Thomas Jefferson University

Humanities Forum

2019-2020: Memory

Each academic year, the Jefferson Humanities Forum explores a thought-provoking theme from a wide range of perspectives, inviting reflection and action around how we improve lives. During 2019-2020, the Jefferson Humanities Forum investigates the theme Memory, focusing on:  

  • Dementia and the neuroscience of memory
  • Memory and its presence or erasure in the built environment
  • Memoir and writing from memory
  • Genealogy, genetics and social justice

All Jefferson Humanities Forum events, listed below, are open to the public. Lunch or other refreshments provided; first-come, first-served.

Tia Powell


Wednesday, October 2, 12-1 p.m.
Foerderer Auditorium, College Building, 1025 Walnut Street

Tia Powell, MD, joins the Jefferson Humanities Forum to discuss her new book, Dementia Reimagined: Building a Life of Joy and Dignity from Beginning to End. Dr. Powell is the Director of the Montefiore Einstein Center for Bioethics and Professor of Epidemiology and Psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. She is a leading voice in bioethics education, end of life care and public policy. Dr. Powell applies her personal, clinical and academic experience to Dementia Reimagined, exploring the untold history of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Combining medicine and memoir, she helps us to understand how—by valuing care as much as cure—we can keep life with dementia meaningful and joyful. 

Deirdre Cooper Owens in Conversation with Elissa Blount Moorhead and Bradford Young


Friday, October 25, 6-8 p.m.
Connelly Auditorium, Hamilton Building, 1001 Locust Street

Deirdre Cooper Owens, PhD, is the Linda and Charles Wilson Professor in the History of Medicine and Director of the Humanities in Medicine Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She also serves as the Director of the Program in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia. A popular public speaker, she has published articles, essays and book chapters on a number of issues that concern African American experiences and reproductive justice. Following a talk about her research, Professor Cooper Owens will engage in a conversation with Elissa Blount Moorhead and Bradford Young, the creators of Back and Song. Produced by Philadelphia Contemporary and Thomas Jefferson University, Back and Song is a film and art installation that reflects on the complex connections between health, wellness and the Black experience in America.

2018-2019: Fusion

During 2018-2019, the Jefferson Humanities Forum investigated the theme Fusion, focusing on:  

  • Collaborations across disciplines resulting in new knowledge, methods and ways of knowing
  • Creative thinking at the intersection of broadly different fields and industries
  • Unexpected combinations of technique, style and perspective

Jonathan Metzl: Dying of Whiteness


Thursday, April 18, 12-1 p.m.
Eakins Lounge, Jefferson Alumni Hall, 1020 Locust Street

Jonathan Metzl is the Frederick B. Rentschler II Professor of Sociology and Psychiatry, and the Director of the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society, at Vanderbilt University. He received his MD from the University of Missouri and a PhD in American Culture from the University of Michigan. A 2008 Guggenheim fellow, Metzl’s books include The Protest Psychosis, Prozac on the Couch, and Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland (Basic Books, 2019). Learn More.

Co-sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives.

Vijay Gupta: The Medicine of Music


Wednesday, March 27, 12-1 p.m.
Connelly Auditorium, Hamilton Building, 1001 Locust Street

Vijay Gupta is a violinist whose interest in neurobiology and mental health issues has made him a world-renowned advocate for the regenerative power of music. Gupta joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2007 at age 19, after completing a master’s degree in violin performance from the Yale School of Music. As a 2011 TED Senior Fellow, Gupta founded Street Symphony, a non-profit organization dedicated to engaging underserved communities experiencing mental illness, homelessness and incarceration in Los Angeles through musical performance and dialogue. Learn More.

Kerry Brodie: Food Fight - Equality, Opportunity and the Pursuit of Independence


Tuesday, February 12, 12-1 p.m.
Connelly Auditorium, Hamilton Building, 1001 Locust Street

Kerry Brodie is founder and executive director of Emma’s Torch, a New York-based non-profit providing culinary training for refugees as a path to employment that affirms their cultural heritage and cuisine. Brodie began cooking at age five, under the watchful eyes of her grandmother. She is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education, where she won the Wusthof Award for Leadership, and holds degrees in Government from Johns Hopkins University and Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University. Learn More.

Alan Lightman: The Physicist as Novelist


Wednesday, December 5, 12-1 p.m.
Connelly Auditorium, Hamilton Building, 1001 Locust Street

Alan Lightman, who worked for many years as a theoretical physicist, is the author of six novels, including the international best seller Einstein’s Dreams, as well as The Diagnosis, a finalist for the National Book Award. In 2018, he published two new books: Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, about science, religion, and their different ways of knowing the world, and In Praise of Wasting Time. He is also the founder of the Harpswell Foundation, an organization devoted to the advancement of women in Southeast Asia. Learn More.

Anne Basting: Aging, Dementia & the Cultural Cure


Friday, October 19, 12-1 p.m.
Hamilton Building, Room 505, 1001 Locust Street

Anne Basting is a theater artist and educator demonstrating the potential of storytelling and creative expression to improve the lives of elders experiencing cognitive impairment. Across a variety of platforms, including collaborative public performance and academic research, Basting has developed an alternative concept of aging that focuses on its possibilities as well as its challenges. Basting is Professor of Theater in the Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, founder and president of TimeSlips Creative Storytelling, and a 2016 MacArthur Fellow.  LEARN MORE

Willie Baronet: Signs of Humanity


Thursday, September 20, 5-7 p.m.
Hamilton 4th Floor Lobby

Willie Baronet is an award-winning graphic designer and Stan Richards Professor in Creative Advertising at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts. Since 1993, Baronet has been buying and collecting signs from people soliciting support on the street as a response to his own discomfort witnessing poverty. In 2014, Baronet and three filmmakers drove across the U.S., interviewing more than 100 people on the streets and purchasing over 280 signs while producing the documentary film, Signs of HumanityLEARN MORE

Co-sponsored by the Jefferson College of Population Health