School of Medicine

Humanities Expression and Arts Lab Education


Medical Humanities Pathway

The Medical Humanities Pathway at Baylor College of Medicine is a newly launched program that seeks to encourage medical students to explore and engage with the human side of healthcare through literature, film, and the arts. Through a range of captivating texts, students can develop a better understanding of the complexities of caregiving, cultivate perspective-taking skills, and gain a deeper appreciation for topics such as empathy, medical communication, and the emotional and societal context of illness. The HEAL program launched this pathway in January 2023, beginning with the foundational course, Introduction to the Medical Humanities. 

Introduction to the Medical Humanities: MEMED 640

This elective course is meant as an introduction to the methods, materials, and practical relevance of the medical humanities. Through course materials and group discussions, students will become familiar with how poets, philosophers, short story writers, artists, and musicians have been inspired by health, disease, illness, and the mysteries of the human body. Many of the texts we will read were written by physicians or patients. Course assignments and readings have been selected in order to help students learn to approach their patients from a variety of perspectives, thus contributing to their ability to provide holistic medical care. By the end of the elective students will be able to use lessons drawn from the study of the humanities to identify and address patients' psychosocial, spiritual, and existential needs.

Improving Communication through the Medical Humanities

We are currently developing a communications course for faculty, residents, and other learners. We plan to provide eight hours of engaging arts and humanities activities to help learners identify sources of miscommunication and misunderstanding, recognize appropriate responses to emotional cues and demonstrate active listening strategies with an intent to understand. Arts activities will include art observation at theMenil Collection as well as medical improvisation theatre involving the Open Dance Project.

Narrative Medicine Intersessions

Along with our colleagues in the Office of Student Affairs, we have developed a series of 90-minute narrative medicine workshops for second-year medical students. Each student attends six sessions as part of a wellness initiative between their 2nd and 3rd year of medical school. Workshop facilitators use published written work to stimulate discussion, increase knowledge of literary terms, and build reflective writing skills. The workshops are required as part of the students’ core rotations. We collected data on their effect on empathy, emotional intelligence, and burnout through a series of surveys. We presented our results at the AAMC Annual Meeting in 2022 and published an abstract in Academic Medicine.  Although medical students did not report fewer signs of burnout after the sessions, we did see increases in empathy and emotional intelligence.