Interview with Danielle Ofri

Danielle OfriWhat is the value of the BLR in the medical community, in the literary world, and for your readers?

The Bellevue Literary Review was the first literary magazine to arise from a medical center. While the medical community has many technical journals that deal with illness and health, the BLR was the first publication to use the power of literature to focus on these themes. For many doctors and nurses, reading the BLR can be a revelatory experience.
For our wide spectrum of readers, we hope to touch upon the broader pallet of human vulnerabilities, while offering absorbing and thought-provoking reading material.
For the literary world, this is a concentrated view into a world that many writers feel compelled to write about (witness our submission rate of more than 4,000 submissions per year!)

What are you, personally, trying to accomplish with a publication that combines different elements of health, sickness, and healing with the humanities and literary expression?

During the tumultuous years of medical school and residency training, I always felt that something was missing, that a part of my experience remained unfulfilled. During a two-year break after residency, I was drawn back to my original interests in literature and writing, and found that these filled the gaps in meaningful ways. The Bellevue Literary Review is one of the most important ways of integrating literature into both my medical practice and my teaching. I’m always handing out stories and poems from the BLR to my medical students, interns, fellow physicians, and even patients. Most are pleasantly startled to know that we have a home-grown literary enterprise in our midst.

What kind of readers does the BLR attract?

The BLR attracts readers with an empathic approach to human vulnerabilities and who aren’t afraid of stimulating literature. We regularly receive thought-provoking letters from our readers.

What aspects of the BLR are you most proud of?

I am most proud that the BLR has published consistently for the past eight years and that the quality of the writing is superb. I am also extremely proud of the commitment of our editors and reviewers, whose ongoing dedication is the lifeblood of the journal.

What do you see as the BLR’s most significant accomplishment thus far?

The BLR’s most significant accomplishment thus far—in terms of sheer work, creativity, involvement—was “simply” getting off the ground, actually creating this literary journal where none had existed before. Everything was built from scratch by the perseverance and enthusiasm of many people.

What do you see for the future of the BLR?

The BLR has the potential for broad appeal to many people who might never otherwise read a literary journal. By exploring themes that touch almost everyone in some way, it is a very accessible publication. I hope the BLR will be read and enjoyed like a novel or magazine. I envision it as a teaching tool in medical and nursing schools, as part of book discussion groups, as part of patient support groups, widely available in bookstores, libraries, and waiting rooms. In particular, I’d like to see the BLR be easily accessed via technologies for the visually-impaired and hearing-impaired.

What can BLR readers do to support the publication?

The most important thing for a literary magazine is readership. Giving subscriptions as gifts on a regular basis (holiday time, birthdays, graduations) is the surest way to support the BLR. Recommending the BLR for educational use at universities and medical schools is another critical way to increase the BLR’s visibility. If readers live in the NY-area, they are always invited to our free spring and fall readings at Bellevue Hospital. These lively events are a wonderful way to meet the editors, writers, and fellow readers in this unique community.



Danielle Ofri is the editor-in-chief of the Bellevue Literary Review and Associate Professor of Medicine at NYU. Her most recent book is Medicine in Translation: Journeys With My Patients.