Literature & Medicine: Humanities
at the Heart of Health Care

Literature & Medicine is a national award-winning reading and discussion program for health care professionals that, as one participant writes, “renews the heart and soul of health care.”

2014 Veteran Programming

Veteran Books

As part of “Standing Together”, the NEH’s initiative to promote understanding of the military experience and to support returning veterans, the Maine Humanities Council is proud to present an expansion and evolution of Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Healthcare. Building on the successful track record of Literature & Medicine within the VA system in several states, this new variant will work with veterans directly to offer facilitated small-group reading and discussion programs. In its pilot year, this program will take place in in Maine and twelve other states nationwide.

The humanities can play an important role in articulating the unique issues and concerns faced by veterans, fostering connection, reducing feelings of isolation, and providing a safe context in which to explore issues regarding military service.

Through the use of the humanities, the program will:

  • 1. Provide a setting and context for veterans to connect with one another, build relationships, and share their experiences.
  • 2. Create an opportunity for veterans to give voice to and reflect upon issues of particular interest or concern.
  • 3. Engage with materials that will allow veterans to see their own stories as part of a larger human experience that connects them with others across time and culture.

Coming Home: A Book Group for Combat Veterans

In partnership with the Portland Vet Center, Maine’s first book group—in this case, a group of Combat Veterans—will be meeting weekly beginning September 10th to discuss Stanley Lombardo’s translation of Homer’s Odyssey. The accessible, modern translation of Odysseus’ journey home opens up new avenues for discussion of themes of homecoming, perseverance, growth, loss, home, and loyalty.

This book group is one of several that the Maine Humanities Council will be offering Maine combat and non-combat Service Members over the course of the year. Groups may focus on one longer text, like the Odyssey, or a five-session series may instead read selected short stories, novels, memoirs, historical texts, essays, or poems related to the experience of military service. Some examples of texts include POWDER: Writing from Women in the Ranks, from Vietnam to Iraq, “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver, Redeployment by Phil Klay, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain, poems by Wilfred Owen and Alfred Lord Tennyson, Be Safe, I Love You by Cara Hoffman, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein, and others.

MHC’s Veteran Programming extends beyond the Veterans’ book group and also includes public programming, which will be announced soon and available this autumn. Public programs can be found on the Maine Humanities Council’s Calendar of Events.

For more information about the Odyssey book group, read our press release.

Combat Veterans interested in joining the Portland group can contact Cliff Trott at 207-780-3584.

Click here for links to our previous work with Veterans Administration Medical Centers.

Read our newest issue of Synapse learn about Literature & Medicine’s growing presence in Veterans Administration hospitals...our plans for the future...notes from our After Shock: Humanities Perspectives on Trauma conference...great books to consider for your discussion group...

Special Event: Riveting Theater and Thoughtful Discussion of Domestic Violence in Maine.

Bryan Doerries of Outside the Wire

Outside the Wire's Bryan Doerries facilitating a discussion for a performance at Literature & Medicine’s After Shock Conference.

Literature & Medicine brought Outside the Wire back to Maine.

In April 2013, Outside the Wire, an innovative, nationally acclaimed reader’s theater troupe, used scenes from Tennesee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire to spark important public conversations about domestic violence.

Literature & Medicine
in Department of Veterans Affairs Hospitals

Literature and Medicine Anthologies

Echoes of War: A Literature & Medicine Anthology includes poetry, essays and short stories that raise issues particularly relevant to health care professionals who care for veterans.


Imagine What It’s Like: A Literature and Medicine Anthology contains a wide range and large number of selections as well as useful commentary by the editor.


Hear talks and presentations by speakers at national Literature & Medicine conferences


Participants between 2005 and 2008 reported a great or medium increase in:

empathy for patients79%
interpersonal skills64%
communication skills58%
job satisfaction62%
cultural awareness67%

Read the report by program evaluator Dr. Bruce Clary of the Muskie School of Public Service.

Participants in VA hospitals across the country in 2011 reported a great or medium increase in:

Empathy for Patients82%
Interpersonal Relations62%
Job Satisfaction61%
Cultural Awareness59%

Read Dr. Clary's report.

It is as important to know the person who has the disease as it is to know the disease the person .has. -- Sir William Osler

Program Reach

Literature & Medicine has reached hundreds of providers, staff members, administrators and policy makers in health care facilities across the country, affecting the care of thousands of patients. The program started in Maine and now has involved a total of 25 states: AZ, CA, CT, DE, FL, HI, IL, MD, MA, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, OK, RI, SC, SD, UT, VT, VA...and now Argentina!