School of Medicine

Medical Humanities Pathway


About the Pathway


The Medical Humanities Pathway teaches students in an immersive, experiential way how to discover the healing power of creative expression. It will equip students with the skills to become lifelong learners. Over the course of four electives, the pathway exposes students to the fundamental disciplines that compose the medical humanities, including literature, the visual and performing arts, history, and philosophy. Students will develop skills of tolerance for ambiguity, attention, and perspective taking. Students may elect to complete the pathway in three or four years. The pathway is comprised of the four required electives listed below. 

More advanced courses are being developed. 


Course overview


Introduction to Medical Humanities- MEMED 640 (1 credit) 

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 the creative works of fiction writers, poets, philosophers, historians, visual artists, and musicians that promote broad analyses of health, disease, illness, and the mysteries of the human body. 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. This course will be offered to MS1 and first-year health professions students during the Spring 2023 semester and then during the Fall term each year.

Improving Communication through the Medical Humanities- MEMED 643 (1 credit) 

This elective provides advanced training in communication skills through exposure to the visual, performing, and literary arts. Using the relationship model of communication as a foundation, students will draw on skills learned through close reading, active listening, and visual observation to improve their ability to communicate and empathize with other healthcare professionals and with patients. Enrollment requires completion of the first-year elective and can be taken as an MS2 student or first-year health professions student. This course will be offered in the Fall term of each year.

Humanities in the Hospital (2 credits)

This elective provides opportunities to elicit patients’ narratives and develop skills of life writing in the context of clinical care. The elective will be an advanced non-clinical elective. Students will be expected to co-enroll in a clinical elective (i.e. Pediatrics, Medicine, Psychiatry) that requires patient care duties. The advanced non-clinical elective will provide concurrent didactics in medical humanities. Clinical electives will be led by faculty associated with HEAL. Students will produce at least one work of reflective or creative writing by the end of the course. Enrollment requires completion of the second-year elective as well as completion of the Core Medicine or Core Pediatrics clinical rotation. The course can be taken as an MS3 or MS4 or a clinical health professions student.

Fourth Year Elective: Medical Humanities Research (4 credits)

In this capstone elective, students work with their assigned faculty mentor to complete an independent creative or study project on a medical/health humanities topic. Students will finalize their research paper and develop a poster for inclusion in the Medical Student Research Symposium. Enrollment requires completion of the third-year elective and can be taken by an MS3 or MS4 student or clinical health professions student.