Doctor of Literature

Rafael Campo has combined a career as a physician with a second career as a poet. Practicing general internal medicine with Health Care Associates at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, he is also an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. There, he has developed a curriculum in medicine and literature, which he says uses literature as a “tool for exploring empathetic connections between people living with illness and their care providers.”

Campo’s twin interests have deep roots: While at Amherst, Campo won both the James Olds Neuroscience Prize and the Rolfe Humphries Poetry Prize. Since graduating, he has received continued recognition for his writing and teaching, earning the 1995 National Hispanic Academy of Media Arts and Sciences Annual Achievement Award and the 2001 Harvard Medical School-Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey Humanism in Medicine Award.

Campo is the author of four books of poetry, including What the Body Told (1996) and Landscape with Human Figure (2002). He is also the author of the autobiographical The Poetry of Healing: A Doctor’s Education in Empathy, Identity, and Desire (1997). A 1987 graduate of Amherst, he returned to the College as a visiting writer in 1998.

As a gay Latino, Campo has said that he feels an obligation to serve as a positive role model for Harvard medical students who belong to underrepresented minority groups. To that end, he has worked to develop a gay, lesbian, and bisexual health curriculum, while also helping to create a Latino health clinic at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He has been active in teaching about HIV and AIDS. He believes strongly that in a diverse society, physicians need to be competent in addressing issues of sexuality, language, ethnicity, and race as they affect health practices and access to health care.