Meet the Director: Lakshmi Krishnan, MD, PhD

Lakshmi Krishnan
Headshot of Lakshmi Krishnan

Lakshmi Krishnan, MD, PhD, is a historian of medicine, medical humanities scholar, physician, and Faculty Director of the Georgetown Medical Humanities Initiative. A first-generation immigrant born in Bombay, India, she also grew up in the United Kingdom before settling in the States. Her research focuses on diagnosis and clinical reasoning. 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 The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and her DPhil (PhD.) in English Literature from the University of Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. She completed her 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 The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She is board certified in Internal Medicine and a member of the American College of Physicians, and practices hospital medicine. Her work appears or is forthcoming in The LancetAnnals of Internal MedicineLiterature and MedicineModern Language Review, Victorian Literature and Culture, and Victorian Poetry, and has won awards from the Academy of Health Communication and National Endowment for Humanities.

Featured media appearances

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.”

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.

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.