University at Buffalo - The State University of New York
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2009

Howard Spiro, MD

Howard Spiro, MD

Howard Spiro, MD

Humanities in Medicine - Can the humanities enhance the art of medicine?

Many believe that today’s physician has become overwhelmed with technology and that some have lost the “art” of medicine.

Our 2009 Golden lecturer, Dr. Howard Spiro, is convinced that we can change the trend of technocratic medicine through better selection of medical students. He further believes premedical expectations place undue emphasis on science courses.

Dr. Spiro advocates for a premedical background in the humanities and social sciences. “The study of Milton and the study of ancient history will do more for the development of empathy than the study of molecular biology,” says Spiro.

Howard Spiro was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1924 and earned undergraduate and medical degrees at Harvard University. In 1955, he moved to New Haven, Connecticut with his wife and family to establish Yale's Gastrointestinal Section. 

Dr. Spiro is widely published in the conventional medical literature and the author of the well-known textbook: Clinical Gastroenterology. He authored or co-authored other books like Peptic Ulcer Learning System; Doctors, Patients and Placebos; Empathy and the Practice of Medicine; Facing Death: Where Culture, Religion and Medicine Meet; and The Power of Hope: A Doctor’s Perspective. While at Yale, Dr. Spiro also founded the Program for Humanities in Medicine and, upon his retirement, the e-journal Yale Journal of Humanities in Medicine. 

Dr. Spiro likes to think of himself as a flâneur in the byways of medicine, who comments on his wanderings in his writings. He is an Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Yale University.