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Texas Health Dallas Conference to Investigate How Literature Can Help Caregivers Better Connect with Patients

DALLAS — Physicians, scholars and scientists will assemble this month at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas to discuss how the written word influences the science of medicine. Called “Intersections: Literature and Medicine,” the two-day conference will explore compassion and science at the bedside.

Dr. John Harper, FACC, FAHA
Dr. John Harper, FACC, FAHA
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“In an era when so much of the talk surrounding health care is about money and costs, I think we need to step back and remember that the focus should be about improving the health of the people we serve,” said Dr. John Harper, FACC, FAHA, a cardiologist at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas and medical director of the hospital’s inpatient heart and vascular program. “Compassionate care remains — and always will be — the foundation of what we do.”

Participants will be encouraged to reflect on their professional roles and experiences through plays, shorts stories, poetry, fiction and personal narratives in a setting where they can share their reflections with colleagues.

“This program will bring together prominent scholars and physicians in an interactive seminar, which will investigate the connection between literary understanding and medical knowledge and how the written word influences healing hands,” Harper said. “The science of medicine could learn from literature by gaining a better understanding of the human condition, a view inside the human soul and more ways to deeply connect with our patients through compassionate, healing words.”

Nina Schwarz, Ph.D., chair and associate professor of the department of English at Southern Methodist University, is co-director of the program. The event is sponsored by the Lupe Murchison Foundation in honor of Harper.

The two-day conference starts Thursday evening, Oct. 14, at the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University. Lectures and break-out sessions will be held the next day at the Fogelson Forum at Texas Health Dallas.

Keynote speakers will include Dr. Danielle Ofri, an associate professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine and Editor-in-Chief of the Bellevue Literary Review; and Dr. Lawrence J. Hergott, professor of medicine and director of outpatient clinical services at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

Hergott is a nationally renowned speaker who addresses the balance caregivers must strike between the difficulty of sicknesses they cannot always cure and those that have good outcomes. Too many times, Hergott argues, clinicians focus on those few times when treatments don’t work. Through literature, he says, clinicians can learn to better focus on the successes, enriching the lives of their patients and, at the same time, their own lives.

“We’re too often heedless of part of medicine’s essence: celebrating with patients and their families, colleagues and staff, and our loved ones the wonders beyond the biomedical that medicine brings,” Hergott wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2002. “We should be feeling what mythologist Joseph Campbell described as a consequence of the hero’s journey: ‘From sacrifice, bliss.’ He continued: “Perhaps it is best, amidst the twists and turns, the hills to climb with loads to carry, feeling tired and lost, to at times take Derek Walcott’s advice. Pause. Look around. Contemplate what we are really about. And feast on the goodness of such a life.”

Additional faculty and speakers will include Dr. Dirk Frater (Texas Health Dallas); Dr. Fred Griffin (UT Southwestern Medical Center); Thomas Wm. Mayo, J.D., (Dedman School of Law at SMU); Dr. David Markham, M.Sc. (UT Southwestern); and Jasper Neel, Ph.D. (department of English at SMU).

The event will be held Oct. 14-15. Limited scholarship funding is available to some medical students, residents and interns. Call 214-345-8442 for more information about those programs.

About Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas is an 866-bed acute care hospital and recognized clinical program leader, having provided compassionate care to the residents of Dallas and surrounding communities since 1966. U.S. News and World Report has ranked Texas Health Dallas among the nation’s best hospitals in digestive disorders, orthopedics, and neurology and neurosurgery. An affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system, Texas Health Dallas has approximately 4,000 employees and an active medical staff of more than 1,000 physicians. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit

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