Skip to content Skip to navigation

Verghese Receives National Humanities Medal

Sep 21 2016

Posted In:


Abraham Verghese, a Stanford University School of Medicine professor and 2016-17 research affiliate at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford, is one of 12 distinguished recipients of the 2015 National Humanities Medal.

Awarded since 1997, the National Humanities Medal recognizes individuals and organizations “whose activities, contributions, and achievements have significantly enriched the educational, intellectual, and cultural life of the nation.”


Among his many posts and duties at Stanford, Verghese founded and directs Presence, an interdisciplinary center dedicated to the art and science of human connection, and with the goal of fostering “research, dialogue, and multidisciplinary collaboration to produce measureable and meaningful change in health care.” It is this endeavor that connects Verghese to CASBS. During the 2017-18 year, in fact, Presence will support a CASBS fellow who will engage the initiative’s areas of strategic focus.

For this reason, CASBS director Margaret Levi was doubly thrilled by news of the National Humanities Medal awarding to Verghese.

“Famous for his work bringing the human presence back into medicine and for his prowess as a writer of novels and non-fiction, the ever-curious Abraham Verghese now is exploring how to bring social science to bear on the problems he perceives with current medical practice. His status as a CASBS research affiliate this year and into the future enables him and us to learn more about what we can do to advance the Presence project. It is an honor to embrace him as part of the CASBS family.”

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) posted President Obama’s announcement on September 14, 2016. The announcement cited Verghese for “reminding us that the patient in the center of the medical enterprise. His range of proficiency embodies the diversity of the humanities; from his efforts to emphasize empathy in medicine, to his imaginative renderings of the human drama.”

President Obama awarded Verghese and other recipients during a White House ceremony on September 22. View the ceremony video here.


According to its web site, the NEH administers humanities medal nominations on behalf of the White House. The National Council on the Humanities, NEH’s presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed advisory body, reviews the nominations and provides recommendations to the President, who selects the recipients.

Verghese is the Linda R. Meier and Joan F. Lane Provostial Professor at Stanford. As a Stanford School of Medicine news story outlines, Verghese is internationally renowned for his emphasis on empathy for patients “in an era in which technology often overwhelms the human side of medicine.” In addition, he is a best-selling fiction and non-fiction author, most recently of the book Cutting for Stone.

NBC News also reported on the awarding of the medal to Verghese, as well as the Stanford Daily.

“I am humbled and excited by this honor,” Verghese told Stanford Medicine. “It’s a wonderful affirmation of a path that in the early years I wasn’t sure was the right path, even though it was one I felt compelled to follow.”