February Narrative Medicine Rounds with Rachel E. Gross

"Vagina Obscura: A Scientific Journey Into the Female Body"

For our first Rounds of the spring semester we are thrilled to welcome Rachel E. Gross, award winning science journalist and author of Vagina Obscura: An Anatomical Voyage, published by W.W. Norton & Co. in 2022. Rachel will speak to us about her book, in which she "takes on a herculean task," according to the New York Times, "exploring female anatomy from a medical, social and historical perspective... [She takes] readers on an expansive journey across continents, cultures, centuries and even species, [revealing] a stunning disparity in Western medicine and academia: While huge amounts of money and dedication are poured into the understanding of penises, the female body is disregarded. Like lore, this misinformation and shame are still being passed down to girls today."

cover image of Vagina Obscura: An Anatomical Voyage

In her journalism, Rachel covers the debates and personalities that shape scientific knowledge, most recently as Digital Science Editor for Smithsonian Magazine. In 2016 she launched a special series at Smithsonian to uncover the stories of women scientists who were written out of history. She now tells these stories as a columnist for the BBC Future series "Missed Genius." In 2019 she received a MacDowell Fellowship to complete research and reporting for her book. Before that she was a 2018-19 Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT, where she studied reproductive biology, gender, and history of science. In 2016 she traveled to Germany and Poland as a Journalism Fellow at the FASPE program for the study of professional ethics at Auschwitz. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, National Geographic, WIRED, New Scientist, Slate, Undark, and NPR, among others.

Narrative Medicine Rounds are monthly rounds on the first Wednesday of the month during the academic year hosted by the Division of Narrative Medicine in the Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Rounds are supported by live captioning. If you have any other accessibility needs or concerns, please contact the Office of Disability Services at 212-854-2388 or disability@columbia.edu at least 10 days in advance of the event. We will do our best to arrange accommodations received after this deadline but cannot guarantee them. A recording of our Virtual Narrative Medicine rounds will be made available following the live session on the Narrative Medicine YouTube channel, and you can watch other recent Rounds events there.