Telling Time: The Fifth Annual Northwestern Bioethics and Medical Humanities Conference

May 19, 2022

Event Details

The Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities and the Medical Humanities & Bioethics Graduate Program are excited to announce this one-day conference dedicated to engaging the Northwestern and Chicagoland community in the rich, multidisciplinary research and scholarship of our field.


Keynote Presentation

The Ends of Epidemics: Temporality, Disease, and the Uses of History

Photo of Jeremy Greene
Jeremy Greene, MD, PhD, FACP

William H. Welch Professor and Chair
Department of the History of Medicine
Director, Center for Medical Humanities and Social Medicine
Jacobs-Rosenthal CIM Scholar, Center for Innovative Medicine
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Co-Editor-in-Chief, Bulletin of the History of Medicine


The ends of pandemics have taken many forms, but only a handful of them have ever resulted in the full elimination of a disease. Rather, in epidemic times, a noted historian of temporality and medicine memorably noted, “the present moves faster, the past seems further removed, and the future seems completely unpredictable.” Put another way, in the vernacular of coronavirus every day became Blursday. Can you clearly remember the differences between the second wave and the third? The fourth wave from the fifth? If not, what metric beyond the word “endemic” do we have to understand when the present epidemic will end, and what criteria do we have to judge such an ending to be complete?

Historians make poor futurologists, but we spend a lot of time thinking about time. And epidemics produce their own kinds of time, in both biological and social domains, disrupting our individual sense of passing days as well as conventions for collective behavior. They carry within them their own tempos and rhythms: the slow initial growth, the explosive upward limb of the outbreak, the slowing of transmission that marks the peak, plateau, and the downward limb. This falling action is perhaps best thought of as asymptotic: rarely disappearing, but rather fading to the point where signal is lost in the noise of the new normal—and even allowed to be forgotten. In an effort to remember some of these forgotten things, this talk uses a variety of historical analysie to step back and reflect in detail on what we mean by ending in the first place.


Full Schedule


  • OPENING REMARKS • 9am–9:15am

  • SESSION 1: COVID ETHICS • 9:15–10:30am
    • Gina Piscitello, MD, MS – Urgent Need to Unite to Form Equitable Scarce Resource Allocation Policies
    • Tazim Merchant, Tricia Pendergrast, and Roger Smith, PhD – Ethical Principles of PPE Allocation During COVID-19
    • Caroline Skolnik, MD – Change is Now: Enacting our Ethical Obligation to Integrate Sustainability in Medical Care
    • Rebecca Feinberg, JD, MBe, MS – Fertility Care–Essential or Non-Essential? Analysis from the treatment pause during the COVID-19 Pandemic
    • Jacob Leveton, PhD and Tamar Kharatishvili – Covid Creative/Critical Studies

  • BREAK • 10:30–10:45am

    • William C. McGaghie, PhD – Time and Learning in Medical Education
    • Jake Young, PhD – Taking Time to Heal: Lyric Poetry and Healthcare Provider Burnout during the COVID-19 Pandemic
    • Claudia Roldan – An Analysis of Medical Student Influencers’ Portrayals of Productivity and Life on Tiktok
    • Leah Eisenberg, JD, MA, HEC-C – Comics and COVID: A new way to dispel vaccine myths?

  • BREAK • 12–12:15pm

  • KEYNOTE AND LUNCH • 12:15–1:30pm

    • Aurora Laybourn-Candlish – Queering Futility: Temporalities of Resistance
    • Craig Klugman, PhD – Making Time Count in the Last Third of Life: The Work of Louise Aronson
    • Bassam Sidiki, PhD, MA – The Temporality of Racialized Quarantine
    • Lily Clara Stewart – When Time is a Symptom: Leprosy as a Living Purgatory in Medieval Literature

  • BREAK • 2:45–3pm

    • Diana Madden, MA – Setting policy parameters for emergent uses of biometrics in pediatric and other healthcare settings
    • Colin Liphart and Ashley Pavlic, MD, MA – Providing Time When There is None: A Case of Treatment and Futility in the Resus Bay
    • Ryan Jozwiak, MD – The Last Stand of the Front Lines: Weaponizing Prognostication in Pandemic Palliative Care
    • Camille Kroll, MA – The Narrative Unmaking and Remaking of a Diagnosis Deferred
    • George Freigeh, MD, MA – Liminal Space: Describing Ethics Consultations in the Young Adult Population



Baldwin Auditorium in the Lurie Research Building (not to be confused with the nearby Lurie Children’s Hospital). 303 E Superior St, Chicago, IL 

Attending Remotely

For those unable to attend in-person, a remote option is available for the full day or for any individual session. Registration is not required for remote attendance. Please click the button below to join the conference in progress at any point in the day. Please note that the conference will not be recorded.



Time has always been an important feature of our modern world, working in the background to help us make sense of the duration and sequence of events both big and small—from world-changing discoveries and social movements down to the subtle shifts within a day or a clinical encounter. Recently, the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change (possibly the biggest events of our age), have brought time into the foreground and have forced us to reflect on it more intentionally. For example:

  • How is clinical decision making affected when a new disease requires urgent action but relies on information that is clarified gradually?
  • What does an upset sense of time during the daily repetitiveness of lockdown tell us about the plasticity or unreliability of how we perceive and understand the passing of our lives?
  • What can be learned from the public and private debates over whether the Covid-19 vaccines were developed “too fast?”
  • How have historical accounts of previous pandemics, brought to light during these supposedly “unprecedented times,” highlighted how often we forget lessons from the past?
  • What new histories are revealing the causes of today’s social and health injustices, and what new futures are they projecting for tomorrow?
  • How are apocalyptic fears over accelerating climate disorder disrupting our sense of future? 

Northwestern Calendar

Northwestern attendees: this event can be viewed and shared on PlanIt Purple.


For More Information

Please contact: Myria Knox,