Leadership and Staff
Department and Division Leadership
Rita Charon, MD, PhD
Department Chair, Medical Humanities and Ethics; Chief, Division of Narrative Medicine
Rita Charon is a general internist and literary scholar who originated the field of narrative medicine. She is Professor and Founding Chair of the Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics and Professor of Medicine at Columbia University. She completed the MD at Harvard in 1978 and the PhD in English at Columbia in 1999, concentrating on narratology and the works of Henry James. Her research focuses on the consequences of narrative medicine practice, narrative medicine pedagogy, and health care team effectiveness. At Columbia, she directs the Foundations of Clinical Practice faculty seminar, the Virginia Apgar Academy for Medical Educators, the Narrative and Social Medicine Scholarly Projects Concentration Track, the required and elective Narrative Medicine curriculum for the medical school, and Columbia Commons: Collaborating Across Professions, a medical-center-wide partnership devoted to health care team effectiveness. She inaugurated and teaches in the Master of Science in Narrative Medicine graduate program at Columbia. She has lectured and served as Visiting Professor at many medical schools and universities in the US and abroad, teaching narrative medicine theory and practice. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio residency, and research funding from the NIH, the NEH, the American Board of Internal Medicine, the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, and several additional private foundations. She was chosen by the National Endowment for the Humanities to deliver the 2018 Jefferson Lecture, “the highest honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.” Dr. Charon has published in The New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, JAMA, Annals of Internal Medicine, Narrative, Henry James Review, Poetics Today, The Drama Review, Partial Answers, and Literature and Medicine. She is the author of Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness (Oxford University Press, 2006) and co-author of Principles and Practice of Narrative Medicine (Oxford University Press, 2017). She is co-editor of Stories Matter: The Role of Narrative in Medical Ethics (Routledge, 2002) and Psychoanalysis and Narrative Medicine (SUNY Press, 2008).
Sandra Soo-Jin Lee, PhD
Chief, Division of Ethics
Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics Staff
Division of Ethics Staff
Rachel Yarmolinsky, MS
Rachel Yarmolinsky, a longtime Director of Media Relations and Marketing at Columbia University Department of Psychiatry and a Regulatory Specialist at the Columbia University Human Research Protection Office, completed an MS in Bioethics at Columbia University in 2014. Her interests include clinical and research ethics, particularly in neuroethics and ELSI research. Ms. Yarmolinsky is experienced in event and meeting planning, science writing, graphic design, and media relations. She is on the steering committee of the Columbia University Center for Research on the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of Psychiatric, Neurologic and Behavioral Genetics, a member of the Pediatrics and Adult Medical Ethics Committees at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/CUIMC, a member of the Social Services Committee of New York City’s Community Board 2, and a member of the board of Science Writers in New York.
Emily Vasquez, MPhil, MPH
Emily Vasquez, MPhil, MPH, ABD, is an ethnographer of science, medicine, and public health. Drawing on the sociology of health and medicine, science and technology studies (STS), and critical race studies, her research examines relationships between knowledge, technology, health, identity, and social justice. She studies these issues in the context of global health policy and initiatives, especially global and national-level responses to epidemics of chronic disease. Her research has been supported by fellowships from, among others, the National Science Foundation (Science, Technology, and Society Program) and the ACLS/Mellon Foundation. She is a doctoral candidate completing a PhD in sociology and public health in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University.
Mike Bentz, MPH
Mike Bentz, MPH, worked for several years on an NIH-funded clinical trial investigating race-specific clinical therapies. This is one of the reasons for which he became interested in the justifications for such therapies and how these justifications intersect with emergent genetics technologies.
Interprofessional Education Staff
Jordana Vanderselt, MPH
Interprofessional Education Manager
Jordana Vanderselt, MPH, is the Project Manager for the Columbia Commons Interprofessional Education (IPE) initiative, working towards collaboration across professional health schools. She received her Master of Public Health from Tulane University with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health and special focus on violence prevention. As a public health professional, she has particular interest in health systems change through program evaluation, training, and technical assistance. Most recently, she managed a teen pregnancy prevention study aimed at male foster youth with the hopes of mandating sexual health programming in foster care agencies across New York City. She is excited to be working with CUIMC to promote effective and equitable health care teams that will better serve patients, families, and communities.
Division of Narrative Medicine Staff
Cindy Smalletz, MS, OTR/L
Cindy Smalletz, MS, OTR/L is Program Director for the Division of Narrative Medicine in the Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center. She joined the Division with and MS in Narrative Medicine and an MA in Instructional Design and Technology, bringing together a career working in learning design in the corporate sector and in education and technology at the Center for New Media Teaching and Learning at Columbia University. She is the creator, designer, and director of the first online Certificate Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University, which she envisioned as an accessible way to connect practitioners around the world to deepen their study and application of narrative medicine. She also lectures on narrative medicine and directs programming at the medical center, including the most recent Virtual Group Sessions which were created for connection, stress-reduction, and to remedy isolation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, she completed an MS in Occupational Therapy and plans to further integrate narrative medicine with clinical care, burnout prevention, and education, with the hopes of changing healthcare through improving advocacy, education, communication and action.
Joseph Eveld, MS, MFA
Joseph Eveld, MS, MFA, joined the Narrative Medicine program with a background in publishing and creative writing. As an adolescent he survived over two years of treatment for an aggressive form of bone cancer. Having turned to writing as a means to cope with this experience, as well as developing a passion for caregiving from both the patient and provider perspective, he felt as if he’d found “home” when he discovered Narrative Medicine practice. While completing his MS in the program, he studied Narrative Therapy and creative writing as applied in counseling for patients coping with trauma and terminal illness, as well as healthcare and social justice inequities represented in the literature and activism of indigenous cultures in the United States. He also has a BA in English from Northeastern University, and completed his MFA in Fiction at the Creative Writing program at Boston University. He was a finalist for Glimmer Train Magazine’s Short Story Award for New Writers, he has poetry published in the Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, and is currently working on his first novel.
Renée Saindon, MM
Renée Saindon, MM, is excited to be integrating her performance experience along the Eastern seacoast and her knack for administrative organization into her work here at Columbia Narrative Medicine. Known for enchanting audiences and critics alike with her "gorgeous voice" (Boston Art Review), Renée has sung with a variety of sacred and secular choirs around Boston including The Landmark Symphony Orchestra's One City Choir and in other such regional award winning ensembles. Renee has also had the privilege to travel for operatic debuts with the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival and the Intermezzo Foundation. Administratively, Renee has served as Company Manager to the Key West Symphony Young Artist Program and coordinated distribution for Academy Award nominated documentarian Frederick Wiseman's film La Danse. After her IRNE-nominated portrayal of Lily in The Longwood Players' The Secret Garden (2011) Renée served as their Development Director during Seasons 15 and 16. Prior to joining the Columbia Narrative Medicine team, Renee also served as Sr. Administrative Assistant to the Director of the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) at MIT in Cambridge, MA and Office Manager to Reviewed.com, a division of USA Today Tech. Additionally, Renee volunteers as a consultant for several non-profit organizations and a variety of internship and membership committees. Renée holds a BA in Music and a BS in Theater from Murray State University; a Masters of Music Theater from Oklahoma City University and a Graduate Performance Diploma in Opera from the Longy School of Music of Bard College.
Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine