Designated Emphasis in Medical and Health Humanities

Medical and Health Humanities Designated Emphasis


The Designated Emphasis (DE) in Medical and Health Humanities builds a foundation for medical students to examine the individual, social, and historical experience of health, pathology, medicine, and clinical encounters. The DE will enhance skills of observation, analysis, self-expression and self-reflection; and foster the development of research, creative, innovative and improvisational responses needed to navigate multiple contexts of care.

The unique integration of interdisciplinary courses highlights diverse contexts, helping students to better understand how structural dynamics impact the communities with whom they work and cultivate more humane, effective, and collaborative relationships with patients and colleagues.

Email Distinguished Professor Allison Adelle Hedge Coke for more information

About the Program

Students are welcome to join the program any time during their first three years of medical school. The curriculum consists of a minimum of 180 hours of acceptable study that include course work, research, a capstone project, and public presentation of the project. Students pursuing the DE must complete its requirements by their fourth year of education.

Upon successful completion of the program across all four years, students will receive a DE on their transcript.

Year 1 and 2 Program Goals

Years one and two build the foundation for examining medicine as a humanistic endeavor, understanding different facets of art as medicine. Students will complete three qualifying courses. One course must be the Medicine is Humanities Introduction. Students receive two units of selective credits for each class.

In addition to building their knowledge of medical humanities, students will also acquire the following skills:

  • Apply principles of social-behavioral sciences to provision of patient care.
  • Students will identify strengths and limits in one’s knowledge and expertise through their engagement with arts and humanities.
  • Write an abstract for a medical and health humanities research or creative project.

Year 3 Program Goals

Year three deepens students’ medical humanities knowledge by connecting their previous coursework with their rotation experiences.

Students along with their Medical Humanities mentor will meet at least three times during year three. Students will write up three patient case studies. During their mentor meetings they will discuss interpretations of the patient case from different humanities lenses. Students will also finalize the design of their medical and health humanities project.

Writing up case studies and mentored interpretations will assist students in acquiring the following skills:

  • Collect and interpret qualitative data.
  • Demonstrate sensitivity and responsiveness to diverse patient populations.
  • Use self-awareness knowledge and skills to engage in help-seeking.
  • Recognize that ambiguity is part of clinical health care and respond by using appropriate resources.
  • Design a medical and health humanities research or creative project.

Year 4 Program Goals

During year four students will complete their medical and health humanities research or creative project and present their work at a Medical and Health Humanities Conference or the Annual Conference on Teaching, Learning, and Discovery. As a final activity, students will write a self-statement (of no more than 1000 words) articulating their practice of the statement medicine is humanities.

Skills acquired during year four include:

  • Analyze and interpret humanities and arts-based data or materials.
  • Write-up and present their research or creative project.
  • Demonstrate interpersonal and communication skills that result in the effective exchange of information and collaboration.
  • Demonstrate compassion, integrity, and respect for others.
  • Demonstrate insight and understanding about emotions and human responses to emotions that allow one to develop and manage interpersonal interactions.

Qualifying Courses

  • Medicine is Humanities: An introduction to medical humanities
  • History of medicine: Race and gender
  • History of medicine: Science and technology
  • Co-constructing doctor and patient narratives
  • History of medical imaging
  • Objectivity and ambiguity
  • Structural competency
  • Community engaged practice
  • Faculty approved – independent study
  • Health and social justice
  • Cultural, medicine, and healing
  • Medical ethics
  • Health literacy
  • Healthcare relationships
  • Literature and medicine
  • Creative writing
  • Science fiction and medicine
  • Graphic medicine
  • Death and Dying (and denying)
  • Narrative Medicine
  • Visual Narratives: Comics in patient and community engagement