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, scholarship, and events

1st Annual Medical Humanities Research Showcase

May 2nd, 2023

On May 2nd, 2023, Medical Humanities hosted our first annual research showcase celebrating the scholarship from this year’s senior capstones and research fellowships. Congratulations to our…

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.…

Convalescing influenza patients lying in rudimentary beds at the U.S. Army's Eberts Field facilities in Lonoke, Arkansas, in 1918

“Epidemics Have Happened Before and They’ll Happen Again. What Will We Remember?”, Science News Explores the Work Co-Authored by Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan

October 27th, 2021

On its coverage of “Health & Medicine”, Science News examines the research article co-authored by Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan —“Historical Insights on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, and Racial Disparities: Illuminating a Path Forward”— to understand the legacies of the racial health disparities in the historical arc of the 1918 influenza pandemic in the present, to address the social determinants of health that lead to these disparities.…

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.…

Medical health professional (woman of color) alone on a a street. Red buildings, yellow sky, blue street

Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan Featured in the The Library of Congress Magazine’s “Stories From A Pandemic”

September 10th, 2021

The September-October 2021 issue of The Library of Congress Magazine presents “Stories From A Pandemic”, a first-of-its-kind collection of audio diaries newly acquired by the Library that reveals how the pandemic also transformed the way health-care workers view their mission as healers. Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan recounts how she had to change the way she treated patients while fearing for her own life, and cautions, “if we don’t take heed, we could be in this situation again sooner rather than later.”…

2021 Lisa J. Raines Grand Challenge Fellowship logo

Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan Featured as One of the Workshop Speakers at the 2021 Lisa J. Raines Grand Challenge Fellowship

August 13th, 2021

The 2021 Lisa J. Raines Grand Challenge Fellowship funded undergraduate students to conduct independent summer research projects engaging with the grand challenge of “Health and Humanity.” In addition to conducting their own projects, fellows came together as a cohort and shared their research, found exciting cross-disciplinary touch points, and learned from and network with faculty working in the field, including Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan, who presented her lecture “A Career in Medical Humanities: From the Archive to the Clinic.”…

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.…

Med School Dahlgren Library Bookshelves

“Medical Humanities Initiative Creates Novel Learning Opportunities with Interdisciplinary Students and Faculty”, The Georgetown University Medical Center Covers the Work of the Medical Humanities Initiative

January 28th, 2021

The Georgetown University Medical Center wrote about the novel learning opportunities that the Georgetown University Medical Humanities Initiative provides for undergraduate and medical students, by extending classical humanities studies into the realm of illness and disease.…

Visual representation of a human figure made up of viruses. There are two text boxes. Top: Sickness in the room was oppressive. Bottom: I found myself thinking about miasma theory

“Medical Humanities in a Pandemic: Essential and Critical”

November 9th, 2020

Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan and Dr. Anna Reisman account for the invaluable insights that the humanities offer the biomedical sciences during the COVID-19 pandemic, as a means of examining themselves, their profession, and the broader social context.…

Black Lives Matter protest. Multitude of people gathered (all ages, races and genders), a sign says " No Justice, No Peace"

“Such a Time As This”: Racial Justice and the University Series: Racial Justice, Science, and Health

October 21st, 2020

This series of conversations explored how Georgetown faculty’s research advances racial justice. The sessions considered how racial justice produces certain responsibilities for researchers. They also examined how the pursuit of justice informs the impact of the speakers’ work. Beyond focusing on individual work, they also explored how the mission of Georgetown University informs and supports this work.…

Banner for the Shakti Powerful Feminine A Navarātri 2020 Speaker Series, featuring Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan

Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan Featured in the Shakti: Powerful Feminine: A Navarātri 2020 Speaker Series

October 19th, 2020

In October 2020, Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan was featured in the Shakti: Powerful Feminine: A Navarātri 2020 Speaker Series. The event centered on impactful South Asian women coming from different realms but united by their energy and boldness. It was co-sponsored by Georgetown Hindu Student Association, Georgetown University’s Women’s Center, Georgetown University’s Dharmic Life, Yale University Chaplain’s Office, and Princeton University Hindu Life Program.…

Maker Hub In Lauinger Library

Making Communities: Public Science in the Time of COVID-19. A Conversation featuring Margaret Talbot (New Yorker) and Don Undeen (Georgetown’s Maker Hub)

October 15th, 2020

What happens when supply line production of essential goods and equipment is disrupted? Can public science offer solutions? Citizen scientists and community labs are developing everything from affordable insulin to low-cost, open-source medical supplies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, maker communities such as Georgetown’s Maker Hub began producing personal protective equipment (PPE) for local healthcare facilities.…

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.…

Ayurvedic Man. Four young people look at a poster that exhibits an 18th-century Nepali illustrated anatomical painting, which provides a visual interpretation of the organs and vessels of the male body according to classical Ayurveda.

The Hoya Covers the Development of the Medical Humanities Major

November 8th, 2019

The Hoya introduces the future Medical Humanities major, expected to possibly launch in coming years, mentioning the Spring 2020 courses, and Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan and Dr. Daniel Marchalik’s vision for the Medical Humanities at Georgetown University.…

Illustration of a young woman lying on the ground (maybe dead), crowd of people staring at her. Footnote: "A Vampyre, A Vampyre"

“Physicians, Oaths, and Vampires”

September 21st, 2019

Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan and Dr. Daniel Marchalik analyze John Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819). They assess the power of oaths, looking at the physicians’ burnout derived from the Hippocratic Oath.…