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English professor’s Oxford fellowship broadens ASU role in health-humanities field


Kristen LaRue

Arizona State University Professor of English Mark Lussier has been appointed Visiting Research Fellow in Medical Humanities at Worcester College, Oxford University, U.K.

Lussier will complete brief residencies at Oxford between August and December 2017, conducting research and helping forge connections between ASU and Oxford in the field of health humanities.

Lussier, who is a former chair of the Department of English and a past president of the University Senate at ASU, researches the intersection between science and literature. The appointment brings together his academic work in the area over the past several years with his passion for helping others. Lussier explains that his presence at Oxford will pave the way for future student internship exchanges and research opportunities through Worcester College.

“The goal will be to create a multi-tiered, multi-dimensional program to help address the growing crisis in medical ‘care’ (versus medical ‘cure’) and its delivery,” Lussier said. “At a pragmatic level, we hope to articulate interventions to ameliorate suffering.”

Lussier has long worked on issues of integrated health. A Texas native, the ASU professor’s interest began with an administrative post in the trauma center of Houston’s Ben Taub County Hospital in the 1970s and has continued to the present through his investigations of Buddhist mindfulness and physiological responses to poetry.

Lussier and frequent collaborator Alison Essary of ASU’s College of Health Solutions have co-authored several articles on health humanities, including the 2014 white paper “The Necessity of Narrative: Linking Literature and Health Care in Higher Education Curricula” which was published in Forum on Public Policy. Their critical study endorses a new model of alternative medicine called “bibliotherapy” that, “if established properly, [can lead] to diagnostic and therapeutic breakthroughs.”

Lussier has also been instrumental in establishing the new College of Liberal Arts and Sciences undergraduate certificate in interdisciplinary health humanities, which will officially launch in the English department in fall 2018. The first related course in the field will be taught this fall by associate professor of English Cora Fox, who is interim director of the ASU Institute for Humanities Research. The class will be part of an innovative set of linked courses in the new ASU Humanities Lab focused on grand social challenges in health.

As for the immediate future: during summer 2017, Lussier will co-direct, with Essary, the Exploring Science and Medicine Through Art and Literature in Italy ASU Study Abroad program from May 29 to June 23, 2017. When the program wraps up, Lussier is then is off to Oxford, where he will direct and teach in the Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Oxford ASU program, July 7 to Aug. 11.