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Honorary doctors named at the Faculty of Medicine

rita charon and david julius. photo.
Rita Charon and David Julius.

Two world-leading American researchers known respectively for their research within medical humanities, and the sensory nervous system and perception of pain and temperature have been named honorary doctors at the Faculty of Medicine. The honorary doctorates will be conferred on 26 May 2023.

Ever since David Julius’ discovery of the temperature and pain receptor TRPV1, he has contributed crucial discoveries to our understanding of how we sense temperature and pain. He has been rewarded with a large number of prestigious prizes and awards for his research and his discoveries, most recently in 2021 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

David Julius completed his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley before undertaking postdoc studies at Columbia University in New York. Since 1989, he has conducted his research at the University of California, San Francisco, where he is a professor of physiology.

His collaboration with researchers at the Faculty of Medicine has a long history, and as far back as 1999 David Julius and Lund researcher Peter Zygmunt published their first joint research article together, in the field of TRP channels. Over the years, he has visited Lund University on a number of occasions, to lecture and to participate in meetings with the faculty’s researchers in order to exchange knowledge focused on pain and sensory analysis.

“It is enormously gratifying that David Julius’ connection with Lund University is being further strengthened. With integrity, he has maintained a long-term focus on basic research in an era when demands for immediate societal benefit increasingly drive academic research. Our collaboration with David Julius has helped the University and the Faculty of Medicine to gain great international attention in the research area TRP channels. With his latest research, he has brought cryogenic electron microscopy to a whole new level in terms of studies of membrane-bound proteins, an interest that corresponds well to Lund University’s investments in structural biology and drug discovery. I look forward to David being able to inspire the faculty’s early-career researchers with his experience and generosity,” says Peter Zygmunt, professor of pharmacology.

Link to a longer articel with David Julius

With her knowledge, and her social and teaching expertise, Rita Charon is truly a pioneer in the field of medical humanities. With double doctoral degrees in medicine and humanities, and the breadth of her interdisciplinary expertise and deep professional grounding, she is in the vanguard of medical humanities and its implementation in healthcare.

She leads the Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics and is professor of medicine at Columbia University. She qualified as a Doctor of Medicine from Harvard University in 1978 and received her PhD in English from Colombia University in 1999. It focused on narratology and the work of Henry James. Her research concentrates on the consequences of the practice of narrative medicine, narrative medicine pedagogy and healthcare team effectiveness.

Internationally, Rita Charon has been one of the strongest contributors to research and teaching in medical humanities. Through her declared support for, and collaboration with, representatives of narrative medicine in the Nordic countries in general and Lund in particular, she has contributed to the development of medical humanities at Lund University over a long period. Rita Charon is an international role model who means a great deal to the Faculty of Medicine, not least within the framework of the Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities and its development of education and research along with its crucial collaboration with healthcare.

“It brings me great joy to receive the news that the Faculty of Medicine in their foresightedness have named Rita Charon an honorary doctor. The development of healthcare and vocational training within our faculty are in a phase in which medical humanities are quickly going from nice-to-have to need-to-have. In our efforts to solve the societal challenges concerning healthcare, we can no longer afford to restrict ourselves to health or medical sciences, we must also engage the humanities and social sciences. This applies to everything from the interpersonal meetings between the recipient of care and the caregiver to work-related stress, the flight of healthcare personnel from the profession, and the organisation of healthcare itself. No one has highlighted the potential of medical humanities as strongly as Rita Charon. Through her great engagement, her knowledge and her experience of interdisciplinary research, she represents a fantastic source of inspiration to all of us at the Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities and Lund University,” says Martin Garwicz, professor of integrative neurophysiology and centre director of Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities.

Link to a longer article with Rita Charon written in connection with her visit to Lund in September 2022.