feeney’s Plant Nursery and Garden Center; Huberific Graphic Design Studio; Ralph C. Fey AIA Architects; and Temple University Ambler.

For additional information about Parking(ing) for People, contact 267-337-3195 or blamba@temple.edu. Follow Park(ing) for People on Facebook.

Black Lives Matter

POPPYN and VOICES Students Promote Black Lives Matter Movement

The event was hosted by the University Community Collaborative, an organization founded by political science professor Barbara Ferman that works with Philadelphia youth.Students

by Sara Curnow Wilson

Tuttleman 102 was full of energy earlier this month as participants in the POPPYN and VOICES programs prepared for their final event. Some students worked to coordinate the details of their presentations while others socialized and greeted guests. All laughed and cheered as they recognized themselves and their friends on a slideshow from the year’s programming.

Though the warmth in the room that evening resembled the end of any other program, the event differed from the typical last day of class or camp, in that behind the hope and happiness was reference to a bleaker reality. The posters that covered the wall proclaimed “Afrofutures Are Bright” and “We Gon’ Be Alright,” but they also spelled out the names of young black victims of police brutality like Eric Garner and Rekia Boyd.

POPPYN and VOICES are parts of the University Community Collaborative, an organization that works with Philadelphia youth to foster a positive youth culture and build better communities. UCC, founded by political science professor Barbara Ferman, encourages its participants to identify and raise awareness about problems in the community.

This year, the programs centered on the Black Lives Matter movement. The evening began with a presentation from POPPYN, a news show produced by high school and college students that airs on Philly’s Public Access TV and is available on YouTube. The POPPYN students shared clips from their latest episode and talked about their experiences researching, interviewing and editing. The VOICES after school program students closed out the event. VOICES students shared their collaborative blog, Project Blackout , as well as personal poetry, song, and art about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Each group took part in a Q&A, during which students were quick to highlight the importance of the programs in the Collaborative Continuum. Participants described their renewed critical thinking skills, senses of self-empowerment, and understandings of the world around them. “I’m so aware now,” one student said, referring to racial tensions in the justice and education systems. Another described talking to her high school’s administration to make the curriculum in her history course less Eurocentric.

All participants agreed that the biggest benefit of the program was working closely with other students, both their high school peers and their college leaders. In the words of one participant, “I made a family here.”

Dissent: The History of an American Idea

Ralph Young, Department of History, has recently published Ralph Young new book
(NYU Press).

The book launch took place on May 13 at the Strand Bookstore in New York where he was interviewed by Professor Claire Potter of the New School. On May 20 he gave a talk about the book at Busboys & Poets in Washington DC and appeared the following day on Tim Farley’s “Morning Briefing” on SiriusXM satellite radio.

CHAT art exhibition

College of Liberal Arts Faculty Honored with Research Grant Awards

Inaugural awardees include 15 individual and 20 collaborative projects that involve a total of 76 faculty researchers.

Temple University has selected the first batch of recipients for its Presidential Humanities and Arts Research Program Grant Awards, according to a press release issued last week by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.

This new initiative from Temple University President Theobald — which aims to foster faculty research, scholarship and creative activity in the humanities and art — examined faculty contributions to scholarly books and journal publications, dance, drama and musical performances, community-based arts and culture programs, and film documentaries through a competitive peer-review process. In all, the competition included 47 humanities and arts proposals from 102 Temple University researches, representing a diversity of academic disciplines.

The inaugural awardees include 15 individual and 20 collaborative projects that involve a total of 76 faculty researchers. The following 17 College of Liberal Arts Faculty were selected in the inaugural cycle:

  • Seth Bruggeman: History – $10,000
  • Douglas Duckworth: Religion – $5,000
  • Kenneth Finkel: American Studies – $12,000
  • Kristin Gjesdal: Philosophy $5,000
  • Alex Gottesman: Classics – $5,000
  • Patricia Hansell: Anthropology $4,000
  • Priya Joshi: English- $5,000
  • Peter Logan: English $10,000
  • Rajuta Chincholkar-Mandelia: Women’s Studies $5,000
  • Patricia Melzer: German $5,000
  • Lara Ostaric: Philosophy $5,000
  • Aunshul Rege: Criminal Justice $5,000
  • Jeremy Schipper: Religion $5,000
  • Howard Spodek: History $3,000
  • Damien Stankiewicz: Anthropology $5,000
  • Roland Williams: English- $10,000
  • Sean Yom: Political Science $5,000

“The College of Liberal Arts is delighted that so many of its distinguished faculty were awarded grants through the Presidential Humanities and Arts Research Program Grant Awards,” College of Liberal Arts Senior Associate Dean Richard Deeg, Ph.D., said. “This success is a testament to the creativity, diversity and scholarly excellence of liberal arts faculty.”

The next call for proposals will be issued in December 2015.

2015 Graduates

2015 College of Liberal Arts Grads Share Advice, Job Landings

Today, 748 degrees will be awarded to College of Liberal Arts graduates from 17 states and the District of Columbia. Hidden in those numbers are the immeasurable successes and failures, professors and mentors, family and friends who helped along the way.

Before wishing our graduates a fond farewell, we asked them to take a look back at their time at Temple and to offer some advice to future Owls.

Here’s what they had to say …

Thomas CarneyThomas Carney
Major: Anthropology
Minor: History

What was your favorite moment at the College of Liberal Arts? At Temple?

“Taking History of Philadelphia as a CLA class through the History department. I learned so much about this great city from a cultural, religious, geographic, and historic background. It included field trips and Helen Heinz as an amazing professor.”

Nneka A. OkoyeNneka Okoye
Major: Neuroscience
Minor: Pre-Medicine

What advice would you like to share with our incoming freshmen?

“Have fun, but always be networking, working, and have a solid foundation so graduation is fun and not scary. Have positive company around you. Keep a good head on your shoulders.”

Mina YoussefMina Youssef
Major: Neuroscience

What are your plans for the future? Will any local companies benefit from your talents?

“You will never know your passion and interests until you immerse yourself in that discipline, and Temple University will allow you to do just that. Every single one of these opportunities have helped me secure a full-time job at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where I am able to further develop my professional skills while doing something that I love — to conduct research.”

Alaina McNaughtonAlaina McNaughton
Major: History
Minor: American Studies

What advice would you like to share with our incoming freshmen? Perhaps something from a Cameron Crowe film?

“You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. Just … literally … twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

Reginald Lamar Streater
Major: Political ScienceReginald Lamar Streater
Minor: African American Studies

What advice would you like to share with our incoming freshmen?

“Try to grow and broaden your horizons. You may be pleasantly surprised by how much you don’t know about the world and your fellow man and woman.”

Nicole Lea DiCrecchio
Nicole Lea DiCrecchioMajor: Psychology
Minor: Cognitive Neuroscience

What was your favorite moment at the College of Liberal Arts?  At Temple?

“My favorite moment at Temple was when I was able to travel across the country to Nashville, Tenn., to present a research poster that I had worked on during my internship. Temple made this experience possible by awarding me a travel grant, it is certainly something I will never forget.”

Gray Tennis Gray Tennis
Major: Sociology
Minor: Spanish

What advice would you like to share with our incoming freshmen?

“Temple is what you make it. Reach out. Use the resources on offer. Join a club, a team, a group — whatever it may be. I used several connections with teachers to help find and leverage jobs outside of school. I know this may sound intimidating, especially if you’re shy, but if you reach out, you will be rewarded.” 

Kaila Imani Barnes  Kaila Imani Barnes
Major: Anthropology
Minor: Human Biology

What advice would you like to share with our incoming freshmen?

“Do not slack off during your freshman year. Take the beginning of each semester to plan out how you will study for each class based upon its difficulty for you. It is so hard to get your GPA up if you don’t begin to do it during freshmen year.”

Melissa Sara TuckerMelissa Sara Tucker
Major: Psychology
Minor: Criminal Justice

What was your favorite moment in the College of Liberal Arts?  At Temple?

“In fall 2015, I am excited to begin working towards my Masters in Occupational Therapy. I couldn’t feel more prepared for graduate school, thanks to the well-rounded education I received during my time in CLA. Many times over the years, I had CLA professors mentor and guide me. I always got the feeling that these professors were truly invested in my future and wanted to see me succeed.”

Matthew BeckerMatt Becker
Major: Political Science
Minor: English

What advice would you like to share with our incoming freshmen?

“Find your passion. It is more important than whatever entry level job you take after school. If your mind is active, it will change constantly even after you finish school.”

Luisa Pinto
Major: Double major psychology and professional studies-Spanish Luisa Pinto

What was your favorite moment in the College of Liberal Arts?  At Temple?

“My favorite moment? That’s hard to say when every semester was filled of amazing people and experiences.”

Atiya TuckerAtiya Tucker
Major: French & Spanish

What are exciting plans for the future? Any travel on the horizon?

“I currently work for Delta Air Lines at JFK airport in New York. As of Oct. 1, I will be teaching English (TAPIF) to high school students in Toulouse, France, for the 2015-2016 school year.”

James J WelcomeJames J Welcome
Major: Criminal Justice

What advice would you like to share with our incoming freshmen?

“Always give your full effort. Whether you feel your classes are easy or you can shrug class because you are already doing do not become overconfident. Treat each class and assignment seriously, the habits you start with can determine your work ethic.”

Gianna Marie RossGianna Marie Ross
Major: Anthropology
Minor: Art History

What was your favorite moment in the College of Liberal Arts?  At Temple?

“All our professors come from such different backgrounds and have amazing tales of all they have done. Learning about them and helping them along the way are some of the most memorable times at Temple University”.

Pablo Vila

Temple University Faculty Research Award: Pablo Vila, Professor Department of Sociology

Pablo Vila’s outstanding achievements are shaping important societal issues, and his work is widely praised in the fields of sociology, Latin American studies, history, popular culture and musicology.  Vila has also served as a visiting professor in Brazil, Spain, Mexico and Argentina. He has received grants from the Ford Foundation, Inter-American Foundation and the Social Science Research Council, as well as multiple research awards from Temple University.

Prior to joining Temple in 2004, Vila served on the faculty of the University of Texas at San Antonio, University of Texas at El Paso and the Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina. He received his PhD in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin, graduated from the Training Program for Young Researchers at the Centro de Estudios de Estado y Sociedad in Buenos Aires, and earned a BA in sociology from Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires.

Rashidah Andrews goes above and beyond in advising

Rashidah Andrews has the same goal for every advising session: make sure her students leave her office feeling less perplexed and more confident of the path they should take.

“Some students come in and they’re frustrated; they’re disheveled; they’re angry,” said Andrews, principal academic advisor in the College of Liberal Arts (CLA). “They might have been in a different office where they felt they got the runaround, and they’re still very confused about what to do.”

Andrews takes several steps to help. She proposes solutions to whatever problems the students are facing. She conducts a check-in as the session ends to make sure everything has been addressed. And she gives students her business card, letting them know she’s there whenever they need help next.

Andrews also refers students to whomever else they need to speak with. If a student is truly distraught, she walks them up a few floors above her office at 1810 Liacouras Walk to Tuttleman Counseling Services.

“I want to see students leave better than when they came in,” said Andrews, who has been in her role since 2011. “I may not have been able to solve all their problems, but I can give them direct referrals. If you name a department at Temple, I can name a person there who I can pick up the phone and call and say, ‘I’m sending a student over to you.’”

Andrews goes above and beyond for her students. When Fly in 4 was introduced at the beginning of this school year, she developed a new Blackboard course CLA students can use to learn about the program, keep track of their progress toward graduation and register for advising sessions.

By demonstrating a high level of commitment and responsiveness, Andrews demonstrates how Temple employees can use their people skills to practice excellent service.

“All of us at Temple are in the service of people,” Andrews said. “It’s who we are; it’s what we do. We’re here to support students and provide meaningful experiences for them.”

CLA professor reveals ‘Bollywood’s India’

With their epic stories and infectious song-and-dance routines, Bollywood movies can seem like the ultimate form of escapism. But behind their multicolor gloss is a potent subtext about modern India’s thorniest subjects, writes Temple’s Priya Joshi.

In Bollywood’s India: A Public Fantasy (Columbia University Press, 2015), Joshi, an associate professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts, says Bollywood―the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai―has provided an ongoing conversation about India since the country gained independence from the British in 1947.

Bollywood films have given voice and shape to the average Indian’s dreams, fears and anxieties from the turbulence that followed India’s partition from Pakistan through the explosive economic growth of recent years, says Joshi.

“The blockbusters of Hindi cinema have played a prominent role in managing the euphoria and crises that confront the modern nation” of India, Joshi writes. In the book, Joshi “analyzes the social work that popular cinema has done for the nation even as the cinema has challenged fundamental practices of the nation and the state during critical moments.”

According to Joshi, almost all Bollywood movies follow a familiar formula: There are usually half a dozen songs, a love story, stylized action sequences and big dance numbers. The wide-ranging appeal of this formula helps to fill India’s massive theaters, which can seat a thousand moviegoers or more.

Despite Bollywood’s populist elements, Joshi says the films have given Indians a chance to talk about subjects they couldn’t otherwise discuss, either because of cultural taboos or political repression.

She points to the 1973 film Bobby, which was a megahit at the box office and featured stars Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia. The film extolled the pleasures of teenage love but below the surface, it dealt with “dowry deaths,” the murder of brides in an attempt to extort their parents.

Another example is the 1951 movie Awara, which paid homage to the comedy of Charlie Chaplin but also shined a light on India’s bloody partition from Pakistan.

“Bollywood films deal directly with some of the most challenging aspects of Indian life,” said Joshi. “Whether it’s terrorism, class tensions or political corruption, Bollywood has been there to help Indians understand who they are and what they want to become.”

Expertise on India

Bollywood’s India by Temple’s Priya Joshi is just the latest product of Temple’s robust scholarship on the burgeoning economy and rich culture of one of the world’s growing powers.  According to Joshi, Temple is unique among colleges and universities for its expertise on modern India.

  • Joshi previously wrote a book titled In Another Country: Colonialism, Culture, and the English Novel in India.
  • Anthropology Professor Jayasinhji Jhala partnered with Temple students and private artists to develop a new type of contemporary painting marrying digital techniques with traditional Indian styles.
  • Temple is a member institution of the American Institute of Indian Studies. Howard Spodek, a Temple professor who wrote the 2011 book  Ahmedabad: Shock City of Twentieth-Century India, is a trustee of the institute.
  • The New India Forum in the Center for the Humanities at Temple presents research on India from a broadly humanistic perspective using an interdisciplinary approach.  The forum returns in fall 2015.
  • The Temple University in India summer program empowers students to investigate Indian civilization through its religious and artistic traditions, both ancient and contemporary.
  • Mitrabarun “MB” Sarkar, H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Strategic Management Department of the Fox School of Business, is an expert on innovation and business in India.
  • Temple’s Center for International Business Education and Research​―one of only 17 such centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education―focuses on promoting U.S. competitiveness in emerging markets, including India.

Taken from Temple News, by Ashwin P. Verghese