As the oldest Humanities Department in a college of medicine in the country, humanism has been built into our history and woven into the fabric of our curriculum from our beginning. From the moment our students start in the “Transition to Medicine” course through the last day of the Fourth Year, our goal is to produce compassionate, humanistic, curious, and critically thinking healthcare professionals.
In the first two years, “Humanities & Health” courses meet every Tuesday morning for two hours. Typically, the first hour is a large group session, and the second hour is a faculty-facilitated small group session.
Medical Humanities: The doctor-patient relationship is the domain—and essence—of Medical Humanities. Medical Humanities explores topics such as empathy, suffering and resilience, death and dying, and the culture of medicine and medical education.
Science of Mind-Body: The goal of this course is for students to gain an understanding of and respect for the mutual impact of the mind and body. The course explores that connection by taking up topics such as meditation and mindfulness, trauma and defense mechanisms, and the physiology of stress.
Critical Thinking: The course explores topics such as: the importance of meta-cognition and reflection in critical thinking; sources of cognitive errors and influence of biases; intuitive versus analytical thinking; medical decision-making in the face of uncertainty; and awareness of conditions that compromise decision-making.
Patients as Teachers Project: Embedded into the first year of the curriculum is the experiential Patients as Teachers Project, where students visit with patients to understand the lived experience of illness.
Medical Ethics and Professionalism: (MEP) The main goal of MEP is to introduce learners to issues involving ethics and professionalism that arise in the practice of medicine and deal effectively with such issues. MEP addresses topics such as autonomy and informed consent, advance care planning, and medical mistakes and truth telling.
Communication: This course takes the theoretical aspects of communication and enacts them in a concrete and experiential way, exploring the assumptions and biases that impact communication in dyads, teams, and larger systems. Some topics include: 1) assumptions and biases that impact communication, 2) self-reflection and feedback as critical communication skills, and 3) the value of interdisciplinary teams. Concrete topics the course takes up include nonverbal communication, empathetic statements, and open-ended questions.
During their third year, students participate in monthly small group sessions where they reflect on clinical experiences and explore how formal learning in Humanities can be challenged and reshaped by clinical realities.
In the fourth year of medical school, our students take a “Selective
s,” which is an intensive, one-month course s designed to explore topics that integrate clinical knowledge and experience with humanities perspectives.
Recent Selectives include:
Literature, Medicine, and Culture: Pandemics. This course focuses on four historical pandemics (plague, cholera, Spanish flu, and HIV/AIDS) to contextualize what they are going through right now.
Queering Healthcare: This course aims to provide an opportunity for deeper learning, exploration, and reflection on the practice of
humanistic medicine that can specifically serve LGBTQ patients.
Graphic Storytelling (Comics) and Medical Narratives:A course that reveals how graphics and text can be used effectively to communicate complex medical stories, and that requires students to depict their own stories in graphic form.
There are also Selectives focused on art as self care, death and dying, writing and literature, advanced ethics, and many others.