Meet the Founding Director: Lakshmi Krishnan, MD, PhD

Lakshmi Krishnan
Headshot of Lakshmi Krishnan

Lakshmi Krishnan, MD, PhD, is a cultural historian of medicine, medical humanities scholar, and physician. Born in Bombay, India, she grew up in England and the United States. Her research focuses on diagnosis and clinical reasoning, especially diagnostic health disparities. She is writing a cultural and intellectual history of diagnosis and detective practices —The Doctor and the Detective: A Cultural History of Diagnosis (forthcoming, Johns Hopkins University Press). 

More broadly, she is engaged with the relationship between medicine and the humanities writ large. Areas of interest include health equity and the history of health disparities, intellectual history of medicine, 19th century and early 20th century literature and medicine, and cultural responses to illness. This interdisciplinary work seeks to recenter the experiences of marginalized communities, broaden the narrative canon, and promote health equity.

Dr. Krishnan earned her MD from Johns Hopkins and her DPhil (PhD.) in English Literature from Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. She completed an Internal Medicine residency at Duke, where she was a Faculty Affiliate at the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities, & History of Medicine, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in General Internal Medicine and History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins. She is board certified in Internal Medicine and a member of the American College of Physicians, and practices hospital medicine. Her work has been nationally recognized through grants and awards from the Association of American Medical Colleges, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Academy of Communication in Healthcare and appears in The Lancet, Annals of Internal Medicine, BMJ Medical Humanities, Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics, and Modern Language Review, among others. 

Featured media appearances

Featured scholarship

Cover of the Journal of Victorian Literature and Culture, volume 27, issue 2, showing painting of red-headed woman playing a string instrument. She wears elegant green dress and the background is a blue wallpaper with flowers

“Outbreak: Contagion and Culture in the Victorian Era: Introduction”

April 26th, 2022

Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan and Dr. Kari Nixon introduce the Journal of Victorian Culture’s Rountable on “Outbreak: Contagion and Culture in the Victorian Era”, which asks how the Victorians approached contagion, examining the ways in which it became such a central preoccupation for a society already fixated upon health and illness and the transactions between life and death.…

Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan, Dr. S. Michelle Ogunwole and Dr. Lisa A. Cooper in a video presentation of their Annals of Internal Medicine article "Historical Insights on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, and Racial Disparities: Illuminating a Path Forward".

“Historical Insights on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, and Racial Disparities: Illuminating a Path Forward”

September 15th, 2020

Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan, Dr. S. Michelle Ogunwole and Dr. Lisa A. Cooper examine the racial health disparities in the historical arc of the 1918 influenza pandemic. This examination provides a understand critical structural inequities and health care gaps that have historically contributed to and continue to compound disparate health outcomes among communities of color.…

Featured event appearances

The "Healing with poisons" virtual event. Speaker Yan Liu is sharing his screen displaying an image of Sun Simiao (7th century), with the quote "Among the myriad things in the world, nothing cannot be a medicine". The other panelists are Michelle C. Wang, Lakshmi Krishnan and Michael Denman

Healing with Poisons: The Circulation of Medical Knowledge in Medieval China – Asia in Depth Seminar

October 7th, 2021

During China’s formative era of pharmacy, poisons were strategically deployed as healing agents to cure everything from chills to pains to epidemics. Focusing on the early Tang period (7th and 8th centuries), in this talk Professor Yan Liu (SUNY-Buffalo) illustrates how the court regulated the use of poisons and commissioned new medical treatises to achieve effective governance.…

Collage showing book covers, movie posters, film stills and photographs of different artists. Some the works of art included in the collage are author James Baldwin, the films Boys Don't Cry, Get Out, Moonlight, Black Panther, Schindler's List, and Philadephia, and the books Black Man in a White Coat, Blow Your House Down, You Play the Girl and There Are No Children Here

Using the Power of Narratives to Address Bias in Healthcare

May 12th, 2021

The MedStar Health Institute for Quality and Safety hosted “Using the Power of Narratives to Address Bias in Healthcare”. The event featured a panel of MedStar Health physicians, researchers, and medical humanities leaders, including Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan.…