M. Sophia Newman, MPH, is a medical editor, a public health professional, and a writer who has been published in The Atlantic, Religion & Politics, Tricycle, Vice, Vox, Tin House, Literary Hub, Next City, and elsewhere.
Well before any well-meaning literary agents at cocktail parties began telling her it was impossible, Sophia embarked on a life filled with almost every kind of nonfiction writing. First, she wrote technical metadata for Illinois Medicaid while composing public talks for a Zen Buddhist Temple on the side (2011-2012). Then she published those talks as personal essays around the time she embarked on a Fulbright fellowship to Bangladesh (2012-2013).
In Bangladesh, she taught academic writing to graduate students from fourteen countries and published five global global health research studies. After a nine-story factory called Rana Plaza collapsed atop some 3,500 workers in April 2013, she published op-eds on public health angles of the atrocity. Within a couple months, she'd parlayed this into a full-fledged career in journalism.
Over the next three years (2013-2016), Sophia reported on violence in South Africa and the US with support from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, from West Africa for Beacon and Pacific Standard Magazine, and in post-earthquake Nepal via an Awesome Foundation Grant for Journalism. From February 2015 to February 2016, she also wrote a weekly column, Health Horizons, on global health innovations, for Next City, for which she also reported from Kenya. She has given speeches about her journalism at University of Pennsylvania and South Dakota State University.
In addition, Sophia continued to write on religion in a journalistic mode. In 2014, Sophia received a Shannon Fellowship from the International Thomas Merton Society at Bellarmine University to report on environmental issues and religion. She continued this work at a 2015 writer's retreat at Collegeville Institute for Cultural and Ecumenical Research, where she drafted pieces on Thomas Merton and climate change as well as liberation theology.
At Collegeville, fellow writers encouraged her first forays into creative nonfiction. She's since made it a focus and has been named a finalist for Write a House (2015), the AWP WC&C Scholarship Competition (2016), and Rumpus' the Payton Prize (2017). She was awarded a runner-up in Ruminate Magazine's VanderMey Nonfiction Prize (2017) and has been published essays in Lithub, Vox, Tin House, and other outlets. Similarly, she has read her own narrative work in the Liner Notes storytelling series at the G-Man Tavern in Chicago (2018).
Linking her public health background with her interest in creative nonfiction, Sophia has written essays in and on the narrative medicine subgenre, which is focused on the lived experience of illness, medicine, and healing. In this vein, she has published in the Intima, Hektoen International, and Narrative Inquiry into Bioethics and was part of the Consortium of Universities in Global Health’s Global Health Reflections symposium (2018).
In addition to writing, Sophia has worked as a medical copy editor. She currently holds a full-time position as a manuscript editor at JAMA Network.
Sophia's formal education include a bachelor's degree in cell and molecular biology (Tulane University, 2009), a master's degree in public health (University of Illinois at Chicago, 2012), and a certificate in global mental health from the Harvard Program on Refugee Trauma (2015-2016). In her non-writing, non-editing hours, she has appeared as a supernumerary in choreographer Twyla Tharp’s 2017 show Minimalism and Me at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and in the Lyric Opera’s productions of Idomeneo (2018) and The Barber of Seville (2019).